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Years ago I was visiting an acquaintance of mine. He was showing me around the home he’d recently purchased. Out in the front yard he picked up an old water valve. It was corroded and full of scale. He said, “This is my $15,000 valve.” It didn’t look like it was worth a quarter so I asked him why. “When I was inspecting the house thinking about buying it, the water pressure was low. Since the house was older I thought it may need to be re-plumbed. They knocked $15,000 off the price and I signed the deal. When we closed and I got the keys, the first thing I did was check the valve. I replaced it and the pressure was perfect. A $15 valve saved me $15,000.”

When purchasing an existing home, home inspections are critical. They will reveal problems that need fixing. Typically, the seller will either agree to fix the problem or knock the appropriate cost off the price of the home if you want to fix it after closing. Either way, being aware of issues before you sign on the line is critical.

When it comes to plumbing, what are some things one should look for when buying an existing home?

Check the water pressure. Water pressure in a residential home should not exceed 80 psi (pounds per square inch). When it comes to water pressure, it’s not a case of “more is better”. Pressure above 80 psi can cause problems with your plumbing. If the water pressure is too low, investigate that. Find out how old the piping is. If the home is very old, make sure the plumbing isn’t made of lead. If so, a re-pipe is recommended. Replace it with either copper or the more popular and easier to work with PEX piping. It’s flexible and corrosion resistant.

Look for evidence of leaks. Are faucets and shower heads dripping? Are there stains on the ceiling tiles? Are there water stains on the floor? Is drywall buckling? All of these are signs of a past water leak. It’s very important to know this history as water leaks that go unfixed can create mold in the structure. Black mold is hazardous to your health. As to the physical damage, ongoing water leaks will weaken and damage the structural integrity of the building.

Check all the faucets, toilets and drains. Are the faucets tight? Or are they leaking? Does the toilet have enough flushing power? Are the drains free flowing? Turn on the shower and let it run for a while. Make sure the water isn’t backing up.

Are the water hoses connecting up to the clothes washer and dish washer covered with mineral scale? Do the hoses look soft and pliable? Or are they dry and brittle? Don’t assume everything works. Put these all to work just as you would during a normal day.

Inspect the water heater. The last four digits on the tank label indicate month and year of manufacture. If it’s older than 10 years, you’ll want to replace it with a new, more energy efficient, model. Also, is the tank big enough for your needs? If it’s just you or you and your spouse, a 40-gallon tank will work fine. But if you have a family of four or more (especially if you have teenage girls like I do) you’ll need at least a 50-gallon tank.

Do you see tell-tale signs of repairs? Do you see paint that doesn’t match? Floor tiles or bathroom tiles that look patched? If so, find out what the issue was.

Ask if this house is a “flipper”. In real estate, a flipper is a house that was bought to be fixed up, remodeled and put back on the market for resale. There’s nothing wrong with buying a flipped house, provided that all the work and repairs was done properly. People who flip houses for a living try to turn the properties quickly. That rushing can mean short cuts on the work and repairs. Take time to get a detailed list of what was done to the property before you make a buying decision.

Have the sewer line inspected by a professional plumbing company. Not all home inspections include an inspection of the sewer line. If the home is older and surrounded by established trees, get a professional plumbing company to inspect for root blockage. They have the equipment and cameras to snake down the line and check for obstructions. Again, if problems are found, you can negotiate either a repair or a reduction in the price of the home.

The professionals at Sinclair are always here to give you advice on plumbing. We can inspect the plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems of any property you are considering purchasing. Give us a call at 806-749-COOL (2665)

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