After months of searching for just the right home you are finally (and psychologically) ready to step up an make an offer. You have been wowed by the staging and beautiful marketing brochures. Now it is time to perform the necessary inspections required to evaluate your home’s structural integrity.

In purchasing your most valuable asset it is critically important to have a general understanding as to what you are potentially in for in regards to maintenance and/or remodeling. Taking into consideration that most homes in San Francisco are on average older, most likely repairs will need to be made – such as replacing a roof, foundation, plumbing, electrical wiring, or furnace.
Here are some specific issues to check out:

How old is the roof? Check the disclosures to see if there have been any leaks. Ask the seller for maintenance records to review how the roof has been cared for. Typical roofs should last 20-30 years, but if a roof hasn’t been properly maintained it may only have half of its anticipated life.

Electrical: Is it still the old knob & tube style? If so, your homeowner’s insurance carrier my decline to insure you unless you can provide proof that this obsolete wiring has been updated. Also find out what the amp output is. 100 amp? 200 amp? An increase in amperage output may be required to run todays energy consuming appliances.

Water heaters: Tank style models usually have a life span of 10-15 years. What is the gallon capacity? 40 gallons may not be sufficient enough for a large family.

Load bearing walls: Some walls matter in a home while others don’t – which can have a major impact on the layout and highest and best use of your property.

Insulation: Current code requires a home to be properly insulated. Many older homes have no insulation in the walls.

Sewer lateral pipe: Older homes had clay pipes connecting the property to the city’s waste water system which can crack resulting in a back-up damage.
  • Paint: Older homes likely have leadbased paints that have been painted over.
  • Here are some very general cost indications you can anticipate for such repairs:
  • Roof replacement: $5,000 to $35,000
  • Furnace replacement: $5,000 (normal) or high efficiency $8,000 to $12,000 – plus the cost of labor (add $3,000)
  • Water heater: $800 to $1000 (excluding labor installation)
  • Sewer pipe lateral: $5,000 to $15,000
  • New electrical wiring: $7,000 to $25,000
  • Electrical service upgrade: $20,000 if service is underground
  • Asbestos abatement: $5,000 to $20,000
  • Hardwood floor refinishing: $2,500 (up to 1,500 sq ft) & 1,500 sq ft $5,000
  • Deck replacement: $20,000 to $40,000
  • Window replacement to double pane: $10,000 to $20,000 (& more if historic/generally front facing windows)
  • Foundation replacement: $80,000 to $120,000; if under living area or involving excavation it could go as high as $500,000
  • Stair replacement: $25,000
  • Seismic upgrade: $10,000 to $25,000

The cost per square foot on a typical remodel can range from $350 to $500; for an upgraded remodel $500 to $600, and for a luxury remodel get ready to spend between $600 to $1000. Renovations can no doubt be complicated and costly, not to mention having to navigate through the city’s complex permit process, but the upside can be incredibly rewarding.