I am always curious about the homes and land on the market and what home buyers are looking for in a home. From fixer-uppers, to existing homes, to new construction, there can be a lot to choose from. It all depends on what you are looking for in a home. As a builder and remodeler here are some things that I look for and you can look for when purchasing a home in Southeast Alaska.
First, check the foundation. Check for cracks, damage, and water stains. Concrete does crack in older homes and not all cracks are a problem, but they should be checked out. Foundation cracks caused by settling are a problem and an engineer will need to determine the extent of the damage. Water staining on the foundation is a sign that there could be drainage problems or other problems from inside the home. Drainage problems on the exterior of the home can often be a simple fix. It may be as easy as providing the proper slope away from the house and removing shrubs and trees. However, too often it goes beyond slope and the cause may be an improperly installed or silted foundation drain. Foundation repairs can be very expensive so if you really can’t live without the home seek an engineer and get estimates from contractors.
Next, check the roof. The age of the roof and the materials used on the roof need to be determined to fully know the story behind it. An asphalt shingle roof in Southeast Alaska can last 10 to 15 years. If the asphalt roof is older than that, it may need to be replaced especially if there is significant moss or algae buildup. Asphalt roofs should be maintained and cleaned on a yearly basis to get the most life out of a roof. Special cleaners are available for purchase at your local hardware store – do not power wash an asphalt roof.
Asphalt roofs can be a significant cost to replace after buying a home. However, if a steel roof needs to be replaced after the purchase of a home, it can cost 30-50% more than an asphalt shingle roof. Steel roofs can last 50+ years in Southeast Alaska, and the first thing to give on a steel roof is the fasteners. Exposed fasteners on a steel roof can be easily replaced at a reasonable cost. Flashings, overhangs and roof drainage should also be inspected. Homes with a two-foot or more roof overhang will eliminate some of the rain that hits the side of the home. Look at the roof drainage to see there are any obvious issues with water or ice backing up and that gutters and fascia boards are in good shape.
After the roof, I look at the energy efficiency of a home. Buyers often purchase homes at the upper limits of their price range. So, will you as the new home owner be able to heat the home? You should be able to obtain the past heating bills and any past energy ratings on the home. Or you can have the home inspector closely inspect the insulation, if the home is not sufficiently sealed and insulated it could be more costly than you bargained for. Insulating and air sealing a home can be the best thing you can do in your new home. The energy savings alone from air sealing and insulating can help with the new kitchen or bath you’ve been dreaming about.
Next, I check for moisture. Bathrooms, kitchens, and utility room (anyplace where there is water) should be checked for signs of moisture issues. Finding moisture problems in a home for sale can be challenging since sellers often repaint or touch up paint in a home. Paint does not adhere to wet materials. Mold and water stains can show through slightly on newly painted surfaces so look closely. Moisture issues, in most cases, can be easily remedied. These issues often include poor ventilation, a shower door leak, or small plumbing leaks, which can be easily repaired. Other leaks including foundation leaks, exterior, extensive moisture issues, and roof leaks can be a bit more costly. Always check areas of a home where there are water sources that can cause moisture issues.
Lastly, follow your gut instinct! If something looks or feels wrong, ask questions. Even if this is your first home purchase or your tenth, you should ask your banker, your inspector, your engineer, or your realtor all of your questions so that you know what you are getting into. If you just can’t live without this particular home, find out what is really going on so you know what to expect in added costs once the purchase is complete.
Greg Stopher has over 16 years of experience in the construction field and earned a degree in Construction Technologies from the University of Alaska – Southeast. His company, Stopher Construction, LLC, is a general contracting company specializing in remodeling, custom finishes, additions and new home construction projects. He can be reached at 907-321-2350.