Many people are not aware of the importance of a home inspection prior to purchase. A thorough inspection can save you from incurring costly repairs down the line, or worse yet, purchasing a home with major structural issues. We’ve put together 10 useful tips for getting the most out of your home inspection so you know what to look for during your walk-through and what questions to ask on closing day.
1. Choose a home inspector carefully
Before you purchase a home, hire a licensed and qualified home inspector. You can find a list of inspectors in your area by searching online or consulting with your realtor. Ask for references and be sure to get several quotes before committing to one inspector. Ensure that the person is accessible, will answer questions later on, and is thorough in their report.
2. Read up on possible issues
Home inspections vary from state to state, but most will cover the same general areas: heating/cooling systems, electrical systems, structural components (foundation, roof), plumbing systems and appliances. Familiarize yourself with what standard problems look like so if something comes up during inspection, you’ll know exactly why it was noted and can ask your inspector to explain it. Knowing what kind of issues are common in the area you live can also help you understand why certain issues may come up.
3. Do an exterior check
Start by walking around the exterior of the home to look for damage or any obvious signs that there might be a problem. Check out the deck, foundation, windows and exterior walls for cracks or bulging in areas where water could get in when it rains. Also inspect the roof for any loose shingles or missing tiles. For more tips on inspecting outside components see this article. Keep in mind that external issues are not necessarily indicative of internal problems, but will provide clues as to how much upkeep is necessary.
4. Explore crawl spaces and attics
Your inspector should be able to show you where the crawl space and attic are located. If they don’t, ask! These areas may not feel like the most exciting places in your house, but it is important to get a look at them so you know what kinds of issues you could potentially deal with down the line. Crawl spaces can be especially dangerous if there’s water damage or mold since standing water and damp conditions can cause rot and structural damage over time. Look for animals that got into the space through cracks or holes and check for evidence of animal droppings as well as making sure there is no visible mold growth on any walls, floors or ceilings.
5. Inspect all windows & doors
Exterior windows are not typically part of the home inspection, but if they are it is good to be aware of issues. Basically, you want to make sure that all windows open and close easily with no sagging or cracks in the frame.
6. Get down & dirty!
The basement is known for being damp and dark place – not exactly a playground for most people. However, there are several things you should look out for when checking out your prospective purchase’s cellar. Again, check for signs of water damage on walls or floors as well as evidence of mold growth which could indicate poor drainage or foundation leaks. Inspect any electrical components carefully making sure everything is up to code noting how many outlets are in the room and if they are properly grounded (see this article for more on that). If you see something of concern, you can ask your inspector to make note of it.
7. Get up & light it up
Don’t forget to check out your prospective purchase’s appliances before signing anything! This is especially important when buying an older home. Check the stove by turning it on every burner at least once to ensure that there aren’t any hot spots or little flames flickering away where they’re not supposed to be. Also inspect all oven racks for rust or damage while checking that the heating elements work properly in both gas and electric ovens. Be sure that all burners heat evenly without leaving any charred or scorched areas on pots and pans. Also check the refrigerator and freezer to make sure that both maintain a consistent temperature as well as being able to effectively seal in freshness.
Most importantly, don’t forget about safety! If there is a gas leak, you’ll want to be able to smell it so keep an eye out for any strange or unusual odors when checking out appliances or heating/cooling units. And of course, if anything looks suspicious or you notice faulty wiring call your inspector at once and have them take a closer look.
8. Keep your eyes open
Unseen leaks can be one of the costliest issues for homeowners — at least until they blow something up! At this point, however, you’re probably thinking that having poor water drainage from the roof or foundation is the worst that can happen. Well, not so fast. You might be surprised to find out just how many problems could be caused by water seeping into hardwood floors or sub-flooring under carpeting. Don’t forget about attics either if you have one — excessive moisture in an attic can cause damage to rafters and joists leading to structural issues or collapse.
9. Test those appliances
And we’re back to appliances again! If your home happens to come with any major appliances like a dishwasher, stove or refrigerator and they look and feel like they’re in good condition (and clean!) it is always a smart idea to at least run them for a few minutes before signing on the dotted line to make sure everything works the way it’s supposed to.
Then there are other appliances like a washer and dryer which can also be tested by either asking your inspector or contacting the previous owner or owners directly. Of course, depending on the age of your home this may not be possible so just do your best to get an idea of how old these units are before you sign on that dotted line! If the seller is unwilling to give up any information it could indicate that these items have been through several owners so if they croak shortly after you move in, you’ll have good reason to suspect foul play.
10. Be safe!
As with anything involving a new house it’s always a good to call for professional help when you’re in doubt. If there is something dangerous, insecure or questionable about the property your inspector should be able to let you know before it’s too late and that way you can either get it fixed right away or offer a lower price accordingly. Informing the buyer of any repairs they’ll need to make before buying is one of the most important aspects of a home inspection for both parties since neither wants to find out after closing that they’ve been handed a money pit.