The Most (and Least) Expensive Repairs to Watch Out For as a Home Buyer
If you’ve spent any time shopping for a new home, you’ve likely discovered that no home is perfect. Most buyers will almost always have some repairs or fixes to make once they’ve moved in.
The decision often comes down to weighing the cost and the extent of the repairs against the amount of time it will take to complete them and your willingness to do so.
Take a careful look at your budget when deciding which repairs are worth making relative to the price of the house, and which repairs are a red flag. Knowing you might need to replace a water heater in 2-3 years is one thing, but are you prepared to replace the entire roof or remedy a cracked foundation? Work with a trusted real estate agent and home inspector to help you identify potential problems.
It’s a good idea to earmark part of your budget for repairs you’ll want to make right away, but keep in mind you’ll have other home-buying expenses like a down payment and closing costs; you’ll want to make sure you have enough cash available to accommodate each step of the process.
Most Expensive Home Repairs
Foundations will naturally expand and contract with the weather and the amount of moisture in the surrounding soil. But if a home inspector or structural engineer points out major cracks in the foundation, bowing in the support beams, pooling water,or improper drainage, there could be a potential problem with the basic footprint of the home.
Other signs of foundation trouble include doors and windows that don’t sit in their frames properly, sloping floors, and cracks throughout the house. An issue with the foundation could be a fairly easy fix or could indicate a more complex (and expensive) problem. Get a professional opinion so you know what you’re dealing with.
Compare repairing a few shingles or patching minor leaks to having to replace an entire roof. Get a thorough inspection, especially if you see signs of leaks inside the house on exterior walls. You can ask the current homeowner how old the roof is, but a professional will be able to tell you if the roof is in good shape, needs a few repairs, or how many years you can expect to get out of it before it needs replacing.
Mold infestations aren’t just unsightly, they’re a serious health hazard and can aggravate or trigger several health issues including allergies, asthma, and other respiratory problems.
Check for mold in places that may have experienced flooding, such as a basement, or areas where moist, warm air can be trapped, like an attic, or bathrooms. Be on the lookout for discolored spots on the walls or ceilings or musty smells. You can also bring in a black mold inspector to look for warning signs if you suspect the home may have a mold problem hidden in the walls.
Termites are found in across the U.S., but tend to favor warm weather and wooden structures. If not caught early, termites can wreak havoc on floors, walls, decks, and framework. This can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage. Signs of termite damage or infestation include hollowed-out wood, thin mud tunnels about the size of a pencil running along exterior walls, small holes in the drywall, or swarms of small bugs or bug wings in the basement. Get a professional in to assess the extent of the damage if you suspect the home has a termite problem.
Sewer Line Repair
Newer, well-maintained sewer lines can last anywhere from 50 to 100 years and perform the important job of preventing sewage from backing up into your yard or basement. Signs of failing sewer lines include clogged plumbing fixtures, water appearing in the tub when a toilet flushes, foul or rotten egg smell coming from the pipes, or excessive gurgling noises in the drains. A local sewer contractor can assess whether the lines are simply in need of a cleaning or if there’s a bigger (and pricier) problem.
Less Expensive Home Repairs
Other repairs are in line with normal wear and tear on a home and are usually handled with regular maintenance. A few examples of small repairs that could save big in the long run:
Insulate the Attic
Insufficient insulation in an unfinished attic may account for a home’s greatest source of lost heat. Boost a home’s efficiency with an additional layer of insulation or blow noncellulose fiber into the attic to create a depth of 8.5 inches.
Clean the Gutters
Protect the outside of your home by removing debris from gutters in the fall after the trees have stopped shedding leaves. Clogged gutters can cause water to leak into the home’s foundation line and exterior walls. Also, install downspouts to direct water away from the foundation.
Fix Leaky Fixtures
More often than not dripping faucets, running toilets or a leaky pipe are simple fixes that a homeowner can probably handle themselves. Fixing small plumbing problems promptly prevents larger issues from developing, and saves both water and money on your utility bill.
Replace Stained Drywall
Yellow or gray stains on ceilings or walls can indicate an interior leak, or they can be the remnants of a leak that’s been fixed but the drywall was never replaced. In either case, remove old drywall, repair any leaks and replace it with new drywall to prevent bigger problems down the road.
As a home buyer, discovering your potential dream home may have an expensive repair in its future doesn’t necessarily mean the home is destined to become a money pit. If the home is in your perfect neighborhood, for example, and you’re planning to stay for five or more years, you may decide certain repairs are worth the investment. Smaller repairs that fit in your existing budget or can be easily financed can be addressed quickly.
The more knowledge you have about the home’s challenges, the better equipped you are to make decisions that are right for you and your budget.