Home renovations reservations

by Dan Krell © 2010

If you’re like the typical home buyer, you’d prefer to purchase a new home. However, most new homes are too big and too expensive. Buying an older home that has been renovated or updated may be a viable alternative. However, renovations and updates can vary in scale and quality; having a sharp eye and a thorough home inspection can assist you in revealing workmanship issues.

If you are considering purchasing a home that has been renovated or updated, the first question you should ask the seller is, “who completed the work?” Additionally, you should ask if there are warranties and if the warranties are transferrable. Many home renovations are completed by reputable, licensed contractors or builders who are familiar with the permitting process as well as building code requirements and sometimes offer a limited warranty.

However, the quality of the renovation/update is often reduced by some contractors who cut corners to save time and money; component installation is frequently the culprit of these problems and may be due to installer inexperience and/or carelessness. Poor workmanship can make the most expensive material look cheap. All identified issues should be pointed out to the seller to be repaired or replaced.

Although you should hire a licensed home inspector to conduct a thorough home inspection, you can sometimes identify quality issues in a renovated/updated home without much effort. The most common workmanship problems noticed by laypeople in a renovated/updated home are in the kitchen, bathrooms, and flooring; identified quality issues may be an indication of other underlying problems.

When looking at a renovated/updated kitchen, check the cabinets and appliances. The cabinets should be securely fastened to the wall; loose or inappropriately secured cabinets indicate a potential problem that could cause the cabinets to come crashing down at a later time. Refrigerator doors should open freely and should not be obstructed by cabinets or walls. The stove should have an anti-tip device installed; this is a safety device that can prevent a hot stove from falling on a child or an unsuspecting adult. The dishwasher should not feel loose and should be secured to the counter; an unsecured dishwasher can “walk” while operating and have the potential to pull plumbing components apart.

If plumbing is not installed properly, leaks can develop and obviously create future problems. Toilets should be firmly secured to the floor; a loose toilet can break the wax seal and result in a leak. Checking the water flow from the faucets may reveal plumbing problems; poorly connected pipes can sometimes be revealed by feeling the pipes under the sink for drips while the faucet is running.

Renovated/updated homes often have new flooring. Poor workmanship can be easily spotted if tiled or wood floors are not flat, even, and square to the walls. The carpet should feel taut; loose carpet is a trip hazard. Although problems in the subfloor cannot be easily detected, red flags should be raised if there are cracked tiles or uneven floors.

Remember that your keen eye is not a substitute for a thorough home inspection; a licensed home inspector should inspect all systems within the home (including plumbing, electrical, HVAC, etc). However, any issues you uncover while viewing a home will not only help you decide on purchasing, but can also assist you in determining your offer.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of August 30, 2010. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell.

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