Before you rush out and buy a new property, it’s important to inspect (how to inspect a property) the current state of affairs. Depending on the type of property you’re buying, this inspection can be as simple as a single walk-through or it can be an intensive week-long evaluation of every aspect of the building from basement to attic. Here are some tips on how to conduct your property inspection so that you know what you’re getting into before you buy.
Knowing What You Are Looking For
There are three different ways that a home inspector inspects a property. They’re all valuable, and you should feel free to incorporate all three into your inspection approach. It depends on what stage of buying/selling process or project your house is in. But it depends on what YOU want out of an inspection. One thing’s for sure; though you won’t learn much without getting off your duff and performing a hands-on evaluation of your potential new home.
The first and most crucial stage of inspecting your home is: knowing what you’re looking for! As we said, there are three main ways that house inspectors inspect properties. You may want to spend some time exploring each of these methodologies so that when it comes time for your inspection. You can decide what method will best suit your purpose.
Basement and Foundation
Make sure that any cracks in your foundation or basement walls are sealed up. Check for signs of leaks, and make sure no water damage can lead to mold growth. If you have plumbing issues that have not been addressed, it could be causing problems down here as well seeping into your basement can cause some serious problems if left unchecked. To keep it dry and avoid potential flooding, have any leaks repaired immediately.
Next, you’ll want to check out your furnace. It must be clean and in good working order. Have your heating system inspected regularly, especially if it’s older than 10 years. Make sure there are no leaks and that your exhaust system is clear of blockages or obstructions. If there are any issues with your plumbing or heating, address them immediately.
Heating and cooling are two of your biggest energy bills, so make sure that both systems are working properly. If there are any cracks in either system, it can lead to a larger repair bill later on. Have your heating and cooling system inspected at least once per year. If there are issues with either one, get them repaired as soon as possible so that you don’t have to deal with any costly repairs down the road.
Check to make sure your basement windows open and close properly. Check that there are no cracks in them or around them. If you find any damage, get it fixed right away so that water doesn’t seep into your basement. You’ll also want to make sure that your window locks work. The same goes for French doors or any other way someone could enter your home through these areas of entry.
The most important thing is to check for leaks and water damage. If there are any obvious signs of leaks, or if it seems like rain comes into your house when it rains hard outside. Get someone to check it out immediately before further damage is done. While you’re at it, don’t forget about roof vents (and make sure they’re working). They help with ventilation and excess heat buildup in warm weather.
If your roof is old, it may be in your best interest to wait until it’s replaced before moving in. You can ask someone who works with roofs regularly (or look up some articles online) to help you decide if your roof needs replacement.
While roofs are important, it’s also a good idea to check out other components of your home like gutters and downspouts. If you have any doubts or questions about these, call in an expert. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
If your gutters are full of leaves or other debris, get them cleaned out as soon as possible. Gutter and downspout damage is very expensive to repair. So any maintenance on them will save you a lot of money in the long run.
It’s also wise to do a walk around your roof and check for any loose shingles or other damage. If there is any, have it repaired immediately so you don’t have more issues down the road.
Check for cracks and holes in exterior walls. If they’re found, it’s important to identify whether water is penetrating through or if termites are causing damage. The latter may not require immediate action—the former will. Aside from checking for water penetration, have a look at
how well the paint is adhering to exterior walls. If it’s peeling, note if it’s cracked or chipped and how badly; conversely, if the paint is in good condition, look for signs of fading due to sun exposure. Some forms of damage may require nothing more than touching up paintwork; others could mean time for a full repaint.
Check for cracking and crumbling of stucco finishes, which can be caused by humidity if nothing is done. In addition, note how clean exterior walls are; again, if they’re dirty or stained it may mean repairs will be needed. If stains are present, make sure they don’t indicate signs of water penetration or termite damage. Finally, look at wood trim around windows and doors; if these are in poor condition—cracked, peeling, rotten—they should be replaced as soon as possible. Ideally, sills should be checked too: They should have no gaps that could allow insects into your home (more on that later). A qualified building inspector should also check for cracks in window frames. Cracks here could lead to drafts inside your home during winter months when windows are closed up tight against cold weather.
This is an area that many people are unaware of and is potentially dangerous, so it’s important to consider. When walking through a house, it’s best practice not to touch anything and ensure that all appliances are switched off. As a rule of thumb, if there’s no switch on an appliance or light fixture, don’t turn it on.
If there is an issue with electrical safety, leave immediately and don’t continue your inspection. This is for your safety as well as that of your agent and broker. You also don’t want to give off an impression that will weaken or make stronger an offer you made. It can be difficult when there are issues such as these, but it’s better to say no deal than one with potentially life-threatening issues.
It’s also important that as a homebuyer or tenant when moving into your new house, you report any electrical issues as soon as possible. If there is damage in your lease, you could be held responsible for it unless notified of its existence. This applies to anything related to electricity—malfunctioning light fixtures, tripped breakers or burnt fuses are some examples.
Again, if you notice any of these issues or if your safety is in question, leave and notify your agent or broker. They’ll be able to tell you if repairs have been made and let them know of any lingering concerns. If it turns out that there are serious electrical problems present, as a renter it’s up to you and your landlord to come up with an agreement on how those issues will be repaired.
If your pipes are old, it’s a good idea to replace them before buying an older home. And if there are visible signs of leaks or damage on your pipes, think twice about making an offer. And while minor leaks can be repaired, major cracks or breaks can be warning signs that could spell disaster in no time at all. A plumber will be able to tell you if your plumbing system is in good shape and how much it would cost to make repairs if necessary.
It’s also important to learn about your utility costs in advance. Utility bills can vary considerably from one month to another, and depending on your energy efficiency rating, an older home may cost more than it’s worth just for utility bills alone. It’s a good idea to ask about these costs when shopping around for homes.
Finally, get an estimate from a local contractor or home inspector on how much it would cost to repair any major plumbing issues in your new home. If it turns out that you’ll be replacing your current pipes or other systems to move in, remember that those costs could be rolled into your mortgage and add significantly to your monthly payments. It might also be worth reconsidering whether you want to buy an older home at all if these repairs will cost more than you can afford.
Heating and Cooling System
In an inspection, one of your main concerns should be checking that it’s in working order. The heating and cooling system is critical to a home’s comfort and can help reduce energy bills. To check it out, turn on all air conditioners or heaters and set them on high, then walk around your space with a notepad. Anything that seems out of place—like blowing too hot or too cold—note it.
If any of your appliances or systems appear older than five years, look them up on Craigslist and see what they cost new. If they’re cheaper, use that as an estimate for what it will cost to replace in a few years. Another rule of thumb is that every 10 years an item (furnace, water heater, etc.) costs half its original price.
If anything seems out of place—like blowing too hot or too cold—note it. One example would be if your air conditioner is brand new but your windows don’t seal well, and your house is freezing in winter. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth it to replace the windows and tighten up those seals, or just buy an additional AC unit for those extra-cold months.
Interior Walls, Floors, and Ceilings
You’ll want to look closely at any cracks or stains on interior walls, floors, and ceilings. On wooden floors especially, it’s often best to get down on your hands and knees (or use a step ladder) so that you can closely examine any damage. Check your ceiling for peeling paint or moisture stains caused by leaks. For damaged flooring like vinyl tile or linoleum, check under rugs and carpeting for rips and tears.
Make sure your crawl space is well-ventilated. If there’s an odor in it, you may be smelling mold that has taken hold in moist soil and decaying leaves. Mold can not only make your home smell bad, but it can also compromise its structural integrity and even threaten your health if left unchecked. You should also look for evidence of rodent infestation such as droppings, chewed wires, or signs of gnawing on wood frames or door casings.
If there are signs of water damage, it’s best to investigate further. Water leaks behind walls can cause mold and even dry rot that can lead to dangerous structural damage. And if there are wet spots on floors or ceilings, make sure they aren’t traces of recent leaks that still have not been fully addressed.
Checking for water damage can help you spot repairs that need to be made before purchasing. Repairing any of these problems is often costly and disruptive, so it’s in your best interest to look for them beforehand so that you can negotiate a lower price or even walk away from the deal if repair costs are too high.
Windows, Doors, and Floor Coverings
While checking for structural damage, look at all of your windows and doors. Open and close each one and check that they work properly (if they don’t, note it on your checklist). Check that window guards are in place if required. Be sure to check both upper windows (especially those above countertops) and lower ones. If possible, ask someone with special skills—like an electrician or plumber—to take a look at any wiring or plumbing issues.
Make sure that your flooring is in good condition and not cracked. Check both bathrooms and kitchens, as well as all other rooms in which tiles are used. If there are any loose tiles, they will have to be replaced before your move-in date.
Check that all doors and door handles work properly, checking each one in turn. Try pushing on them—if they open easily, there may be some simple repairs needed. Make note of any loose or broken door frames, too; these will have to be repaired before you move in.
Check that all windows and frames are in good repair, checking each one in turn. Cracked or broken panes will have to be replaced before your move-in date. Windows without locks or with faulty catches should also be noted on your checklist; these will require special attention before you can move in.
Check that all floor coverings are in good repair, checking each one in turn. Cracked or loose tiles will have to be replaced before your move-in date. If there are any damaged or worn linoleum tiles on your rental, be sure to take photos of them for your records—it’s easy for landlords to say that there were already damaged before you moved in if they want to try and get out of fixing it later on.
If your appliances are older than ten years or so, they could be costing you money and waste energy. Replacing old appliances can save both on utility bills and help protect the environment by consuming less energy. Even if it’s just an estimate of how much energy is used for each appliance, it gives you something to work with when replacing them.
Another important part of inspecting appliances is determining if they are energy efficient. If an appliance isn’t energy-efficient, it can cost your business more money and waste energy.
Efficient appliances cost less to run, especially if they’re newer. If an appliance is operating properly and in good condition, it will perform well for years and require little to no maintenance. This means lower operational costs for your business, so it’s a win-win situation. Make sure any new appliances are energy efficient by looking at Energy Star ratings before making your purchase.
Cleanliness of your new home
When inspecting, look at all of the things that can impact your health and safety. Avoiding lead paint is one of your top priorities when buying an older home. Here are some common things to keep in mind: If there is chipping or peeling paint on windowsills, siding, doors, or woodwork — even if it looks like white primer — don’t touch it, and don’t breathe in any dust that may be created by repairing those areas; they could contain dangerous levels of lead.
If it is cracked or missing grout, it’s likely that water has seeped behind your tile and down into your walls, potentially damaging electrical components like wiring or outlets. To find out if that’s true in your home, place your ear against a wall in different areas of your home and listen for any odd sounds. When you hear something strange behind an outlet, pull out all of its switches and receptacles and send them to an electrician for testing.