George's House Hunting Tips

Nothing takes the place of careful evaluation and inspection, but there are some good preliminary indicators of the quality of a home. Here are some tips from a pro.

  • PURCHASING A HOME IS HARD WORK, take your time to learn as much as possible about the home, the lot, the neighborhood, the mortgage, insurance...Don't allow yourself to make a rushed decision.
  • NEWER IS GENERALLY BETTER THAN OLDER. This is not a statement about style of construction, but about the quality of most of the material, equipment and workmanship in newer versus older homes.
  • STANDARD CONSTRUCTION IS USUALLY SUPERIOR TO UNUSUAL WORK. Most homes are built according to some very well known standard practices. Such homes will last for hundreds of years if they receive good maintenance. A disproportionately large number of non-standard features tend to have major problems and much higher maintenance costs.

It has been my experience that the contractor built home that has not been modefied by the weekend warier tends to be a better choice than the one that has seen such modifications.

  • HOUSES BUILT IN WETLANDS tend to have major problems: pests, wood rot, floods, mold and even premature roofing failure (no kidding). Such problems are usually very difficult and very expensive to solve. One of the only ways to prevent such problems is by building the structure on a high foundation or on stilts. Wetlands are for frogs and birds, not for houses!
  • LOCAL CONDITIONS REQUIRE SPECIAL ATTENTION! If you are looking in an area that is subject to HURRICANES, TORNADOS, TSUNAMIS, or FLOODS then you will need to find out about the special requirements for such homes. If your home is subject to salt spray from the sea, find our about requirements for stainless steel fasteners...

Ask questions, lots of questions and get the information from a variety of experts.

  • ANNUAL HOME MAINTENANCE COSTS amount to about to 2% of the value of the structure. This includes such items as the amortization of a new roof or furnace over 20-40 years, a new dishwasher every 15 years, and annual furnace service.
  • CONDOMINIUMS are often bought by people who don't want to worry about maintenance. As a result, some condominium complexes have a hard time finding volunteers to be on the homeowners' association board. And some complexes suffer from poor quality maintenance practices. Consider the whole complex, the other owners and their building and grounds maintenance practices.
  • SPECULATIVE REMODELS (homes which were recently 'fixed up' prior to being placed on the market) tend to have more problems in the less 'visible' areas, e.g. the plumbing, electrical and heating systems.
  • RECENTLY RENTED HOMES tend to be in poorer condition than homes occupied by their owners.
  • My experience has been that MANUFACTURED AND MODULAR HOMES are often built to very poor standards. They tend not to last for very long, and in my opinion are a poor investment.
  • HOUSES WITH ROOF OVERHANGS require less maintenance in wet climates and stay cooler in hot climates. Such homes have fewer problems with sidings, require less frequent painting, and have fewer leaks.
  • COPPER SUPPLY LINES are the best, galvanized lines will not last as long, and I still have trouble trusting any of the plastic supply lines but see them in all types of new homes.
    • failing shower and tub walls
    • defective heating and cooling systems
    • roofing problems
    • unsafe electrical modifications
    • deck problems
  • THE MOST TELLING SIGN OF GOOD QUALITY NEW CONSTRUCTION IS: a clean and well organized construction site
  • REPAIRS NEGOTIATED DURING THE PURCHASE PROCESS are of better quality if the work is controlled and paid for by the buyer. In other words, it is better to get a discount in the price of the home then to have the seller do the work. Reason, the buyer has a longer term interest in the structure.