Buying a House 15 years or newer

Generally newer homes are relatively low maintenance the first 12 years.  Typically our talking points of a newer home inspection are about some of the aging components (especially as the house approaches 15 years old) maintenance and repairs (or lack thereof) and if applicable, additions.  The purpose of this abbreviated list of questions is to help buyers anticipate some of the talking points of a typical home inspection report.

Typical Defects

Installation Defects

After a decade or more things that weren’t installed correctly when the house was new are starting to manifest themselves more– especially improper installation of the gutters, siding and trim.

Aging Components

  • See Typical Service Life of Components for Home
  • How old is the heating and cooling 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.  We have a resource here to help buyers determine the age of their HVAC equipment in most cases.  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the newer refrigerant, R410-A?  Look for ‘R22’ or ‘HCFC – 22’ which would indicate that the equipment uses the older/outdated refrigerant– this means a shorter service life expectancy.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?  We have a resource here to help buyers determine the age of their water heater in most cases.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Maintenance and Repair Neglect

  • (IMPORTANT) How is the Grading and Drainage?  Was the gutter system installed and maintained properly.  Does the exterior surfaces direct water toward the home anywhere?
  • What does the crawl space/basement environment like?  This is an important follow up question to the grading and drainage question.  Water from the outside can cause many problems in the basement or crawl space.  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 indicate grading/drainage issues, plumbing leaks, or ventilation issues.  Are wet/cracking foundation walls observed?  ‘Settling’ cracks are common but grading/drainage defects always makes foundation cracks worsen over time.
  • Has the house been painted or stained?  Stained wood surfaces (decks and stained siding, etc.) should be stained every 3 years and houses should be painted every 5-8 years.  At 15 years the exterior should have been re-painted/stained once and ideally twice.  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 3 years
  • 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 performed?  Gutter cleaning and sealing, HVAC, etc…  If basic maintenance has been neglected, bigger issues were likely neglected as well.
  • Any evidence of a big leak or flood event?  Any structural or other repairs performed?

Additions, Renovations and Remodels

  • Was the work permitted?
  • Was the work built to the same quality as the rest of the home?

Other Considerations

Stained wood surfaces (decks and stained siding, etc.) should be stained every 3 years and houses should be painted every 5-8 years.

Conclusion

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.

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.  As the house approaches 15 years old some of the components will need replacing and unless the exterior will need to be painted or stained soon unless it was done recently.

Asheville Home Inspectors

Builder Buddy is your resource for inspecting Homes 15 Years or Newer in Asheville and WNC.  We also provide Annual Home Inspections, Newer Home Inspections, Radon testing, Mold testing, Water testing, Well Inspections, and Septic Inspections.  Schedule online or call with questions.

For information about Buying a Home Between 15-25 Years
For Information about Buying Homes 25 Years or Older
For Information about Buying Homes Pre-1960
This article is intended to help home buyers looking at 15 year and Newer Homes

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