A few simply common sense ideas to help keep the surprises to a minimum.

Boise's real estate market is hot and depending on the price range you are looking in you may or may not be in a position to ask for any repairs included in your offer. That said, it is still great to look at these and factor in which may need attention so you do not over pay when you buy real estate in Boise or the surrounding areas.

Buying a home is a big deal for a first time buyer or a seasoned buyer.  It is not something that is an inexpensive purchase and not something that should be taken lightly.  It is recommended in all cases that a home inspection be performed when purchasing a home as there are items that are commonly found during a home inspection that just can't be seen during the showing period. Crawl space, attics and roofs are all items that can be hard to see. In addition you or your realtor may not have the expertise to spot issues that look minor, but if left as they are could cost a boat load of money to fix later. Flashing issues on roofs are one of these. Water in crawl space, that periodically comes and goes with the seasons is another.

While it is understandable that excitement levels and emotions when buying a home are very high there are important things that can be overlooked when walking through a home. You may love the kitchen and master, but they do not look as great with no heat or if the electrical system is not up to snuff and a breaker goes pop every time you turn on the Jacuzzi tub. Before you spend hundreds of dollars on a home inspection, make sure you have a great real estate agent representing you as a buyer's agent.  With their help you should be able to take an in depth look to determine, as closely as possible, if the home has a laundry list of dirty repairs. It might save you the cost of the home inspection or much more. They should know what things to look for and make sure to point them out to their clients.  If you do not have a great real estate agent working on your behalf, find one, and if unable to do so for some reason, make sure you look at the following things when viewing a home!

Roof Age

Replacing a roof can be the most expensive replacement cost of a home's “mechanics.”  A roof’s lifespan can vary significantly depending on the type.  A shingle roof can last as little as 15-20 years and as high as 50+ years.  Metal roofs can last even longer than a shingle roof.  Also, if the property has a portion of roof with little to no “pitch,” it’s common for a membrane roof to be used.  When viewing a property there are many ways to get a good idea of the roof’s age.  Take a look at the “key-ways” on the roof.  If they are spaced far apart, it normally means the roof has not been replaced recently.  Other things to check for can include loose, missing, or curled shingles.

Heating and/or Cooling Unit(s) Age

Similarly to the roof, the cost to replace a heating and/or cooling unit can be expensive as well.  The cost of a new furnace can range from a couple thousand dollars up to $5,000+ depending on brands or efficiency.  Generally, a furnace will have a lifespan of approximately 20-25 years if serviced regularly while an air conditioning unit will generally have a lifespan of approximately 15-20 years if serviced regularly.  In a perfect world, every seller would have a sticker on the heating and cooling unit indicating the year it was installed and also every time it has been serviced, however, this in most instances is not the case.  One way to possibly find out the age of the heating and/or cooling system(s) is by looking at the serial number.  Often the manufacture date is included within the serial number.  For example, a serial number beginning with “0193″ could possibly mean the first month (January) of 1993.


Check to make sure the sinks, faucets, and toilets are functioning properly.  Make sure the sinks are draining properly and there are no leaking pipes under the sink.  Make sure the water pressure from the faucets is acceptable.  Make sure the toilets are flushing properly and they are secure and not loose.  It also can be a good idea to smell and/or taste the water.

Water Heater Age

The cost to replace a water heater is not huge.  But the cost of the clean up when one fails is. Check closely around the base for signs of leakage and visually for signs of excessive rust. Factor in replacement in your offer or after closing if it is leaking or if it is antiquated and appears as if it may fail. Generally a water heater can be installed by a professional for between $500-$1,000.  The lifespan of a water heater is approximately 10-12 years depending on many variables.  While the cost is not substantial to replace, the age of the water heater should be looked at when viewing a home.  Finding the age of the water heater is similar to finding out what the age of the heating and/or cooling system is.  In some cases, the water heater will have a sticker indicating what the “build date” of the unit is.  The build date most likely is not the install date as the unit could sit in the contractors warehouse for up to a year or more.  Also a consideration is the option of purchasing an electric water heater.  Although they are more expensive to purchase, their live expectancy is typically longer and timers can be installed on them as well, increasing efficiency.

Electrical Service

There are many different types of electric services.  They can vary from brands, fuses or circuit breakers, and also amperage.  Many homes have a 100 AMP circuit breaker service, however, it is not uncommon to find homes with the older style fuse panel boxes.  Newer homes are being built with 200 AMP circuit breaker services.  It is important to look at the electric service when viewing a home.  One major reason is that some lenders will require at least an electric service of 100 AMPs, so if a home has a 60 AMP panel box with fuses, there could be a problem with the bank approving the loan.  There are a couple tips to finding out what the electric service AMPs are.  First you can often open the panel box and the main shutoff will have the number of AMPs on it.  Another way to check what the amperage is by looking at the width of the electrical service entrance cable.  The thicker the entrance cable, the more amperage the service has.

Window Condition

Nothing is more frustrating than a window that is difficult to open or won’t stay open. In addition seals that have failed cause the windows to fog up. This is a sign that the energy efficiency of the window has been compromised. If not repaired this is a cost that will be felt each and every time you pay for the extra energy consumed. In many instances it is best to include these type of repairs in the original offer, rather than as part of  the inspection repair list. Check out the windows to make sure they are functioning properly and no seals are broken.  Additionally check the condition of the paint in and around the windows.  It is a nice feature when a home has the newer double-paned windows.  It can help with the energy efficiency and overall cost to keep a home warm and/or cool.

Basement Conditions

The basement of a home can sometimes be a very good indicator of many things.  First, check the basement for any water penetration or presence.  If water is present, the first thing to be looking for is poor grading at the foundation of the home.  If the grading looks pretty good, there could be more serious problems.  In addition to water presence in basements, check out the walls of the basement.  Look for large cracks, not small hairline cracks, as these can be possible structural problems.  If the possibility of structural problems exists, be sure to hire a licensed home inspector who also maybe an engineer.

Remember, when viewing a home that you may possibly purchase, be aware of the above items.  Again, if your real estate agent is not pointing out and/or explaining some of the above items, it may be time to reconsider who is representing you!

Posted by Mike and Erica Carr on
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