Is that fixer really a bargain?

How to Inspect a Property

As a potential homebuyer getting into a beat-up real estate marketplace, it's beneficial to have the knowledge on how to evaluate a property, especially foreclosures and properties that have been standing vacant.

I have been a real estate practitioner since 1962 and in that time span I have seen properties in conditions that you would not believe.

In California there is a state law that once a contract is accepted by the seller, buyers have 17 days to complete their inspection on a property and if they discover issues the seller is unwilling to fix, the buyer may cancel the contract. So I would suggest the plan of action. Write the contract and get it accepted. Just as soon as you have the acceptance. Spend $300 to $350 and hire a home inspector, as it doesn't matter if the building is brand new or old and tired, many times there are issues that can only be discovered by an experienced home inspector. Most often the expense of a home inspection will be less expensive than the concession you'll receive from the seller by getting something repaired they discovered. People often tell me, 'I can't afford the cost of a home inspection,' what if they find that the furnace needs replacing?" Think that one over

Initial View
Although even prior to getting involved with a home inspector, there usually obvious warning signals that a property is a dubious choice. If large quantities' of "for sale" signs scattered through the neighborhood, you'd better find out the why of all those signs. Notice if the home has bad odors or smells artificially nice (this might be an indication of air fresheners being used to mask a moldy odor). Pay attention those small things that could be really important, like as rodent droppings inside the cupboards.

One previous Point of Concern that possibly may no longer be important is that in the past, a house lingering on the market on the market a long time was not considered a good sign, but today it might just be an indication of being initially overpriced, in escrow several times with an unqualified buyer, unmotivated seller, poor maintenance or just bad market conditions

I believe the biggest Point of Concern is lack of property maintenance. As I first drive up in front a property, even before I exit the car, I'm already checking out the property for a feel of what I'm looking at. I look at the roof to get a feel for it's condition. Are the rain gutters full of vegetation from lack of cleaning, Is the house in need painting, is there missing or damaged siding and trim? Have the front shrubs been maintained do they look as if they're going to attack any moment, has the lawn been maintained? Odds are that if the outside of the house is rundown and tired then the inside is probably reflects the same condition.

Water Damage

The biggest single problems with houses, is water damage, excessive moisture inside the house, one indication of water problems is the grading near the house is angled inward towards the house instead sloping away. This may lead mold, mildew and flooded crawlspace flooded basement. Also bathrooms need proper ventilation, and the attic should have no mold, mildew or other fungus.

Regional Issues

Houses situated near water receive more weather exposure and have unique storage requirements, and purchasers should consider whether elevations of these houses are high enough. Different regions bring distinct home features into concern, and it's important to know customs and regulations specific to the area under discussion. In areas that receive excessive cold or heat temperatures, energy efficiency is more more important. An older property, it might not have enough insulation, and it may only contain single pane windows. Changes in technology and energy codes, allow new homes to provide more regulated winter heat and cooler indoor summer temperatures. Today's homes are being constructed structurally stronger, providing for seismic strategy and construction standards. The West Coast, earthquake standards are very strict to allow homes to better withstand tremors. In the Gulf Coast States, they're being built to withstand hurricane weather House Age and Period-Specific Issues

Old and new houses have both positives and negatives . Older homes will usually reveal quality craftsmanship more consistently although they may need to be tailored to today's lifestyles, like implementing an up to date sound systems or modernizing the kitchen with current materials and styles.


The house's age could possibly be the number two Point of Concern. The actual age of a home is not an issue if it's been upgraded and well cared for. Almost all home components have a 20 year life expectancy for a traditional asphalt shingle or wood shingle roof, a 12 year life of a hot water heater, about 15 years for the air conditioning unit. If I enter a 22 year old house and discover the original roof, furnace, air conditioner, hot water heater and kitchen appliances, I need to let the buyers know that they should create a replacement budget for all components which are past their expected life Homes built during different eras have distinctive hidden potential pitfalls characteristic of their phase, In the builders quest to construct houses cheaper and faster over the years, some products were installed that weren't given sufficient testing, or when they were employed any long term exposure experiences were not known.

Here are some examples:

  • Homes constructed in the early nineteen hundreds employed lead water supply lines.
  • Houses built from the twenties until the seventies utilized components containing lead- and asbestos.
  • Houses built in the sixties to present day contain components that give off hazardous gases (for example, hurricane Katrina HUD mobile trailers)
  • A few houses built starting with the mid seventies to the present employed flawed water lines that start leaking.

Become aware

I advise purchasers do as I do: Just take a moments, stand on the other side the street of the home they have an interest in and visually scan the outside looking at the gutters, roof, trim, siding, and landscaping looking for anything abnormal or non-congruent. Do a comparison of the house with others in the same area. Does the home appear better or worse than the others? Just remember that anything that should to be repaired, painted, tweaked, adjusted, or replaced on your check-list should have a dollar sign placed next to it and keep in mind, those dollars are quick to add up.,

It's also easy tell when a house was left run down and subsequently had a quick coat of paint slapped on it, Like "lipstick on a pig". Deferred maintenance almost impossible to hide..

Well-built indicates professional pride and craftsmanship, unfortunately are traits that all but disappeared with the builders of today and substituted with speed and greed. When a home has been built structurally built with craftsmanship, square, level and plumb, that is 75% of a house that's well built, the 25% that remains is maintenance.

Article by Gene Wright, Wright Realtors -  New Article Jan. 20, 2011

Buying Real Estate