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Hamptons Life

Jul 17, 2017 11:20 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Five Things To Search For When Seeing A House For The First Time

Jul 17, 2017 11:48 AM

First things first. There are certain things you should immediately be looking for when assessing a home for purchase. The following is list of the first five things your eyes should be searching for when seeing a house for the first time.

Don’t Settle For Slant

Houses settle over time—that’s a fact—whether from age or poor construction. If you are considering an older home, many times there will be a pitch to the floor, in one way or another.

Often over time, porches especially tend to settle into the earth, potentially slanting floors in upstairs quarters. Other times, substandard products or processes can lead to pitch. I had one client who wanted to purchase a home but it had a substantial slant of the floor toward the center of the home. Because of repairs and additions over time, the structural integrity of the floor had been compromised. Although the home passed inspection, structural improvements had to be made at a substantial price.

If you suspect a pitch, simply put a marble on the floor and watch for it to roll. While a certain pitch may add to the charm of historical homes, it pays to know the history of what may be compromising the structural integrity of any potential home. Best to secure the services of an engineer or accomplished builder to thoroughly examine foundations and basement for clues of structural compromise before considering a buy.

Sleuthing For Moisture

It’s extremely important that you know how to look for clues of water damage, either present or past. Other than obvious stains on walls from previous flooding, there are other ways to check that the home is not experiencing water or moisture damage. Paint bubbles anywhere usually indicate water seepage, either inside or outside the home. Dark corners of closets and cupboards should be checked with a flashlight for signs of mold.

Use your finger or a screwdriver to check window sills and casings for softness from water intrusion. Some inspectors have an infrared imaging device, which can indicate if moisture exists inside walls from poor window and/or door installations. Ask for an inspector with this capability. As an alternative there is a product from FLIR that for $200 can attach to your phone, and you can “see” for yourself.

What’s The Matter With Chatter?

Have you ever walked into a house and heard the glassware in a cabinet clatter? If you notice, many times in old homes a walk across wood floors can cause tea cups to shudder in their saucers. This is called “chatter.” Perhaps charming in a historic home, chatter in a newly built home may be an indication that the builder used the best priced materials with minimal standards to “meet code.” This is called “value engineering.” If chatter starts to clatter, a buyer should take extra precaution to investigate the quality of all the materials used in constructing the home, both in front of and behind the drywall. If you are purchasing a newly built home, it’s always optimal to have someone who can read plans and understands the construction process speak to the builder to ensure you are getting a home that’s built to last. Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions when it comes to sound construction.

Wisdom And Wood

Brand new wood floors—who doesn’t love them? But before you get swept off your feet, you have to be sure what kind of wood is under your shoes! Many new builds in the Hamptons use pine to mirror the look of historic homes, but what many don’t know is that the pine from yesteryear, “old growth pine,” and the pine of today, “new growth pine,” are not the same.

Old growth pine is a denser wood that varies greatly from the new growth pine “farmed” for construction today. New growth pine can be so soft that normal wear and tear will show indentations from heels and animal claws—which means your beautiful new floors will look old quickly, and not in the good way!

Be sure to inquire as to what type of flooring was used, and also where the woods were sourced. These key inquiries can save a lot of disappointment down the road.

Window Pain

The quality of doors and windows can tell you a lot about the construction of a house. Windows and doors are expensive and often invite an opportunity to cut costs so it pays to examine them closely and do your homework concerning which are the best brands. The correct installation of exterior facing products around windows and doors however, may be the most important factor in keeping a new home healthy—especially at the beach! The “flashing,” or the material surrounding openings that sheds moisture and ensures a waterproof seal, is key but is very often installed by untrained contractors and fails to provide a result that will last through years of rough weather. Even the most expensive windows will cause continuous damage if not installed correctly using the right products. Inspect exterior window and door casings carefully and when possible discuss installation with the builder responsible.

Windows and doors will have to comply with “energy codes” set to enforce efficient heating and cooling standards, and redoing installations can be a costly mistake.

Ed Mulderrig is a seasoned real estate agent as well as an experienced builder and zoning specialist. Email ed.mulderrig@sothebyshomes.com or call 631-374-1197.

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