When Do Most Homes Start Needing Repairs

What Repairs You Can Expect In A House Through The Years

Even a brand new house is going to have some issues either immediately, a couple of months down the road or a year or two later. When you stop to think about what goes into a new house these days, all the different trades people, all the different types of materials, getting exposed to the elements over the six months to a year it takes to build a house! That’s a lot of opportunities for mistakes to occur, for minor flaws to show up and sometimes albeit rarely major problems can happen with a brand new house, they’re built by people after all.

The point here is to get homebuyers to take a step back and realize that there is no such thing as a perfect house, the higher up in price you go you do get closer to it but even the most astute custom detail oriented builder out there can’t control everything and as most homebuyers are not in that price range you’re going to find something that’s not quite right. When do homes start needing repairs really depends on a few important factors.

Important Factors That Influence How A House Holds Up

Location

Where you live plays a fairly big role in how your house is going to hold up over the years. Homes that are exposed to extreme temperature changes, humidity levels, wind and rain likely will end up with more wear and tear than a home in a milder climate. For example a standard Air Conditioner unit has a normal life span of 10-15 years and longer if properly maintained but  if it’s at the beach you could be replacing the AC unit every 3-5 years. In colder climates the furnace is cranking for three or four more months than a home in a warmer part of the country, thus will require maintenance and possible repairs sooner. On the flip side a home subjected to a hotter climate will run the AC unit sometimes most of the year add to that high humidity levels and that will affect those units. Freezing temperatures can cause cracks in concrete and mortar and can cause pipes to freeze and burst. The damage to a home from these extremes in the weather may not appear immediately but gradually over time. A home surrounded by trees may get more shade but also has the problem of gutters getting clogged with leaves branches falling on the roof and in the worst situations having a tree fall on the home.

Quality Of Construction

Probably the biggest factor that influences how a house stands the test of time is how it was constructed in the first place. A well built house can survive most anything you can throw at it and still provide excellent shelter and comfort for decades and possibly multiple families. On the other hand a poorly built home can cause nothing but problems with each one compounding on the next. Age can have little influence on well built homes which are often in better condition than homes a fraction of their age. When the cheapest possible materials are used in home construction in order to get to a certain price point, coupled with poor workmanship it can lead to continuing maintenance, expensive repairs and headaches for the home owner.

Proper Maintenance

This one is a close second to quality of construction and it is pretty obvious to spot when you pull up to a house. Regular maintenance of appliances, major components of the home like the HVAC unit and quickly repairing any problems goes a long way to just how well a house holds up over time. Simple regularly performed tasks like changing the AC filters, cleaning out the gutters, pressure washing the exterior and  doing a good deep clean once or twice a year not only helps to keep things humming along but also gives you an early indication of potential problems. A poorly maintained home even if it is fairly new could leave the new homeowners with expensive issues later. Some homeowners are just harder on houses than others, a family of four that plows through a house daily can put more wear and stress on a home than a larger family that takes care of their home.

The Early Years

Brand new house what could go wrong, well anything can go wrong, hopefully you had a home inspector check out the house before you bought it and the builder is a reputable one who will stand by their work. Getting back to the trades people who actually did the work on your house, the carpenter, plumber, electrician, painter, roofer most of these workers are subcontractors for the builder, the builder rarely does these specialty trades if actually any building. Each of these trades people are capable of making a mistake that goes unnoticed, home will still pass inspection and the problem could show up after you move in.

Every builder and how they approach making repairs and fixing problems is different, some large national builders have a sort of concierge service who you call that first year with any problems and they send out the appropriate service provider. Some have a dedicated person who knows each of the systems they put in each house back to front and can easily find the problem. A small local builder may have a superintendent on staff or may even do the repairs themselves. Settling is the most common situation with practically every new house, apartment building or heavy structure which just means the dirt under the house adjusts to the weight of the structure above it. Minor settling is normal and usually occurs in the first couple of years. A home settles unevenly, a little more on one side or more in the back than the front which causes small cracks to appear in the drywall.

There is a reason most builders put in their contracts that as you approach your one year anniversary they will arrange to come back and repair and cracks or nail pops that normally occur when the house has settled and depending where you live changes in temperatures and humidity levels.

Electrical and plumbing issues can surface after you first buy a house, you may find outlets not properly grounded or switches that do nothing or the wrong thing. Plumbing leaks are not common but very possible and should be fixed immediately. They may require something as  simple as tightening a fixture or a seal that has failed.

Standing water around the exterior of the home is important to take care of quickly, it may just be a simple solution of moving some landscaping or downspouts which could easily get overlooked by the builder if there was little rain when the house was being completed. Standing water under the house in the crawl space or basement is a much more serious issue and must be dealt with immediately.  

The Middle Years

You may be the original owner of the home in which case you’ll have lived through most of the settling issues and hopefully had the builder return before the one year anniversary of the purchase and complete any warranty issues. If you are buying a home that is say 5 years old to around 15 years old you can expect to find some issues and based on the important factors listed above they could be either minor or more serious in nature. But no matter there will be issues and if you are in any way handy and don’t mind some DIY projects you may decide to live with them and take the house or you may ask the homeowner to make some repairs. When you have a home inspection done before buying a house the inspector will provide a list of the items they found. Some inspectors like to go overboard and list every possible thing they find which can be daunting for home buyers so take each item and decide how serious it is and if it’s not a big deal just fix them later instead of sending the sellers a laundry list of minor repairs. Possible repairs in a home this age might be slight cracks in concrete or masonry, depending on the severity they may be able to be sealed and never get any larger. Appliances might be showing signs of wear and tear, they don’t make them to last long anymore. The big items like the HVAC unit, water heater and the roof should all be still in fairly decent condition again depending on how they were treated. There are a couple of issues that if ignored over this amount of time could become substantial problems. Mold, Termites and Water Damage can strike quickly but more often they develop into problems over a longer period of time when they are not noticed. A small leak that doesn’t show up until the damage is huge and costly destroying drywall, flooring hiding mold behind the walls can take years to appear. Termites also don’t announce when they have taken up residence but will show up if the homeowners let the treatment lapse and are not vigilant.

The Later Years

Homes that are getting close to twenty years old and older will start to be showing signs of aging and it’s around this time that the bigger issues start to crop up. You may find that these are the only homes available in your price range and so it’s a matter of finding out what major components have been replaced and if not what is the cost of replacing them. Some sellers like to put their house on the market without doing any repairs and hope an “as-is” sale will work. It may in some very hot real estate markets but most end up either negotiating the repairs or watch their house sit on the market for months. Repairs to the major components of a house run into the thousands of dollars depending on what’s needed, but once these big repairs are made and the house is structurally sound no reason to believe the house will be good for another twenty years. In fact a well renovated older home can often be a better buy than a more expensive newer home.

Buying any home regardless of it’s age requires an open mind, lots of due diligence and professional advice in the form of a reliable real estate agent, a helpful home inspector, a trustworthy contractor or handyman. Lots of older houses are great for home buyers maybe not perfect in every little detail but with a little TLC and regular maintenance can make them the perfect home.

 

Dan DaCosta

Dan DaCosta

REALTOR®
CENTURY 21 Champ Realty Ltd., Brokerage*
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