The laundry room: What to consider when buying a home

You’re in negotiations to buy an older home and the seller offers to throw in the washer and dryer to persuade you to notch up your offer. Before you jump at the deal, ask the owner about the appliances and carefully inspect them.

You can also ask your home inspector to evaluate the appliances’ age and serviceability, but first find out what appliances your state requires the inspector to check and whether he or she must gauge their efficiency or estimate their life span. Your best bet is to take it upon yourself to be thorough and know what you’re getting.

Your real estate agent can ask the seller for the purchase, warranty and repair receipts. This will tell you the age and reliability of the appliances. Older appliances typically demand more energy so assume the higher the energy bills, the older the appliance.

When taking stock of the appliances, the laundry room is particularly important because problems with washers and dryers are costly to repair. Most laundry appliances will last about 12 to 14 years. To test them, turn them on and note whether all the cycles work; whether there’s adequate water pressure as the washer fills and whether the dryer gets warm; and whether there are any leaks or squeaks – signs of worn belts. If the dryer vent is vinyl, it will have to be replaced as vinyl ducts are flammable and are now in violation of safety codes. Next, check the washer hose for cracks, corrosion or blisters, which are signs the inner hose lining has deteriorated and could rupture. Positive features to look for include delicate or hand-wash settings, larger load capacities, low noise level while running and conservation functions, as these indicate newer models.

If you have children, an older washer or dryer could pose another danger. The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that small children can climb in, become trapped and possibly suffocate. The CPSC has guidelines for childproofing your working appliances and those you are discarding.

Even if the appliances work perfectly, replacing them when you can afford to do so will likely save money on your energy bills. In 2003, Americans saved $9 billion by installing ENERGY STAR®-rated appliances, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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