We’ve all heard the phrase a house has ‘good bones’, but what does that mean? While there is no official definition, most Realtors agree on the elements that need to be in place for a home to earn that moniker. Homes with good bones have great site plans, solid foundations, good lighting, well positioned windows and doors, accessible infrastructure (electric, gas and plumbing), astraightforward floorplan, and two bathrooms. Everything else is doable if these elements are in your favor.
1. At the Core. A strong foundation makes a solid house. You can visually look for evidence of a strong foundation by checking for large vertical cracks up the walls or cracked slab. In California, some cracking and shifting is inevitable, but it shouldn’t be so deep that you can see earth below. Check for drainage improvements, sump pumps or evidence of pooling water and for any signs of dry-rot, and check the bottom of doors and siding for evidence of retained moisture. If the foundation, heating, plumbing and electrical systems are in good shape, renovations become much easier.
2. Location, Site Location and Lot Size. A good part of your home’s value is in the land, so size matters. Homes should be well positioned on the lot to maximize light, shade and privacy and outdoors should be easily accessible from the kitchen and dining area. While interiors can be rehabbed, a bad home placement on the lot is work that can’t be done.
3. Friendly Floorplan. Some people like lots of open space and others want cozy rooms, but in either case the structure of the home should be simple and additions should be consistent. Bathrooms should have windows, and good design has the innermost part of the house used for furnaces and electrical, stairs and closets. Great designs have both public and private space in the home and seamless transitions between indoors and outdoors. Especially in California, outdoor living is the lifestyle.
4. Natural light. Everyone loves a sunny room. Ideally, the kitchen picks up southern or western light to offer sunlit ambience in the late afternoon. Bedrooms should have windows on at least two sides to light the room morning and afternoon.
5. Plays well with others. Taking on the previous owner’s unpermitted work or major additions can open up a can of worms. If renovations were done without the benefit of a permit, it can pay off in a reduced sales price, but make sure you know what you are inheriting.
6. Youth isn’t Everything. Older homes that used redwood are more termite resistant, and lumber used to build older homes was typically higher quality than more recent construction. Stone and brick are usually good bets as they have long lives.
7. Keep it Clean. If you are looking at a home that has only one bath, know that may be a real limitation. Renovating a bathroom with existing plumbing is simple, moving the plumbing into a room without water, not so simple.
8. To Top if Off… Don’t forget the roof. Ensure that there have been no major leaks and it has a reasonable amount of life left before replacement is needed. A new roof is one of the most expensive repairs you’ll have to make.
Paige Kaye is a professional Real Estate Broker in Santa Barbara, California with Engel & Völkers. Follow her on Twitter at @homesized or on Facebook.