A home inspector will never know what they will find in homes of any age but the items below are the most common talking points for homes 15 years or newer. This abbreviated list of questions can in no way replace the need for a home inspection, but may help the buyer anticipate some of the talking points of a typical home inspection report.
Things to consider when buying a house that is 15 years or newer:
- How old is the HVAC equipment? Heat pumps typically have a 12-15 year service life and furnaces have a 15-20 year service life. Is there any evidence of leaks under the indoor furnace/air handler? The age and refrigerant type of the equipment type can be found on the label. Buyers can use the same resource that home inspectors use which is the Building Intelligence Center to determine the age of the equipment when it is not clearly labeled. Does the equipment have the newer refrigerant, R410-A? Look for ‘R22’ or ‘HCFC – 22’ which would indicate that the equipment uses the older/outdated refrigerant– this means a shorter service life expectancy.
- How old is the Water Heater? Water heaters typically have a 12-18 year service life expectancy, is it getting close to the end?
- How old is the Kitchen and Laundry appliances? At 15 years many appliances are at or beyond their service life.
- Is the Well equipment, if applicable, original? The pressure tank and related components have an 8-12 year service life.
- What does the crawl space/basement environment like? Is the insulation stringy and falling down? Moisture damaged insulation can indicate a persistently humid environment which will cause many issues over the long-term. Is the ground wet/muddy in the crawl space? Wet/muddy areas and standing water can indicate plumbing leaks, grading/drainage, or ventilation issues. Are wet/cracking foundation walls observed? ‘Settling’ cracks are common but grading/drainage defects always makes foundation cracks worsen over time.
- Any evidence of plumbing leaks? Look under sink cabinets, toilets, and around water heaters for a history of a leak. Are the plumbing fixtures secure and working properly. More intrepid buyers could explore under the plumbing areas in the crawlspace or basement to look for leaks.
- What are the condition of the finishes? (floors, walls, doors, etc…) As adorable as they are, pets and children can cause a lot of cosmetic damages to the interior of the home. Sometimes all that is needed is a little touch-up paint but other times floors need to be refinished and doors need to be replaced– these costs can add up.
- Any evidence of swollen/decayed siding/trim? Improper installation or poorly maintained gutters can cause more than typical wear on the siding/trim. Look for soft/swollen trim or siding especially at doors/windows, gutter areas, or siding over slabs/patios/decks.
- Any evidence of pests? Carpenter bees, Woodpeckers, Rodents/Squirrels, etc…? Carpenter bee damage is very common in our area, especially with wood trim/siding and decks. Carpenter bees make button-sized round holes, wood-peckers often make those holes even larger. Look for evidence of mice in attics, crawl spaces and around water heaters.
- Has regular maintenance been done? Gutter cleaning and sealing, HVAC, etc… If basic maintenance has been neglected, bigger issues were likely neglected as well.
- Has the house been painted? Typically homes should be painted every 7 to 10 years. At 15 years the exterior should have been painted/stained at least once. Painting costs are more expensive than most people anticipate. The paint/caulk is not just cosmetic– it also helps to protect the siding/trim.
- Have the decks been sealed? Typically decks should be sealed every 1 to 3 years
- Are the smoke detectors yellowing/expired? Smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years, yellowing indicates they are aging/expired. Smoke detectors aren’t an expensive or difficult item to replace but they are an important safety item.
Newer homes have modern electrical, plumbing, framing and insulation and they typically do not need roof/window/siding replacement or major structural repairs. At around 15 years most homes will begin to manifest some issues but TYPICALLY these issues can be reversed without permanent noticeable damage IF the new buyers commit to needed repairs and upgrades.
Things to look out for
Poor construction, more than typical wear, or neglect can sometimes age a young home prematurely. Water penetration found at basements or crawl spaces may lead to grading, drainage and water proofing repairs which can be challenging and expensive projects for the inexperienced. At around 15 years the home’s kitchen/laundry/HVAC appliances will be approaching the end of their service life– these costs can add up. At 15 years the house exterior should have been painted/stained at least once.