A Boston area home inspection isn’t just a good idea. It’s imperative if you’re contemplating buying a starter home or “fixer-upper.” Before you buy any house – regardless of its age, size or condition – select a qualified home inspector to thoroughly inspect it and provide you with a complete report. Here are a few areas in your prospective home you and your inspector should check out.
Boston Area Home Inspection: Avoiding a “Money Pit”
There’s a classic 1986 Tom Hanks movie entitled “The Money Pit” in which a young couple sinks their entire life savings into a home that is, quite literally, falling apart. A comedy of calamities ensues as they try to handle each disaster the “money pit” they purchased throws their way.
Typical fixer-uppers are less expensive and offer the best potential growth in value. As a result, they are popular with first-time buyers. While a fresh coat of paint and some landscaping or other curb appeal improvements can help the property, it’s more important to make sure the house is structurally sound. Once that’s determined, further improvements can be made that may potentially increase its value, appearance and livability. The key is to avoid issues in the house that could create your family’s money pit. Let’s look at the benefits of a Boston area home inspection in several key areas.
General Structure of the Home
The most important part of any home is its foundation. If it was constructed properly, the home should be on a sturdy foundation, usually reinforced with steel and a concrete perimeter wall below ground with concrete footings. Make sure the structure of the house is straight and solid. Inspect exterior walls to ensure they are plumb and straight – from top to bottom. In addition, the floors should be flat and level. Look for doors that don’t open or close properly or that don’t fit squarely in the door jambs. That could indicate structural problems or settling issues that have created issues. Lastly, the floor should have a solid, sturdy feel to it. If it feels springy or “soft” it could mean the floor joists need greater support or potential repair.
Large cracks in the foundation are warning signs. They can often represent structural issues that may lead to expensive foundation repair. If the interior walls in your prospective home have cracks, it could indicate settling or movement has occurred over time. That’s usually caused by unstable or shifting soil or potential drainage issues. Those problems can often be difficult and expensive to solve. Minor cracks above the corners of windows and doors are less worrisome. They can usually be remedied with a little cosmetic work using filler and touch up paint.
Your Boston area home inspection should also include a closer look into how well your gutters and downspouts operate. Their sole job is to efficiently move water away from the house. Look for signs of drainage problems. Check to see if there are watermarks or moisture near the corners of the exterior walls and lower places near the home’s immediate perimeter. Have your home inspector thoroughly inspect the basement or crawlspace for signs of flooding, standing water, or excessive moisture. Moisture can create a perfect environment for mold. While some types of mold are not problematic and easily removed, other types may require considerable expense. Your home inspector will know the difference and will recommend the best course of action.
Determine whether your fixer-upper’s plumbing consists of copper or steel water pipes. As steel pipes age, they may become blocked with natural sediments which can reduce water pressure and restrict water flow. Here’s a test you can perform to check your water pressure – even the most experienced Boston area home inspection professionals do this. Turn on the bathtub spout in the bathroom located the furthest from the water heater. Then, while the water’s running, turn on the bathroom sink faucets and flush the toilet. If the water flow coming from the bathtub spout slows down a good bit, it may be time to re-pipe the plumbing.
Another determination you should make in your fixer-upper is whether the house has an outdated and undersized main electrical service panel. Check to see if the main electrical circuit breaker (fuse box panel) has a maximum capacity of 100 amps or less. If it does, it’s undersized for a typical family. In addition, the house should be equipped with 220-volt service. Check to see if there are three main wires from the power company’s pole to the house. If so, the house likely has 220-volt service. If there are only two wires, there’s probably only 110-volt service. Lastly, you can check for 220-volt outlets that accommodate appliances like clothes dryers or electric ovens.
Heating and Cooling
It’s important in your Boston area home inspection to determine the approximate age and type of heating system in the home – and whether all the rooms are heated. Look in the attic and walls for insulation. Adding more insulation in the attic usually isn’t a very expensive or difficult task. However, adding insulation in the walls can add up quickly. Have a home inspection professional check by removing electrical outlet covers.
The easiest way to tell if your prospective home has a leaky roof is to check for water stains in the ceiling or attic. Instead of actually climbing on the roof to examine the shingles and other materials, we suggest you hire a Boston area home inspection professional whose trained to do that sort of work and knows what to look for.
Architecture and Design
One last recommendation is to check out the house’s general layout and architectural appearance. Homes with a distinct style like a ranch-styled home, a Cape Cod or salt box home are perennial favorites. These homes and others are relatively easy to upgrade and perform improvements to – and that work will likely increase the home’s value – turning your fixer upper into a nicely restored older home that will be more marketable when the time comes to sell.
You can find more articles pertaining to a Boston area home inspection in the Boston Home Inspections section of our site below Boston Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.