We have all heard a house referred to as having “good bones” but how many of us actually know what that means? On the surface, it sounds great! Good bones… yes, I want that!

As realtors, we have dedicated our careers to helping people find a home that is perfect for their family. Some people assume that the perfect home means they will need to build from the ground up with each detail of their own choosing. Luckily, this is not necessarily the case. If you find a home with “good bones” you can transform it to your dream home.

A home with good bones typically describes a fixer-upper or possibly a home that has great potential. Fresh paint, new carpeting and other cosmetic touch-ups can hide a wealth of defects in a house. When evaluating an older home, buyers need to look beyond the carefully curated facade to discover the house’s underlying qualities—its “bones.”

Of course, whether or not a home has “good bones” is dependent on a number of factors. For instance, construction materials often vary from location to location due to weather concerns (think: hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding, etc). So the type of house that has good bones in one state may not have good bones in another.

In the real estate and construction industries, a house is described as having “good bones” if it doesn’t have any major defects that could lead to expensive repairs. Overall, though, there are a number of features that the majority of homes considered to have “good bones” share.

Keep reading to find out the big indicators that a home has good bones.

What Does “Good Bones” Include?

There are many factors that determine whether a home has good bones. Depending on the location of the property the home may be affected by environmental factors such as hurricanes, flooding, or tornados. Another factor you might want to think about is the age of the home. In reality what determines a home with “good bones” is the opinion of the realtor and buyer.

Here are some possible determining factors:

1) Construction and Foundation
Without a doubt, the first thing people mean when they say “a house has good bones” is that its foundation is solid and its structure is sound. Throughout the years, the materials we use to build houses have changed. Oftentimes, older wood frame homes built in the first half of the 20th century were actually made of higher quality wood construction than the wood frame homes built today. These higher quality materials can decrease the defects present in the home. Other house building materials that are generally considered to be “good bones” also include brick and concrete.

2) Sturdy Roof
One of the most important (and expensive) parts of a house is the roof. In your research, find out what materials were used to construct the roof on your prospective new home (slate, cement tile, and metal will last significantly longer than wood or asphalt shingles) and when it was last replaced.

A proper inspection of the house should be able to tell you whether a roof is in disrepair. Look for visible signs of wear and tear such as sags, rust, leaks, mold, fungi, and any lifting, missing, cracked, or curling shingles. Over time, untended roof problems will trickle down to inside-the-home damage, so it pays to be vigilant, or at the very least to make sure you will not be surprised by the need for repairs. If the roof is relatively new and shows little (if not, zero) wear and tear, you can assume the house has good bones.

3) Natural light
Having plenty of natural light and well-constructed windows is a major plus when buying a home. A bright, airy ambience can also come from a home being optimally situated on the property. Windows that face south typically get lots of light throughout the day, while north-facing windows receive less. Windows on the east and west generally get strong morning or afternoon light, respectively.  To get a sense of the home’s natural light and to properly assess these “bones”, you will need to walk through the home in-person during different parts of the day. If the home is light and bright, you can say that the home has good bones.

4) Plumbing
How old is the plumbing and is it in good condition? These are questions that must be asked before purchasing a home. Typically the older the home the more likely you are to have concerns arise.  If the pipes are in good shape and the toilets, showers and other plumbing features are up to code and in good working condition, then you can be sure this home has good bones.

5) Coherent Floor Plan
Once you have filtered out all the bad decor, consider the flow of rooms, their size and proportion, and any inefficiencies or wasted space. This is often easiest to do by looking at a floor plan, because you can quickly see adjacencies, odd-shaped rooms, and potential ways to recapture unused square footage.

Consider the number of floors, bathrooms, and bedroom size and location. Do you want the main bedroom to be on a separate floor, or do you need it to be close to a small child’s room? Make sure the location of the laundry room is convenient—and assess the placement of appliances and toilets in the kitchen and bathroom, as changes in plumbing and electrical work are costly.

6) Good Location and Lot Size
There are some things you just cannot change about a property, and where it is located—and how it is oriented on its site—is one of those things. You have heard it from every real estate agent, and they’re right: Location is (often) paramount. A beautifully laid out townhouse is suddenly not as perfect if it is located far away from where you were looking, and a home in the ideal neighborhood that was placed on its lot so that it almost abuts its neighbor can be similarly unappealing.

Here are a couple “bonuses” if you find them in a home!

1) Flooring
Finding a home with good floor or original wood flooring can be a huge bonus to the value of your home. While damaged or low-quality floors are not necessarily a deal-breaker, they are considered to be part of the “bones” of the home. Given that real wood floors are quite expensive to replace, it is always a huge bonus when the house has good flooring, especially if all you need to do is sand them down and add a stain. If a home’s floors are capable of being restored to their former glory, you can consider the house to have good bones. 

2) Unique Features
Oftentimes, home buyers adore old, fixer-upper homes for their unique charms and historic features, such as wooden beams, wainscoting, vintage wallpaper, or antique lighting can be a factor of considering the home to have good bones. If you consider these features to be important in a home, then you can say the house has good bones. 

3) Bonus Rooms
Whether it is a mother-in-law apartment with the potential for rental income or an oversized basement with extra storage space, a home with a bonus room is always a big advantage. Not only is it good for resale value, but it is also an added convenience and expansion potential. If the home has a bonus room, you can claim it has good bones. 

Remember to Overlook Cosmetic Concerns

Even though charming features can be an indication of good bones, do not get too wrapped up in decorative details. While midcentury modern has been back for some time and the shabby-chic style is all the rage, there are definitely trends from the past that just do not speak to us today. Things like shag carpeting, dingy paint, and peeling wallpaper can all be replaced without spending too much money. Do not be deterred by a kitchen full of avocado-colored appliances. Instead, squint and imagine the space with gleaming hardwood floors and bright white walls.

A Professional Inspection is Crucial

While a home may appear to have “good bones,” the only way to truly know for sure is to conduct a professional home inspection. An inspection typically includes a thorough look at the condition of a home’s heating system, central air conditioning system, interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic, and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation basement, and visible structure.

In addition to the standard inspection, you might also consider adding on tests for radon, mold, and lead-based paint, as well as a pest inspection and a well and septic inspection, if needed.

Most inspectors will provide estimates on the ‘life expectancy’ of certain items like the roof, furnace, and appliances. That is why it is a good idea for buyers to attend their inspection. Not only can you learn a lot about the home you are buying, but it is also a great opportunity to ask questions and discuss any concerns.

Find the Right Agent

Buying your house should be a fun and fulfilling experience. If you have done your research and evaluated what you can afford and what you truly need, finding a new home can be exciting. Learning more about the purchase process eliminates the fear of the unknown and lets you search for a home with peace of mind.

Windermere’s community of real estate professionals is our greatest asset. We have experts in all areas of real estate, from your typical starter home to condos, luxury properties, and new construction. While residential real estate is the mainstay of our business, Windermere also has offices and associates who specialize in property management, commercial real estate, and relocation services. To further facilitate the home buying process, Windermere has affiliated partners in certain regions to provide mortgage, title, and escrow services.

Call us today with any questions or concerns. Our professional Real Estate Agents will help you through this exciting process. (951) 369-8002