Spring and summer are usually considered the home buying season, but sometimes circumstances mean that you are looking at homes once the cold weather rolls in. This can be a benefit, since sellers sometimes price lower to try and move the house in the off season, but there are also certain things you need to watch for. The following tips can help with your winter home shopping.
Tip #1: Check the pipes
If the house is sitting empty during the winter months, it is vital that it is being appropriately heated. This is especially true of older homes in areas with extreme cold. A frozen pipe can result in a major leak and water damage, which may not be immediately apparent if it occurs within the walls. Open cabinets and look at visible pipes for signs of water damage. Also, feel the walls of the home. If walls, particularly interior walls, feel cold, then the heat may have been turned off and only turned up high in anticipation of a showing.
Tip #2: Inspect the HVAC system
Chances are you can tell if the furnace is working when touring a home in the winter, but you may not think about checking on the summer system. For a home with central AC, you should be able to switch on the AC system for a few minutes to verify it is working. If the home has an evaporative cooler, verify that it has been properly winterized. Don't turn it on, though, since a winterized evaporative cooler may not have the evaporative pads in place to operate properly.
Tip #3: Give the roof a once over
Roof damage can hide underneath a fresh snowfall. A professional roof inspection is the best option but not always available. You can do a cursory inspection, though. Check the gutters to make sure there are no debris in them and that they appear to be working properly, since clogged gutters lead to ice dams on the roof. Also, make sure ice and snow is not building up more than expected anywhere on top of the roof.
Tip #4: Inquire about the landscaping
Landscaping can also be another hidden trouble, since snow and winter dormancy can hide a lot of issues. If you are concerned about the landscaping, check to see if the realtor has any end-of-season photographs. You can also ask for records, such as the sprinkler blow-out receipt. Another option is to talk to the neighbors – they will likely give you an accurate reflection of the state of the landscaping.
Tip #5: Request cleaning extras
Don't overlook some extras you may be able to have the sellers throw in. This can include carpet cleaning, especially if they will be moving out during snowy or wet weather. Another option is to request the inclusion of a home warranty that will cover any issues you couldn't determine because it was winter.
For more help, talk to a real estate agent specializing in homes for sale in your area.