The House Doctor's
Home-Buying Tips

Neighborhood - You can make improvements to the home but you can't change the location. Pick a neighborhood that you find comfortable and then find a house you can afford. 

Land contour - Water runs down hill. It is very difficult to prevent water problems if your soil is often saturated. Foundation drainage might maintain a dry basement for a while, but systems fail. Make certain water is not directed toward your house.

Style - Cold air falls, hot air rises. A sunken living room will normally be cold in winter without special heating systems. Second floors are hard to cool in the summer with an air- conditioning unit in the basement. Multiple levels are best kept comfortable with zoned heating/cooling.
Foundations - A home might have concrete slab construction, a crawl space, an excavated basement or any combination there of.  Concrete is hard on your feet and often cold whether it is in a basement or  as a slab on grade. Crawl spaces are OK if there is good access and ventilation. If you are afraid to go into the crawl space, don't buy one. They are notorious for moisture problems. Poured concrete foundation walls are usually better than concrete block. Look for uneven cracks in both. Vertical cracks which are wider on top or bottom normally  indicate settling or heaving. Neither condition is good! Consult with a qualified inspector for an evaluation. Cracks in basement floors are normally not a major problem.
Roofs - The steeper a roof is, the better it drains. Flat or nearly flat roofs are often a major nuisance. Low- sloped roofs require special covering procedures and are prone to leakage at some time. 

Overhangs or eaves help protect the side walls from rain and water damage as well as shading the interior from the hot summer sun. Look carefully for water damage inside at roof edge if there are no overhanging eaves. Ice damming and water penetration are common on these structures.

Wood shingles and shakes, as well as slate roofing, should be inspected by a professional. Wood roofing when installed over solid decking does not dry evenly and often warps and cracks. Moss growing on wood roofing indicates lingering moisture and often deterioration.

It is difficult to see the condition of a roof without seeing it from the surface. A good inspector should bring a tall enough ladder to get to the roof edge. 

 

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