Buying a House: What to Check Before Making an Offer

Old window with cracked paint
Cracked paint is one thing, but a single-pane window won’t stand up to winter weather.

3. Check out the Windows if You Want to Buy the House

It’s always important to look at the windows for any house that you want to buy.

The cost to replace a single window will likely be in the $200 to $500 range, depending on quality and size, so to replace all the windows in a home can be a major expense.

Of course, having old windows isn’t a dire situation, but it will affect the home’s market value (as well as energy efficiency).

When viewing a home, open a few windows. Gently tap on each window to see if it is double or single-paned. If it sounds thin, and looks old, it is likely single-paned. An alternative to replacing single-paned windows is to install storm windows with low-e coatings.

Polybutylene pipes — it's best to never buy a house with these
Regardless of how perfect the home appears, you may want to avoid it if it has polybutylene pipes.

4. Identify the House’s Water Piping

Before buying a house, try to identify the water piping in the home. The most common types of water piping for domestic water supply are copper and CPVC.

One well-known defective plastic water pipe is polybutylene. This bluish-gray pipe was made from 1978 to 1995 and has a history of class-action lawsuits due to leaking pipes.

Besides polybutylene for domestic water supply, the drain/waste piping can also be a problem. If the home is 50 years or older, then the drain piping is probably made out of cast iron. Cast iron piping has a life expectancy of around 50 years and is known to deteriorate from the inside.

Electrical panel with circuit breakers
Not all electrical panels do their job — and that makes them worthless, and hazardous.

5. Discover if the Panel Box is Defective

Finally, before buying a house, you need to identify the make of the electrical panel. A few brands are known to be defective, and have a history of class-action lawsuits.

Federal Pacific made the most common defective panel box that is still in homes. They made these panel boxes from the 1950s to the 1980s, and the breakers are known to not trip when they are supposed to.

In addition to Federal Pacific, there is also Sylvania, Zinsco and ITE Pushmatic. The cost to replace a defective electrical panel box can range from $700 to $2,500.

Further Information

Arie Van Tuijl is a licensed home inspector and manages, a home maintenance education website.

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