Before you buy a new home, be sure to check common maintenance issues and to have them inspected by a qualified contractor.

by Sue Ann Rybak

So you have finally found your dream house, but before you rush into anything, you need to ask a few questions.

Ed Kelly, who has been a contractor for more than 25 years, sat down with the Chestnut Hill Local to offer some tips. Kelly said it was essential to get your home inspected by a licensed insured home inspector.

“Make sure the home inspector is licensed and reputable,” Kelly said. “Don’t just take their word for it. Check references, otherwise you will pay for it down the road.”

And arrange to be there when your home is inspected.

“Be there,” he said. “You hired him. If you noticed something, point it out – don’t hesitate. Be sure to ask questions.”

If a problem is found, the seller may fix it, or you can negotiate a price reduction for the work that has to be done.

“Don’t assume renovations will be a quick and easy fix,” Kelly said. “There may be some hidden issues.”

Pay special attention to the roof, and don’t forget to inspect the garage roof – inside and out – Kelly said, urging buyers to check for loose shingles and look for excessive rust on a metal roof.

“It [a roof] is a costly repair,” he said. “And in the last three years, the price of fixing a roof has doubled because of the increase in the cost of materials.”

Make sure the electric is updated.

“Any outlets close to water such as bathrooms and the kitchen should be ground fault interrupter outlets,” Kelly said.

According to OSHA, “The ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is a fast-acting circuit breaker designed to shut off electric power in the event of a ground-fault within as little as 1/40 of a second. It works by comparing the amount of current going to and returning from equipment along the circuit conductors.”

Don’t forget to look for plumbing issues.

“Even basic plumbing problems, such as leaky faucets and running toilets can be a big issue,” Kelly said. “Conservation is important. Dripping faucets will just pour your money down the drain. However, these problems can be easily fixed.

“Leaks and water damage are more prevalent because we had such a wet year last year – there has been a massive amount of basement problems. It creates a bigger problem – mold. It is especially harmful to young children, the elderly or people with respiratory problems.”

Are there any heating or cooling issues?

“An older heater can be working perfectly and eat up 15 percent more energy,” Kelly said. “Be sure to factor this into your budget.”

Windows
“Check windows from both the inside and outside,” Kelly said.

“Are there any gaps between the window and the frame?  Look for signs of water leakage on the windowsill, such as discolored or rotted wood.

Termites
“Termites can tumble a house. Often, there are no visible signs that a home is infested [with termites]. It is important to have it inspected by a professional.”
“One thing that is important to mention is cracked sewer line pipes,” Kelly said. “Especially in older homes or if the home has been sitting empty for a year. It is something that happens in homes that have not been lived in for a period of time. It can be a costly repair.”

The neighborhood
“Be sure to visit your potential home at different times of the day,” Kelly said. “Are their vacant properties on your block? Find out if the majority of the properties are owned or rented out.

“The value of your home may decrease or increase depending upon the neighborhood. Read the local paper’s police report and talk to neighbors about the neighborhood. Find out if there is a neighborhood civic association.”

Neighborhoods with civic associations tend to have less crime, a strong sense of community and are more informed about developments in their neighborhood.

Finding a reputable contractor to complete renovations
When looking for a contractor, check to make sure the firm is licensed and insured.
“Finding a contractor is simpler than it has been in years,” Kelly said. “About three years ago, Pennsylvania passed a law that requires all contractors to be registered and licensed by the state.

“With this process, when you get an estimate from the contractor, his Pennsylvania license number should be on the estimate. Then all you have to do is call the Attorney General’s Office and give it the number. Then, you can find out if the company has any liens or complaints filed against it, etc.”

These are just a few things to remember before investing in a house. They will help make your house “a home sweet home.”