Home Buying Beneath the Surface: 8 Ways to Determine When a House Has Good Bones


Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “This house has good bones.” But just what does that saying actually mean?


For some, it’s a wise investment and a potential house to renovate and flip. But for many of us, it’s a diamond-in-the-rough that can turn a somewhat-suitable house into our dream home.


Many realtors will tell you that generally speaking, a house with “good bones” is structurally sound, but might need some extra cosmetic TLC. In addition, lists these 8 factors to determine whether a house has good bones. Here’s their list of what to look for in your quest:


  1. A solid roof and foundation. These, by far, are the most important parts of the house. Not only does this matter structurally and aesthetically, but these are also some of the most expensive pieces of a home to replace, if they aren’t in good repair.


  1. Decent quality materials. Lumber that builders once used to craft older homes was often of higher quality than what’s used in newer construction, though that’s not always true. Look for brick and stone in good condition that needs minimal work. Will the furnace, driveway or windows need replacing soon? If so, consider building that added expense into your budget.


  1. Coherent design. Architecturally, aim to find consistency with both the inside and outside of the home. Not only that, but any additions should be built to match the original structure. When a home addition stands out as too new-looking, it can be visually jarring — and possibly even an expensive update to consider.
  2. Architectural details. These are a definite bonus, and any nicely preserved details, such as exposed beams, a working fireplace or original plasterwork, are a great find.

    5. Flexible layout. Having both public and private space in homes is important, so look for good public-private space transitions. You want to find the right balance between the two, although preferences will differ from family to family. (Not everybody loves an open concept kitchen, and some aren’t willing to buy a house without one.) Ideally, you want a home layout that offers some flexibility, and can maintain both types of space.

    6. An outside connection. Does the house have a footprint that’s comparable to the lot size? What is the flow into the front and back yard? A good-bones house means the transitions between the inside and outside are smooth.

  3. Natural light. Try to find a home with windows on at least two sides to help flood the room with sunlight. Beyond that, do your (or others in your family) love a good sunset or sunrise? Finding western or southern exposure inside the house or outside on the deck or patio might mean more to you personally than a phenomenal new sink fixture or something else that’s easily replaced.

    8. The “right” size. Also known as the “golden mean” … which essentially says rooms should be proportional. In other words, they should be big, but not too big, and ceilings should be high, but not too high. Finding either extreme is less than ideal (too tiny equals cramped vs. too big equates to cold).


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