Decks both extend a homeowner’s outdoor space and provide an ideal spot for a hot tub, outdoor grill, or dining area. They’re perfect for entertaining, family time or enjoying an afternoon in the sun while reading.

But what many homebuyers – especially first-time homebuyers – may not know is that decks can be expensive. And that applies to existing decks as well as to those that have yet to be built.

Existing decks need a thorough inspection

decksDecks are generally considered by sellers and buyers alike to be an attractive feature of a home. A new, or even older but well-maintained deck can be a sturdy and long-lasting amenity.

But decks can require  repairs from time to time, work that extends beyond routine maintenance. A freshly stained or painted deck may appear to be in perfect condition, but that fresh paint or stain can’t repair rotting wood in the decking, joists, ledger boards or support posts. Lag bolts, sturdy metal bolts connecting deck joists to posts, can also rust. Joists, which may not be easily visible, can crack. Joist hangers, which connect the supporting joists of the deck to a home, may need to be f replaced occasionally.

Remember, decks are outdoor structures and in four-season climates with fluctuating weather conditions, decks take a lot of wear. Even composite deck materials, which are extremely durable, can over time be damaged. And while composite deck materials are strong and require less maintenance than wood, their costs are several times that of wood.

So, regardless of how a deck may look, it’s extremely important to have it inspected thoroughly, from top to bottom before purchasing a home with one..

New home, new deck, no problem?

Builders of new homes, either single family houses, duplexes, townhomes or condominiums, often give buyers the option of choosing a specific deck design for their new home. In many cases, builders offer buyers the option to add a deck later, thereby reducing the price of their new home.

For homes with rear sliding glass doors that are low to the ground, some builders will pour a simple concrete patio, giving buyers some outdoor space to use until they add a deck. Homes with walk-out basements, however, will have doors several feet above ground level, which means builders will block the rear doors of the house, preventing accidental falls. This usually translates into a home with several wood two-by-fours secured across its rear doors.

In the excitement of buying their new home, many buyers will think “sure, let’s get the house and worry about adding the deck next spring.” What those buyers too often don’t realize is that deck may cost more than they are prepared to spend. That cost, on top of the expenses associated with furnishing and decorating a new home can mean their new dream home will have no deck for years.

In view of this, buyers should consider either having a deck added to the home by the builder and adding its cost to the cost of the new home (in effect financing the new deck) or getting estimates from deck construction companies and either financing their new deck or ensuring they have room in their budget for the new deck.

When it comes to selecting a deck company, it’s important to understand companies in the industry vary greatly. Seeking referrals from builders, realtors or locating a reputable company through professional organizations such as the North American Decking and Railing Association can be an effective way to help choose the right company.

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The above information is for educational purposes only. All information, loan programs and interest rates are subject to change without notice. All loans subject to underwriter approval. Terms and conditions apply. Always consult an accountant or tax advisor for full eligibility requirements on tax deduction.