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First Time Home Buyers Beware of These Hidden Repairs

by Diane Clarkson on Aug 6, 2013

You want a home, but you don't want to buy a money pit. Unfortunately, it's a constant battle against depreciation with real estate. Roofs leak and sag, electrical wiring frays, plumbing leaks, and appliances break. That's why you need to do a little research before signing on the dotted line.

Windows

Windows are a huge investment. They're also one of the most common replacements needed in an older home. Windows, especially single-paned units, leak like a sieve. Before you buy a home, check out the window situation. Open them up, check the balancing systems, check for internal seal failure, and make sure there are no obvious drafts when the window is shut.

Balancing systems in older windows are of the Caldwell design. A hollow tube with a spiral-shaped piece of metal is what keeps the window open. The spiral balancer is prone to bending and is often responsible for a partial failure of the window system.

The glass pack on many double-paned windows is sealed with an aluminum spacer and silicone. The metal between the panes of glass doesn't expand and contract at the same rate as the glass - causing permanent seal failure when temperatures on both sides of the window are significantly different. For example, in the summertime, your A/C may keep the interior glass surface cool, but the outside glass surface may be hot. The outside glass wants to expand, while the interior doesn't (at least, not to the same extent).

The result? The aluminum spacer that separates the glass panes can't hold the glass pack together. Once the seal breaks, condensation forms on the inside of the glass pack and the unit must be replaced. It's an expensive job, so make sure you don't have to pay for it.

Roofing

Roofs leak. It's a fact of life. Eventually, every roof needs to be replaced. Check the attic for signs of moisture or leaking. Ask whether the roofing has been replaced. If it has, don't assume that the old shingles have been pulled up. Some contractors simply lay down new shingles over the old ones in an attempt to save the homeowner some money.

Unfortunately, this can cause premature failure of the roofing system since old shingles may be retaining moisture. Worst-case scenario - you'll have to rip up everything, including the decking, and build a new roof.

Taste The Water

Homeowners who have design their house can customize a filtration system before the foundation is ever poured. However, if you're buying a used home, you don't have much of a choice. You get whatever comes with the house.

Taste the water. Even if you're buying within city limits, not all municipalities are the same. Some add chlorine. Others add chloramines. Still, others add fluoride on top of the chlorine treatment. The amount of chlorine and chloramines varies, and can adversely affect the taste and quality of your drinking water.

The only way to get rid of chloramines is to add a special water filter to remove the taste - a potentially expensive investment - best to know what you're getting into before committing to the entire house.

Diane Clarkson has extensive experience in real estate. Her articles mainly appear on homeowner blogs.

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