Buying A Home in Winter: Tips for Spotting Weather Damage & Other Maintenance Issues

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February 5, 2021
weather damage winter homebuying

Buying a home in winter comes with many benefits. There’s less competition and often sellers are more motivated to offload their property knowing that competing offers shrink outside of the peak spring season. But there’s another perk you may not have thought of: the opportunity to to see how well a home performs in colder temperatures. Here are some signs of weather damage and maintenance issues to look out for on your winter home search.

Look for water damage

Winter means more rain and slush, which could put a strain on existing plumbing and gutters. Keep an eye out for discoloration or dark spots on walls and ceilings. Cracking or bubbling of drywall is also a sign of water damage. Enlist your nose for help and make note of moldy or musty smells. Owners may try to cover physical signs of water or weather damage with a fresh coat of paint, but damp or mildew smells are hard to cover up. 

Brr…it’s cold in here

Winter also provides buyers the opportunity to test out a home’s insulation. Is the home drafty during your visit? If so, it could mean that windows or doors may need replacement or adjustment. Poor insulation can lead to increased expenses to heat the home.

Make note of the heating system

A large portion of NYC apartment buildings are prewar and run on a steam heating system. The steam comes up from the boiler into heat pipes and then into individual radiators in each apartment. Sometimes they hiss or make clunky sounds. It can also be harder to regulate the temperatures as the radiators typically just have one valve with an on-off setting, rather than a temperature dial. This might be a deal-breaker if you need more precise temperature control. 

Newer buildings tend to run on electric heating systems. These systems are efficient, offer better temperature control, and typically require less maintenance.  

Snow removal responsibilities

If you’re house hunting after a fresh snow day, pay attention to how well the building’s grounds are kept. Was it a struggle to get to the building entrance? Did someone shovel or clear the snow? Multi-family buildings typically have a super or hire an outside company to handle property upkeep. If you had to ice skate to the entrance, it’s a sign the building may not be diligent about building maintenance.

If you’re buying a single family home, snow removal responsibility will fall to you. NYC sanitation guidelines require owners to clear the sidewalk of snow and ice adjacent to their homes. That includes the sidewalk area directly in front of your home as well as the sides.  

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