What to Look for When Buying a House

July 07, 2022 | By Chuck Shaver
Home for sale

What to look for when buying a house

By Chuck Shaver

You’re ready to buy a home, but what do you NEED TO KNOW? You’re not a home inspector or a building contractor, you just want to know some basics, right? I get it. When I’m with buyers, as they’re dreaming away, I’m usually busy checking out some important things that they probably aren’t thinking about.

You may be saying, but won’t I have a home inspection? YES, you will have a home inspection, but there are several important things that you should be aware of BEFORE you consider making an offer. Doing so afterwards can cost you dearly in wasted time AND your hard-earned money!

I’m a local Realtor® that has been selling homes for many years in Central Florida. Now, I am NOT a home inspector, or a contractor and they should be consulted for certainty for any of your concerns. My goal here is to share some basics that you should consider BEFORE you make an offer to buy a house and have a home inspection.

Over the years I’ve helped buyers to buy and sell hundreds of homes and have been to a ton of home inspections and I’ve learned a good bit from these inspections. As such, I’m usually busy looking for reasons that this buyer may NOT want to buy this home. So, let’s take a look at these 6 things that you should be paying attention to before making an offer to buy a house.

  1. The first thing you need to know is the age and condition of the roof. Here in Central Florida insurance companies have been cracking down, and insurance is becoming a real issue for home buyers. An old roof can be a deal-breaker if you cannot get insurance, and you should consider IF the current owner of this home will replace the roof IF it needs replacing. Look for curling or missing shingles. Look at areas of the roof that may have overhanging trees. These trees can wear away at the granules and can really shorten the roof’s life expectancy. You don’t need to be an expert here, just pay attention.
  2. The next thing I’m always looking at is the air conditioning system. You can often determine how old the unit is by a date on the unit. Some units can last 20 years or more, but knowing the age of this major component can help you be informed when buying a house. Check to see if the units match. Home inspectors sometimes fuss about mis-matched units and say that there are sometimes questions about how well the two units work together. Take a look at the vents in the ceilings. If there is a bunch of dust, is makes me wonder if the seller ACTUALLY took care of their home or if they just cleaned it up with a bunch of lipstick for the sale.
  3. Next, let’s talk about plumbing. There are many varieties of plumbing out there and this is something that you should consider when buying a house. Check to see if the home has galvanized, cast iron, or  polybutylene plumbing. I’ve heard of issues with others too, but these are the biggies in this area. There can be problems with all of these with insurance companies and they can be very expensive to repair or replace. I’m not going to describe them here, but your Realtor® should have a general idea of what they look like. I’m always calling a home inspector whenever I suspect that I see one of these right away. I’m usually looking around the hot water heater, in utility rooms, under the sinks, or even if I can see any plumbing in an open crawlspace.
  4. The electrical panel is something that I’m always concerned about. Insurance companies don’t like several companies’ panels, which are often in older homes. Simply open the cover (not with a screwdriver-just the handle) of an electrical panel and look for the brand. If I see Federal Pacific, Zinsco, or Sylvania written on them, then I’m telling the buyer that this COULD be an issue. I’ve been told that insurance companies are concerned about the safety of these older panels. Some of these panels may be perfectly fine, but if you see one of these brands (and there could be others), just be aware that your home inspector may have an issue as well.
  5. The fifth thing I’m checking on is the age of the water heater. These days some insurance companies are cracking down on water heaters that are just 20 years old, that may be working perfectly fine. Everything seems to be costing more these days and I’m sometimes shocked at what a new water heater costs to be installed. On the other side of this, some of the newer, hybrid water heaters can be an often-overlooked benefit to a home.
  6. Look at the structure. Here in Florida, cracking between concrete blocks is very common and considered typical by many people. However, I always look at how thick these cracks are. I’m looking to see WHY it’s cracking. Just the other day I was at a beautiful home that had no cracking whatsoever; however, the home was recently painted, had no gutters, and had these “rivers” in the dirt that was carrying sand away from the bottom of the home. As such, I’m confident that the home inspector will recommend installing gutters to ensure this issue, that may be minor today, doesn’t become a major issue tomorrow.

Again, I am not a licensed contractor and I am certainly not an expert on these things. However, it is my hope that having just a few things to pay attention to will help you make an informed offer when attempting to buy a house. If you are concerned about the age of a roof, perhaps make a call to your insurance company to see IF they will have an issue with a particular home’s age. A quick Google search can help you learn about all the types of plumbing and the pros and cons of each of them. I’ve got a few home inspectors, electricians, and other contractors that I know by name and they’re quick to share professional advice for my customers.

Of course, there is much more to pay attention to, but I believe these are the top 6 things you should be paying attention to when buying a house. If you have questions about anything real estate here in the Central Florida area, don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.


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