Home Buying Checklist

Spotting Potential Problems in a Home

A Peek Under the (Real Estate) Hood

You’ve found it—a home that checks all your boxes. Could it be that the end of your house hunt is in sight?

In the rush of excitement as you cross its threshold, proceeding with caution is probably the last thing on your mind. Caveat emptor (“let the buyer beware”) is a phrase that should come to mind at that very moment, though.

Use our Red Flag Checklist to ask important questions about potential problems with any home you tour. A prudent approach to home buying can save headaches (and money) later.

Red Flag Checklist

  1. How old is the home?

    A home’s age doesn’t just indicate whether you’ll need to remove that outdated avocado-colored refrigerator. Any home that’s celebrated more than 25 birthdays will probably need a number of plumbing and/or electrical updates.

    Find the electrical panel and see if it looks dated (replacement parts for older panels can be hard to find). If the house was built before 1978, it might still have lead paint on its walls.

  2. Is there a warranty?

    Warranty policies (unlike homeowner’s insurance) cover repair or replacement of major home systems (like air conditioning, heating, or the water heater) and appliances (refrigerator, pool equipment, garage door opener, etc.). Ask if there is an existing policy and if it can be transferred to you, as the home’s new owner.

  3. When was the roof installed?

    Typically, the life of a roof is about 30 years. But even a recently installed roof could have damage from things like hail or fallen tree limbs. Grab a set of binoculars and look for cracked or peeling shingles, broken or cracked sealants, torn shingles or exposed nails that can indicate that water could be making its way into the attic. Check for tree branches that touch the roof, causing possible damage.

  4. How old is the air conditioner?

    The shelf life of a typical HVAC unit is 15 to 20 years. Even if a unit that old still works fine, it’s not likely to be an energy-saving model, so you might consider the cost of replacing it.

  5. Is there a septic system?

    If a home has a septic system on the property, an entirely separate inspection will be required during the home’s sale. Septic systems are more commonly found on rural properties, but can occur closer to a city’s center, too. Find out if the system uses lateral lines (an older style that requires less maintenance) or if it’s an aerobic system (newer, more eco-friendly, but requires more maintenance and inspections). Also, find out when the home’s system was last pumped—proper maintenance guidelines recommend it be done regularly.

  6. Is the foundation in good shape?

    Take a walk around the house to check for cracks in the concrete slab or exterior brickwork. Inside the house, cracks running down from ceiling corners or gaps between the ceiling and interior walls can indicate a sinking slab. Same thing with doors or cabinets that don’t close or cracks in floor tiles—perhaps indicating walls have shifted.

Go with a Pro

If you’re moving ahead with a home purchase, enlist the help of an inspector to go over the building with a fine-tooth comb (most lenders require it). The Texas Professional Real Estate Inspectors Association is a good resource for more information.

We’re here to help! Contact Sojourn Real Estate for more tips about protecting yourself during a purchase or sale.