Before You Buy, Understand the Regional Defects Of The Area

Written by Posted On Thursday, 13 March 2008 17:00

Before you purchase a home, understanding home maintenance issues that are particular to a region can save you a lot of headaches. The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) reveals maintenance issues that are related to particular geographical regions. The association says it's important for consumers to understand these differences.

"At ASHI, we work closely with our members to identify maintenance issues and track regional defects that plague homeowners," says Brion Grant, 2008 ASHI president. "By discussing these issues in real time and sharing valuable information, our members are able to stay on top of their game and identify potential problem areas that others may miss."

According to the association, some maintenance issues such as leaky roofs, old/faulty plumbing, and poor drainage are common to all areas of the country. But there are particular problems that occur in certain regions primarily due to climate, weather conditions, geography, and, of course, the quality of the contractor who built or renovated the home.

Here's a look at specific defects based on regions:

Regional Defects in the Northeast

Framing issues were at the top of the list in the US for this region. The defect is referred to as underframing which "is the presence of undersized and/or over-spaced beams in a home's framework," according to ASHI.

In newer homes, fire retardant-treated (FRT) plywood which is often found in attics in this region posed problems. The FRT can react to high temperatures, causing it to crumble and become structurally unsound, making it a safety hazard.

Problems with faulty heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems are common problems in the Northeast especially in older homes that have added modern heating equipment. The association says, "Condensation can form in older chimneys that weren't designed for low-flue gas temperatures and cause water stains, efflorescence and deterioration of the chimney. In extreme cases, the chimney may even collapse."

Regional Defect in the Southeast

This warmer region poses a different set of problems that buyers should be aware of. Sun and heat deteriorate materials more quickly than in other regions. ASHI cautions consumers to understand that roofs that typically have a 30-year life expectancy may only really last 15 years in the Southeast.

Termites are a big problem in this region. ASHI says if your house is 20 years old there's a good chance that you have termites or have had them in the past. The two types of termites to look out for are subterranean and flying drywood termites.

Regional Defects in the Midwest

Watch out for water intrusion, especially in basements in this region. Wood rot is often found in the siding and trim.

As might be expected, plumbing issues are also problematic in Midwest homes. Water heaters frequently serve as both a furnace and a water heater. ASHI says that plumbers forget to attach venting fixtures or drains when new heaters are installed.

Lots of do-it-yourself decks may look great but should be carefully checked to make sure they are properly attached.

Regional Defects in the Northwest

In this region check for wet basements and crawl spaces. ASHI says, "Moisture intrusion impacted by drainage systems, exterior flashing components and exterior grading is a top concern in the Northwest."

Due to heavy rainfall, before buying houses built on a slope, buyers should contact a geotechnical engineer or similar expert so that any potential land settlement issues can be identified.

Regional Defects in the Southwest

A big area of concern for this region has to do with longevity of things such as roofs, vinyl windows, and siding -- be sure to have them carefully inspected.

Water build-up under the foundation can lead to upward structural pressure and soil expansion.

"Our goal is to empower homeowners and give them the opportunity to understand their home and common maintenance issues affecting their region," says Grant. He adds, "Many of these issues, if left unexamined, could undermine the condition and possibly compromise the safety of the home and its occupants."

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Phoebe Chongchua

Phoebe Chongchua is an award-winning journalist, an author, customer service trainer/speaker, and founder of Setting the Service Standard, a customer service training and consulting program offered by Live Fit Enterprises (LFE) based in San Diego, California. She is the publisher of Live Fit Magazine, an online publication that features information on real estate/finance, physical fitness, travel, and philanthropy. Her company, LFE, specializes in media services including marketing, PR, writing, commercials, corporate videos, customer service training, and keynotes & seminars. Visit her magazine website:

Phoebe's articles, feature stories, and columns appear in various publications including The Coast News, Del Mar Village Voice, Rancho Santa Fe Review, and Today's Local News in San Diego, as well as numerous Internet sites. She holds a California real estate license. Phoebe worked for KGTV/10News in San Diego as a Newscaster, Reporter and Community Affairs Specialist for more than a decade. Phoebe's writing is also featured in Donald Trump's book: The Best Real Estate Advice I Ever Received and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buying Foreclosures. She is the author of If the Trash Stinks, TAKE IT OUT! 14 Worriless Principles for Your Success.

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