What are the problems to look for when buying a homeowner remodeled house?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

America has always been a do-it-yourself nation and proud of it. HGTV and the DIY Network, plus thousands of YouTube videos reach millions of home improvement weekend warriors that desire a larger, more glamorous home without spending big bucks. 

    When homeowners stick to tiling floors, painting, and minor carpentry projects, the results are often excellent. But if they tackle plumbing, electrical wiring, duct work, or roofing projects, lots of things can go wrong. What seems like a sensible way to assemble pipes to a homeowner can be a sanitation hazard. As one of our contractor friends put it: “Do they really know how to do plumbing or do they “YouTube” know how to do it?”

    Homeowner improvement projects run the gamut from darn near professional quality to a hopeless mess. A home inspector can help you sort out what is acceptable from the things that need repair or replacement. Here are four guidelines you can follow when evaluating a homeowner remodeled home before you call the inspector:

  1. Ask about building permits - If the homeowner pulled permits and got final inspections for most of the work, that’s a good sign. It means that a municipal inspector got a chance to check the work in areas that may already be closed-up when you see them. Ask for copies of the documentation, especially for work done by electrical, plumbing, air conditioning, and roofing contractors hired by the homeowner.
  2. What you see will be similar to what you can’t see - People are usually consistent in the quality of their work and attention to detail. If the fit and finish of what is visible looks sloppy, it’s likely that what you can’t see is the same or worse.
  3. Check for the little things indicate good workmanship - All joints and seams should been caulked before painting, with a paint finish that is even with crisp edges. Tile joints ought to  align accurately over a uniformly flat surface, and doors and windows should open, close, and latch easily. These things are a given for professional work, but should be checked at a homeowner project.
  4. Look carefully at the quality of the materials - The big box home improvement stores where homeowners get most of their supplies offer budget quality cabinetry, laminate wood flooring, and fixtures that don’t hold up well over time. They sell top quality materials too, but take a look at the interior surfaces of the cabinets and get down on your knees and examine the flooring close-up to get a feel for the quality of what has been installed. 

    Homeowner-remodeled homes often have character and charming idiosyncrasies not found in the work of professional contractors, and that makes them worth considering. The ones that hired pros for plumbing and electrical, while doing the rest of the work themselves, are your best choice. Just be sure to check the functional and safety aspects of any non-professional work before buying.

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  To learn more strategies for getting the best possible home inspection, here’s a few of our other blog posts:

How can I make sure I don't get screwed on my home inspection? 

How thorough is a home inspector required to be when inspecting a house?

Should I trust the Seller's Property Disclosure Statement?

Can I do my own home inspection?

How can homebuyers protect themselves against buying a house over a sinkhole? 

The seller gave me a report from a previous home inspection. Should I use it or get my own inspector? 

    To read about issues related to homes of particular type or one built in a specific decade, visit one of these blog posts:

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1940s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1950s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s house?

• What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1970s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1980s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1990s house?

What problems should I look for when buying a country house or rural property? 

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been moved?

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been vacant or abandoned?

What are the most common problems with older mobile homes?

What do I need to know about a condo inspection?

What are the "Aging In Place" features to look for when buying a retirement home?

     Visit our REMODELING and COMMON PROBLEMS and HOME INSPECTION pages for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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