What Does it Mean When a House Has Good Bones

November 21, 2018 by Jorge Lopez

renovation - apartment during restoration - home improvement
If you’ve been around real estate investors, agents, brokers, or contractors, you may have heard some of them toss around the term “good bones.” Do you know what it means to say a house has good bones?

How do you find a house that fits into this category? The answers to these questions will be discussed below.

 Good Bones … What Does That Mean?

When you’re searching for a home to buy, you’ll have to weigh many factors. You have to think about location, architectural style, square footage, number of bedrooms, yard, neighborhood amenities, and many other things.

Each of these elements certainly matters, they’re all fairly superfluous in the grander scheme of things. In terms of the house itself, the essential focus should be on the quality and condition of the structure.

The bones of a house are the structural details that constitute the home’s quality and integrity. When these elements become compromised, the entire house is in trouble. When they’re solid and reliable, you can make everything else work.

The problem is that the term — good bones, that is — is so overused that it’s become something of a cliché. If you’re looking to buy a house, it’s helpful to understand what the phrase actually covers so you’re better apt to make a smart purchase decision.

Take a look at some of the specific characteristics of a home that has good bones:

 1. Solid Foundation and Roof

The two most important parts of a home are the foundation and the roof. One keeps the house up and ensures almost all the other components — for example, walls, windows, floors, and doors — are able to serve their proper function. The other keeps rest of the home protected from the elements.

Fixing or replacing a foundation can run into tens of thousands of dollars. Replacing a roof will also set you back a pretty penny. If you’re purchasing a house, these are the two items you want to make fairly certain are in proper condition.

2. Workable Floor Plan

You can make certain changes to a home fairly easily, but others can be very challenging. If you hope to purchase a house with good bones, make sure it has a workable floor plan.

This means there’s ample square footage (or room to expand), space to breathe, and an intuitive room flow. As Find Home Pro’s Bilox Wells says, “Intuitive room flow has to do with what designers typically refer to as adjacencies. That may mean the kids’ rooms are near the master bedroom, or the garage leads directly into the house.”

You can often tear down walls to open up the general space, but it can be a lot harder to work around a dysfunctional floor plan. Keep this in mind as you pursue your search.

3. Use of Quality Building Materials

A house with good bones is going to feature quality building materials, rather than cheaper alternatives that deteriorate and fall apart in a few years. Options such as hardwood floors, brick, stone, and plaster walls all indicate quality craftsmanship. 

4. Good Plumbing and Electrical

“Underneath the exterior you could argue are the real bones, all those pipes and other things lurking below the surface. They also tend to be the most expensive items to fix, so if they’re in good shape the home can be said to have good bones,” one real estate expert says.

“You may also want more modern systems that don’t require a lot of retrofitting — old electrical and plumbing systems can be a real bear to work with.” The more you know about the internal workings of a home, the less likely you’re buying a money pit. Plumbing and electrical are two key elements to think about.

 5. No Need for Major Repairs

A house with good bones will have no immediate need for major repairs. This doesn’t mean it’s in perfect shape, necessarily, but there shouldn’t be any major existing problems with HVAC, plumbing, electric, foundation, roof, and the like.

How to Find a House With Good Bones

After going through a list of quality characteristics, who wouldn’t want a house with good bones? Unfortunately, many people can get scared off by cosmetic issues and surface-level problems.

If you honestly want a house with good bones, you have to be willing to look beyond superficial defects and focus on what truly matters. Here’s how to do that.

1. Look in Older Neighborhoods

 Most people assume that newly built houses have the best bones, but this isn’t always the case. Ironically, older homes often excel in this area.

They might require an array of cosmetic updates, but many older homes were customarily manufactured with the use of higher-quality building materials. Newer homes — tract houses, in particular — are too often built by companies whose focus was on cost-effective production; and as a result, they may be constructed of cheaper materials.

2. Look for Telltale Signs of Major Problems

You don’t have to be a homebuilder or contractor to evaluate the bones of a house. When you tour a property, look past such things as paint colors, appliances, and carpet.

Instead, you should focus on signs of major problems. For example, walk around the exterior and check the angle of the land around the structure to ensure water drains away from the foundation.

Look for cracks in the walls, which could indicate foundation problems. Test the water pressure to see if there are any issues with that. It might seem as if this is going over the top, but you won’t know until you observe.

3. Hire Some Professionals

Although anyone can look for issues that are obvious to the naked eye, you could benefit from bringing some professionals along when you tour. A home inspector can do a more thorough job of identifying current and potential problems, while an architect and/or designer can help you envision your remodeling options.

Contact Green Residential Today

At Green Residential, we regard it as our sincerest professional pleasure to work with Houston homeowners, prospective homebuyers, real estate investors, and landlords to ensure they find the right properties, manage and maintain them well, and get more at the closing table when it comes time to sell.

Whether you’re looking to buy, sell, or manage a property, we can help. Contact us today to find out more!

Jorge Lopez

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