Simple Things

On the Prowl for a Home?

Visting a number of homes on a busy wet weekend can leave you scratching your head as you try to remember all the good and bad things you saw. Here are some house hunting thoughts.

What I’m Not

To be clear, I’m not a building inspector. If you are buying be sure you use a practitioner who is licensed however, a little education goes a long way to help you discover things that are often obvious.

What I Am

After renovating a couple of homes and literally visiting thousands of them during my career I’ve acquired a lot of experience in seeing things that often determines the level of aggravation a home will bring to you in the future.

Things Seen

A great number of homes I’ve seen in the past weeks priced below the $800K mark are in need of costly repair. Take the time to gain some wisdom about structural and mechanical aspects of a home. The web is a great resource and is loaded with all types of information that is often accompanied with diagrams or pictures. It is really not as difficult as you might believe but, in a busy open house you can be overwhelmed by the crowd and neglect to do the basics. The few minutes you take to familiarize yourself with these basics. It may save you thousands in repairs.

Some thoughts –

  • Look for straight walls both inside and out.
  • Curling or missing roof tiles are an indication a roof may be nearing its life span
  • A small awl or ice pick is a very handy tool that can save you a lot of headaches as you check to ensure the sill plates are solid. Use common sense and don’t go poking holes all over the place. It’s not your home yet! While outside a gentle poke here and there into the wooden sill should be met with resistance – if not, expect greater issues.
  • No awl, no problem. Here’s a no brainer.
  • Look and see if dirt has accumulated along the sides of the home. No dirt touching the exterior walls is best. I like to see a clear 6 to 8 inches between the bottom of the siding and the ground.
  • Check gutters to see if they are dripping water in the wrong places. In Vancouver, touring homes on a rainy day though uncomfortable, is often the best time to find problems.
  • Driving around trying to figure out which home to view? A quick trick is to look over the back fence. A clean and tidy back yard will often tell you what the house is like on the inside. Keep a watch out for dogs!
  • Not sure if your eyes are tricking you. Sometimes things are not square – door entrances are a prime example. If the door swings on it’s own it’s a hint. If it binds when being closed – it’s a hint. Not sure – use the Open House sheet of paper the Realtor gave you. The corners of the paper are 90 degrees so you now have a square to check it out. Got an iphone? There is a great little ‘Level’ tool called iHandy Level that is free.
  • As you walk along the outside put a lot of hand pressure on the walls to see if they are soft. Movement often means there is a problem. Small cracks in stucco are not the end of the world. Larger ones however, are a first hint that there are problems behind it and may be serving as a opening for water or insects that will be followed by an invitation to a large repair bill.
  • Got a marble – use it! A marble that doesn’t roll indicates the floors are level it’s that or you have glue stuck to it.
  • Got a digital camera – use it. Review the pictures. There are a lot of things you will notice after the heat of the moment has passed during your visit. Be courteous. Sometimes you may find an owner who doesn’t want you to take pictures for security purposes or a transgression of religious doctrine. When in doubt always ask and if there is concern, offer to leave them your name and phone number or business card in exchange for their piece of mind. If it’s not welcomed then don’t push it. It is after all, their home.

About Larry Yatkowsky

Larry is a recognized real estate expert. A veteran professional, his experienced counsel leads Vancouverites in his west side community to place their trust in a man passionate about his work. Uncompromising ethics bring a balanced approach to realizing your real estate dreams.

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*Disclaimer: Statistics Courtesy REBGV. While believed to be accurate they are not guaranteed.
**Numbers provided may vary as they are dynamically posted by the REBGV.

Reader Comments:

John1 Says:
April 28th, 2010 at 11:54 am

Priceless moment – Larry explaining what’s he’s doing with his iPhone (using iLevel to check the floor) to a young selling agent with a Blackberry.

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