Spring is house-hunting season. It’s the time when we Canadians awaken from our wintery slumber and decide it’s time to get moving — the sun is shining, the ice begins to melt and everything looks shiny. But if you’re looking at buying a home in springtime, know what problems tend to present themselves after a long winter (and how to spot them) before making an offer.
Snow, sleet, ice and rain can wreak havoc on roofs, especially shingled ones. While it may seem a little silly, bringing a pair of binoculars with you to house viewings will help you get a clear look at the state of affairs above the gutters. Cracking, curling, cupping and rounded edges could mean the shingles need to be replaced.
Give the exterior walls a good going over. If you see any cracks, peeling paint or mould, these are warning signs that there may be structural issues underneath the siding material. Pay extra attention to the north side of the house (the coldest side) as problems tend to appear here first.
Always ask to look at the attic, crawlspaces, utility room and basement. These hard-to-reach places often hide moisture and mould problems because not as much care is taken to make them look pretty — you’ll see straight into the “bones” of the house. Breathe deep and if you get hit by a musty smell, there may be moisture getting into the framing and insulation.
Check out the water heater, and if the house has a furnace, look at it too — they’ve been working overtime during the winter. Are there rust spots, patches of corrosion or signs of oil leakage on the floor? See if there are stickers indicating their last service and make sure they were done recently. Note if there is condensation on the windows as well as that can be an indicator of a failing heat exchanger.
When snow melts, water runs and you want to make sure it’s not running into the house. Yellow spots on the interior walls likely indicates a (tiny) river runs through it, while larger patches on the ceiling could point to a leaky roof or, if the stain is next to an exterior wall, drain-blocking ice dams.
As ground temperatures rise, pipes expand and can put pressure on weak points in the plumbing. The best way to test water pressure and drainage is to turn on the tap in the bathroom sink, then flush the toilet. Listen for gurgling sounds and watch for a drop in water pressure. Also, run the water in each sink for two minutes to see if the drainage can keep up with the flow.
Outdoor living spaces can be just as important as the indoor ones, so make sure they’re in good shape too. Frost and snow can dislocate fencing posts, and being exposed to the elements all winter can take its toll on wooden structures. Poke the end of planks for soft rot and confirm if the deck boards and fencing needs to be resealed.
Knowing potential problem areas before even stepping inside an open house will allow you to find your dream home faster — and not discover any unwelcome surprises once the deal’s gone through.