What Makes A Good Home?
All too frequently home inspectors are ask ” would you buy this home?” Each inspector has their own way of answering in a politically correct way. The reality is that I wouldn’t buy many of the homes I inspect but then again, I am not the buyer. The client is the buyer and they will have to live in the home. There are basic features in a home that does make it more desirable from a home inspectors perspective and that’s what buyers should look for:
Site: Location, Location, Location. Realtors chant this mantra on a regular basis and it is true
- Solar orientation – South facing slope with driveway/main entrance at south are ideal. This is particularly important in colder climates. However their are always tradeoff if the home has a water view
- Flat lots are desirable. Lots that slope toward the house are problematic. Good drainage is a must in the NW. Second best is flat area where the main entrance and the garage is located
- “Lay of the land.” – Ideal: lower level of the home should be above street. At a minimum, driveway/land around building should slope away from the building.
Age: This is the single biggest factor. Below are some considerations:
- Pre -1920 – Stone foundation and plaster lath walls
- 1920 Cast in place concrete foundations
- 1950 Beginning of modern construction techniques
- 1965 Less chance of lead paint or asbestos
- 1970 Grounded (three strand) distribution wiring
- 1968-75 Aluminum single strand wiring possible (probable in manufactured housing)
- 1978 First wave of energy conscious construction
- 1980 Vented attics and double pane windows required (minimizes chances of moisture/mold issues
- 1986 Modern Energy Codes (R19 Walls and R30 ceilings, Thermal-pane windows)
Homes go through major renovation every 20 years according to the National Association of Home Builders. When I am looking at a 50-60 year old home I am looking at the quality of the original home and then each set of major renovations. If qualified contractors did the renovations then there should be no problems, but if lesser qualified people did some of the work then costly repairs could be required to bring that area up to current standards.
Foundation/Structural System: Cast-in-place concrete are most desirable. Structural stability, ease of repair, and good ventilation are desirable. Block or brick are also good. Stone walls in older homes are problematic.
Roofs: Stay away from flat roofs. In general, a nice pitch that will allow runoff is desirable. 6:12 pitch is ideal for this climate. Large overhangs are a win. Metal or Tile roofs are a plus
Water/Sewer: Municipal services are certainly desirable. Older septic system can be problematic. Septic system are required to be certified now with all transactions in Skagit County. If the sewer lines are 50 years or older they should have a video inspection. Well systems can be a problem on the islands due to salt water intrusion.
Heating: Gas forced air is best value. Indirect fired hot water is best source for domestic hot water. Least desirable: Older electric baseboards or oil burners Hot water baseboard or radiant floor heating is a plus
Plumbing: Avoid PB (polybutylene) piping. This is gray plastic distribution piping. It is particularly problematic with plastic (acetyl) fittings. Galvanized plumbing is also problematic. Copper is good. PEX (Cross Linked Polyethylene) or CPVC is fine.
Beware the deck!: Most decks have a variety of problems. Wood rot or a gap between the deck and house is the single best indicator of construction competence. If a deck is ten years or older most likely it has some wood rot in it and will need repairs
Garage: Attached or built-in is much preferable to under. 8’ high, 9’ wide doors preferred. From a guy’s point a view a garage can never be too large
Driveway: Concrete is most popular in this climate.