Quick tips: What to look for when purchasing an existing home:
The following should be avoided:
• Air and noise pollution from traffic and industry
• Pesticide use in neighborhood (golf courses, mosquito abatement, roadsides, neighbors)
• Winter air pollution from neighboring fireplaces
• Proximity to power lines, radio, TV and microwave towers, overhead high voltage boxes

“TO MAKE THE HOME BUYING PROCESS MORE PLEASANT, FIND OUT HOW MUCH HOME YOU CAN AFFORD BY PRE-QUALIFYING FOR A LOAN. PRE-QUALIFYING IS IMPORTANT, BECAUSE EITHER YOU MAY NOT QUALIFY FOR THE HOME YOU HAVE YOUR HEART SET ON, OR YOU SETTLE FOR A SMALLER HOME WHEN YOU COULD HAVE HAD MORE . ALSO, ASSESS WHAT YOUR IMMEDIATE FAMILY’S NEEDS ARE AND WHAT YOU ANTICIPATE THEM TO BE IN FIVE YEARS. A FEW YEARS DOWN THE ROAD THE THREE BEDROOMS YOU SETTLE FOR NOW MAY NOT BE ENOUGH.”

– DONELLA STOUT, HOME SALES ADVISOR

Here are 11 important things to look for when you are preparing to purchase an existing home.

1. Foundation

• Check for good drainage away from the home. Check the slope of the ground around the entire perimeter.

• Are there French drains? When were they installed and why?

• Check for signs of rot or insect infestation

• Be aware of possible mold problems. With “berming,” dirt piled against the side of the home, mold can spread to the inside of the home.
Basement or Crawl Space
• Look for watermarks that would indicate flooding or backed up drains

• Perform the smell test. Does the place smell damp or moldy? If yes, there’s a problem.

• Is there a basement window for venting?

2. Basement or Crawl Space

• Look for watermarks that would indicate flooding or backed up drains

• Perform the smell test. Does the place smell damp or moldy? If yes, there’s a problem.

• Is there a basement window for venting?

3. Roofing

• The best roofs are sloped, with sufficient overhang to move water and snow away from the home’s perimeter.

• “Flat” tar and gravel roofs are subject to failure, require frequent
replacement and emit toxic fumes when installed.

• Flat tar roofs, as they age, tend to have hairline cracks that leak and cause mold in insulation and sub-roofing.

4. Kitchen

• If you’re chemically sensitive you should consider an electric range/
oven.

• Newer gas ranges with electronic ignition are better than older pilot
light systems.

• At least one operable window is desirable for venting.

• Cabinets of solid wood or metal are best.

• Avoid cabinets made of pressboard, unless they’re 15 years old or have been sealed with a non-toxic sealant.

• Look for concrete or wood floors, with non-toxic sealer or presealed
tiles.

Check for moisture damage or leaking under and around the sink. If
you detect a moldy smell, there’s a problem.

• If fuel-burning appliances are used in the kitchen, make sure a carbon monoxide detector is installed.

5. Bathroom

• Should have a mechanical vent fan rated at a minimum of 100 cubic feet per minute (cfm).

• An operable window is desirable for ventilation.
• The cabinetry criteria are the same as the kitchen. Check for signs of water damage, mold, or mildew.

• Check for missing or cracked grout and loose tiles in the shower and bathtub that might foster and hide mold growth in the wall behind the damaged area.

• Perform the smell test.

6. Garage

• A detached garage is best.

• If attached, an airlock between the garage and living space, or well­ sealed door is essential.

7. Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC) System

• Have the heating and air conditioning systems inspected for leaks, and the need for replacement.

• If the home has in-ground vent ducts, carefully inspect them. If you’re leaning toward purchasing the home, have the ducts inspected with a video system.

• Are the window frames wood, metal or plastic? Is the wood framing in good condition?

• Metal is terribly energy inefficient. Plastic is used on newer window products, and is much more energy efficient than metal.

• Do the windows operate properly? Are they easy to open, and do the locking mechanisms work?
Is there mold or past evidence of mold, windows?

8. Flooring

• Wall-to-wall carpeting should be avoided, if possible – especially if it is newer than 3 years old, recently cleaned with toxic cleaners or is very old. Old carpet may be moldy, or contaminated with tracked in pesticides or other contaminants that cannot be removed with shampooing.

• Pre-sealed tile, brick or concrete floors are a better choice than carpeting.
• Saltillo tiles, wood flooring and natural stone products should be sealed with non-toxic sealers to be acceptable.

• Pressboard or chipboard sub-flooring could contain large amounts of formaldehyde.

• Use low-toxic adhesive if installing new linoleum floors.

• Are the window frames wood, metal or plastic? Is the wood framing in good condition?

• Metal is terribly energy inefficient. Plastic is used on newer window products, and is much more energy efficient than metal.

• Do the windows operate properly? Are they easy to open, and do the locking mechanisms work?
Is there mold or past evidence of mold, windows?

9. Electrical

• Underground service to the building is preferred.

• Old knob and tube wiring is a source of magnetic fields, and is a potential fire danger.

• Check dimmers and 3-way switches for possible high EMFs (electromagnetic fields).

• Sleeping location should not be within 3 feet of appliances.

10. Common Hazards

• The house should be tested for lead, asbestos and UFFI insulation, radon and water quality.

• The gas system should be tested for leaks and the electrical system
should be tested for faulty wiring.

11. Pesticides

• Check with the owner to see what types of pesticides have been used in the home. Did they use a pest control company? If so, who? Call the company and ask why the home was treated.

• Has the home been pretreated for termites with chlordane or any other toxic chemicals?
General
• The house should not have been painted indoors, or sealants or finishes used (including petroleum shine on bricks) within 6 months, unless environmentally safe paint has been used.
• Avoid pressed wood products including: particleboard used in sub­ flooring, shelving, furniture and cabinetry; hardwood/ plywood paneling, fiberboard used in drawer fronts, cabinets and furniture tops.
• The house should have good cross-ventilation, and receive sunshine. The house should not be immediately downwind from heavily traveled dirt roads.
Did the home have pets? If so, and you or a family member is allergic to animals, you will have a problem.

Thoughts and Facts

In an attempt to proted you from purchasing a house-sized “lemon,11 thirly states require some degree of disclosure regarding the transfer of real estate called a Disclosure Statement. The amount of disclosure varies from state to state but generally indicates that after a transadion has dosed, a buyer who discovers something the seller failed to disclose can sue for damages or rescission of the transaction.