Real Estate

What Should You Consider Before Buying a Home? Important Tips From a Contractor

by Nick Riediger
March 20, 2020
PCL Construction Foreman
March 20, 2020

If you’re in the process of buying a home, this reminder from Nick Riediger, PCL Construction Foreman, may be exactly what you need to read.

Keep your emotions at bay when making this purchase, focus on the investment opportunity and be patient! There is always another house just down the street… literally!

The Classic Mistake

If you have some experience in real estate, I’m sure you’ve seen it – the windows are holding moisture, the concrete steps aren’t level and cracked, and the list goes on and on. If you haven’t seen these issues, there is a good chance that you are focused on the aesthetics of the home instead of the more critical details. Don’t let the bathroom vanity or the kitchen backsplash take your attention away from the more important details of the home – the outside!

Interior finishes are, generally speaking, inexpensive compared to exterior items and this is primarily due to the large variety in exterior work that can be completed and their importance for the maintenance of the house as a whole.

More often than not, buyers overlook the critical areas of a home. No one has a dinner party to show off their new shingles. Instead, the vanity project, albeit not that expensive, is the focus of everyone’s attention.

While no one is pushing the idea of showing off your new roof, ask yourself: What good is the interior of my home when it’s highly susceptible to damage from the elements? Not to get off track… but here is another one: the walls are cracking around the interior door frames. One person might install new frames and subsequently patch the walls. This doesn’t take care of the root problem. The house is shifting! It may be time to go and adjust the tele-post in the basement before patching those walls.

What You Should Look For When Buying A Home

Purchasing a home for yourself to live in or as an investment is an important and costly purchase. To that end, here are two main categories for you to consider and these categories are integral in the longevity of a home.

The Building Envelope

The building envelope is essentially the separation from the conditioned to the unconditioned – simply put, the indoors to the outdoors of the home.

Having a strong building envelope is integral to an energy-efficient home. It will keep moisture out and allow the homes HVAC system to do its job. If the envelope is sound, then the risk of mother-nature damaging the interior is little-to-none (short of a tornado, of course…).
When looking at a home, take a slow walk around the house and keep your eyes wide open. Having the property graded away from the house is imperative to keep ground water away from the foundation.

While you are walking around, here are a few other important details to look for:

  • Are there window wells around the basement windows?
  • Is the ground separating from the foundation?
  • Is the siding in decent condition or rotting?

These things are not all necessarily within the definition of building envelope, but they are directly related and will ensure the envelope is protected properly.

If you plan on using a home inspector as a condition of purchase, confirm that they have a thermal camera. This will provide insight on how well the home is insulated, without opening walls.

The Structure of the Home

The structure of the home is equally, if not more important, than the envelope. Structural repairs on residential homes generally pertain to the foundation. Foundation repairs can be costly and do not always guarantee future performance. With that said, analyzing the structure of a home visually can be challenging. I suggest first looking for level. If the floor inside is sloping, this can indicate structural deficiencies. This doesn’t normally change overnight. It can take years to notice a foundation shifting without equipment. In most homes, the attic is accessible. Go up and have a look, does the roof structure show any signs of sagging? It’s also a good time to review the envelope while you’re in the attic. For example, does the underside of the roof have frost? This would be a strong indication that there is heat loss from the home and the insulation needs to be topped up.

When selecting a home, whether it be a newer home or one that needs substantial upgrades, look for evidence of maintenance. If the home shows signs of neglect, this could translate into problems that have been lingering and worsened over the years. This may likely be an indication that the house will require extensive work and may not be worth the effort, depending on both your time-horizon and financial goals with the home.

The Right Mindset

If you are looking at buying a home, its important to be objective. What is the end goal? Could this be the last stop before a retirement community, or do you have intentions of moving on soon? If your goal is the latter, determine a budget that allows for potential profit. During your first home purchase, if the budget is there, it can be tempting to go with a property that does not need work. Avoid this initial temptation and instead focus on the return on investment strategy. To better understand this, I would suggest that you ask your realtor to provide you with comparable sold listings in the area prior to purchasing, so you know what to expect when it comes time to sell.

Conclusion: Buying A Home

Getting advice from a professional builder could lead to the purchase of an inexpensive home that has a lot of potential. Far too many people have self-declared themselves as professional builders after they renovated their kitchen or bathroom. Look for credentials when determining who to get advice from. Uninformed approval is a shortcut to stress and financial loss, especially when buying a home.

Nick Riediger
About Nick Riediger

Nick is a Red Seal Carpenter by trade and is currently working as a Construction Foreman with PCL Construction.

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