Buying a home is stressful, no matter how hard you try. But, there are steps and things that you can do to alleviate added stressors. There are various tasks, checklists, if you will, that can help you in the decision making process. Nothing like buying a home just to find that the AC needs to be replaced or the roof is leaking. Spend your time reviewing the house and then spend the money on a quality home inspector to determine if the house is what you really want.
The owner may be helpful on some details of the house; however, unless they have a perfect memory, all records and have owned the home since the day it was built… they can’t be counted on. It isn’t always misinformation intentionally, but having a lifetime of house repairs in your memory or record isn’t an easy feat. But feel free to ask the prior homeowner if they had any recent renovations, replacements or repairs.
There are some basic checks, visual checks that you can do, inside and out, prior to making an offer and hiring a home inspector. We have listed those here for you!
Survey the Exterior
When you are checking the grounds outside, take a look at the walls for anything that may be missing, bulging, cracked or aging. You will definitely want to look at all exterior walls, regardless of what they are made from, the roofing shingles, the doors and all windows and their seals. How does the exterior look as far as rotting material/wood? This could be a sign of a bigger problem like termites or moisture.
If the house has a chimney, there are other things you may want to look at, like cracks in the chimney and insuring that it works properly. Does it run by gas and fully functional? If there are exterior structures such as sheds or maybe fencing and a patio or porch, you’ll want to check to be sure they are structurally sound. Does the house have gutters? Are they working properly, missing sections, have a buildup in them and if they do, are there tons of trees around? All of these are some visual checks you can make by surveying the exterior of the house, and surrounding area.
Survey the Interior
You thought the exterior had a lot of things to be leery of, well; the interior has a lot more things to consider. Here are the basics – check all of the walls from the ceiling to the floor, from the doors to the windows. Electrical issues can be a big pain as they are behind the walls, but you can flip all of the light switches and be sure all outlets work, to start.
As you are viewing the ceilings, are there any dark spots? These are common indicators of moisture from maybe a leaking roof. While looking at all of the windows and doors, do they all open easily, seals seem to be present and windows free from cracks or leaks? If your windows have broken seals, air can escape and air can get it. This means money from AC or heat is leaving the house through these cracks.
You’ll want to run the bathtub or shower water while running the sinks and flushing the toilets especially if the home was vacant for awhile. Otherwise, unless you see moisture damage in the bathroom, you can guess it works, but what lies underneath can be the trouble.
You’ll want to check the plumbing in the kitchen as well, but then onto other big ticket items like the appliances. If they have washer, dryer, dishwasher, disposal, fridge, stove, oven, garage door openers, are they all working? Do they look well maintained?
Many homes have an attic and this is where some hidden problems can be found as well. You can take a quick look in the attic; see if there is any discoloration in the wood. Take a look at the insulation that can be telling if there are any critters living up there or if there are any leaks in the roof by the smell too.
Pests can be a problem that never goes away if untreated. If the house is a mess (in the food nature) then chances are there are pests lurking. They can’t help it, it’s in their nature! Spending the extra time and money to get an exterminator could be helpful if you see signs of bugs, rodents or the like.
Other Thoughts on Self Inspection
Take a look at public record or the prior inspection, if recent, to see what issues there were originally. Review the modifications and see if there are additional details you could look into.
Think if these would be things that may need to be repaired now or later. Or, if they are past repair, would they need to be replaced completely now, or do they have some years left in them? What is the cost to repair the damage or aging? What would be the cost to replace it? Consider this information with the cost of the house to determine whether you want to counter your offer to the seller, whether you want to request the seller to make repairs, whether you can live with it, or whether you want out of your buyer offer.
With that being said, take the time to review the condition of the house inside and out to be sure you get what you paid for and get what you expect. What looks great on the inside may have trouble lurking underneath the surface. Nothing is worse than having a 15-30 year debt and having problem after problem that you keep throwing money at.
After you make your checks and decide this is the house for you, hire a home inspector who will provide a more in-depth check of all of these things and more. They do this every day for a living and know what to look for. They will provide you with a detailed report of the findings, good and bad to help you make the decision to proceed with the house, request repairs or other concessions or walk away.
A-Action Home Inspection would be happy to offer these services for you. We provide a free termite inspection with our house inspections and also are offer additional services such as thermography, septic and radon testing should you need other services such as those. Check out our services page for more information on the myriad of services we offer then hop on over to schedule your home inspection.