Open house help: 6 tips for examining a home’s exterior

Victor Polich
Posted by Victor Polich
Mortgage Banking

Attending an open house can be a great way to get a first impression of any property you’re interested in. But do you really know what you’re looking for? Many buyers focus on the interior, but remember that it’s equally important to pay close attention to what’s happening on the outside.

couple in foreground with toddler on man's shoulders as they look up a small incline to a big white house.You need to look beyond the home’s cosmetic appearance and search for clues about its maintenance history and structural soundness. Don’t let a fresh coat of paint deceive you into thinking the property has been properly cared for. It may not be the case. Keep in mind that cosmetic repairs are relatively cheap, but major structural repairs are not.

Take a look at these common problem areas:

1. Roof. If you find the home’s roof is worn and bare, discolored, curling, broken, or shows signs of moss growth, it’s a strong sign the roof has reached the end of its useful life.

2. Gutters. Rust stains at gutter joints or water stains on the exterior wall below the gutter are signs the joints are weak and water is leaking. Sealing the joints could correct the problem, but you may find you need to replace the gutters.

3. Downspouts. It’s critical that all water drains away from the house and foundation. If downspouts are directed toward the house, it can cause water to pool— posing a potentially serious and expensive problem.

4. Exterior walls. Some small cracks are normal, but significant cracks in siding, stucco work, or a foundation may be evidence of settling issues.

5. Yard. While it is not structurally related to the home, a fence or retaining wall that is leaning or broken can be expensive to replace.

6. Driveways, walkways, and patios. Some cracking may be normal over time, but significant cracks can hint at a serious problem. For example, if surface cracking is due to tree roots, it’s possible those same roots have compromised the sewer line—and replacement of a sewer line from the home to the sewer main can be a big expense.

What should you do if you spot one of these problems?

  • If you’re still interested in purchasing the property, you’ll need to get estimates for any necessary repairs.
  • If you’re concerned that the problems are too overwhelming, continue your home search.

Even if you don’t spot potential problems, it is a good idea to invest in a professional home inspection, which will help remove uncertainty. You’ll get a better idea of the condition of the home and the possible repairs that may end up being your responsibility or that you might be able to get paid for by the seller.

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