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  • Writer's pictureAdam Greene-Sederquist

What Are Good Bones?

If you've ever watched HGTV or are friends with someone in Orthopedics, you've likely heard the phrase "good bones" at least once in your life. Now it is fairly obvious to most people that good bones means that a house has good... well, bones of course! A sound structure! The inner machinations of the home are in great working order! That's good bones, right? Sure, but what does any of that really mean and what is it that home buyers should be looking for to determine if a home has good bones?

Well, that is what we want to shed some light on for all of you soon-to-be homeowners! We'll cover the basics on what to look out for when you do a tour, and when you'll want to bring in a professional.


When you take your first tour of a home you will likely be filled with excitement. This could be your future home after all. Despite the excitement, it is crucial to go in with a tinge of skepticism. Do yourself a favor and keep the rose-colored glasses off for the tour. Hopefully, you are being guided by a competent realtor who will be there to help keep an eye out for your best interests. But let's just assume you are taking the tour alone for now.

What To Look Out For With An HVAC System

Heating and cooling systems come with a very hefty price tag when things go wrong. That means this is a critical system for you to check out prior to making any offers on a home. If you aren't an HVAC specialist you should rely on the results of your home inspection, or pay an HVAC-specific specialist to assess the HVAC system. Assuming you want to do a little legwork prior to hiring any inspectors, here is what you should look out for.

Start by ensuring the HVAC kicks on when you turn on the thermostat to heat or cool. If it doesn't, that is an immediate red flag. Next, go ahead and turn off the power to the HVAC on the circuit breaker as well as on the outside unit. You could get quite technical at this point but we'll just keep it simple. Head to the outside unit and unscrew the cover on top of the unit. If things inside look dirty, blocked, or generally appear that the system has not been maintained, you should consider a professional inspection.

*Note that this is in a best-case scenario where you have a seller who doesn't mind you doing a little digging around. You certainly don't want to be fussing about too much on someone else's property.

Signs Of Structural Issues

The structure of a home consists of many parts, but for your first tour you want to be looking at a few key points; ceiling, walls, floor, and foundation. For the most part, the issues in these areas will be apparent. The presence of any large cracks could indicate a problem but oftentimes are not actually a big deal. Sloping floors can also indicate issues with the foundation as well. Lastly, you'll want to inquire about the foundation repair history to see if there have previously been major issues that were addressed.

How To Tell If A Roof Is Bad

The roof is another area that can present you with quite the bill if it needs repair or replacing. You'll want to ask how old the roof is and if any work has been completed. A 25-year-old roof may be due for a complete replacement which averages $8,000 across the U.S. If it looks extremely weathered, it probably is. We don't recommend you hop up onto any roofs during a tour, but make sure it is something you are paying attention to.

How To Check For Plumbing Problems

Water damage is another one that can be a bit easier to keep an eye out for. If you see tell-tale signs of water seeping into the ceiling, walls, or floors this can indicate a host of problems. If you don't see moisture, but you see signs of mold, it's because there is definitely a moisture problem. If it is an older house you'll want to inquire about any major repairs completed on the plumbing system. If nothing has been done in many years, it could pay to hire a plumber for a detailed inspection. You don't want to be stuck with a bill for repiping your new house after all.

How To Check For Electrical Problems

The electrical wiring of your home is a crucial system but can be a bit more difficult to find issues with yourself. If you find any wiring that looks a bit janky it's likely because it is janky, and there is probably more sketchy wiring hiding behind the walls! Ensure the fusebox is updated and not original to the home (assuming you aren't looking at a newer build). You'll also want to make sure none of the breakers are "double-tapped". These will all be fairly easy and your inspector will find anything else that is worrisome. However, if the home is older and hasn't had its wiring updated, it is advisable to hire a professional electrician to inspect the home as well.

How To Check A Sewer System

Something that many people may not think of is whether or not the sewer system is up to snuff. The condition of this one is a bit more difficult to ascertain the condition of yourself. In fact, to really check into the system, you'll need to have a professional perform a sewer scope. This essentially revolves around a very long camera being pushed through the sewer to check everything out. If you've ever wanted a recording of a pipe filled with waste -congratulations! - you'll finally have one after your first sewer scope!

What You Really Should Do While Touring

The simple fact of the matter is that you are likely not a professional in any of these fields, and certainly not in all of them. You can keep a discerning eye out to give yourself a bit of information ahead of time, but when it comes down to it, all of these things should be looked at by a professional. So when it's time to tour a property, think about these things, but concentrate on whether or not it's a place you want to call home. Often times you'll just know when you've found the right place.

Something that will make all of this easier to handle, is to work with an experienced realtor. If you are looking in Oregon or Washington, reach out to us and we will be happy to help.


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