Although putting a professional inspection contingency in the contract will help protect you from surprises, doing your own pre-inspection before making a written offer could save you a lot time and money.
How can you tell if a property is worth buying? You should initially look at the big picture—for structural concerns, major repairs that may be needed, appliances that have to be replaced, as well as the heating and electrical systems.
Look at the Walls
Start out by going to the left or the right when you enter the house and keep following the walls all the way around. You will check each wall that way. Do the same on every floor. Look for settlement cracks, separating joints, defective plaster or other signs of stress or damage. Check wallpapered areas for crinkling or gathering, which may mean walls are settling or shifting. Roll a marble across the if you think the floor feels uneven.
Look for Water Damage
Loose or wrinkled wallpaper could indicate a water leak from somewhere above. Look for water stains on the ceiling and walls. You may have to look closely—bring a flashlight and a moisture meter—in case they have been painted over or repaired.
Spend a lot of time in the bathrooms and all areas with pipes, checking for leaks and drips. Also, run the shower and sink, then flush the toilet to check water pressure. Look for cracked or loose tiles and missing grout or mildew stains on the walls or floor, which could indicate a behind-the-wall leak or roof leak.
Check the Electrical System
Check every electric socket or outlet. Use a plug-in night light and turn every switch on and off. Check the polarity with a meter. Look for extension cords and multiple plugs in sockets, which could mean insufficient or poorly placed sockets. Also, check every appliance to be sure it works well, especially if they are included in the sale.
Check the Overall Condition
Open and close every door and window. Look and listen for squeaking, sticking, or a tendency to close on their own. Check for evidence of shifting or settling around the front stoop, chimney, hatchway, and walks, and places where the driveway and the fence meet the house. Also, check the deck for sturdiness and look for rotted wood. Make sure the deck is sitting on concrete footings. Go into the garage and check the walls, floors and doors—inside and out. Make sure the garage doors open and close properly and that there is a safety sensor installed.
Pay Attention to Evidence of Pests
Look for termites and ants. Especially look along the foundation, around doors and entry points of wiring and pipes. Check the grading of the yard to be sure water runs away from the house. Check the basement for water damage. Look for rust on any metal sitting on the floor or rotted wood door frames which could be evidence of a possible water problem.
You can and should insist on a written report detailing what the problems are with the house. This is usually provided to you in the Sellers disclosures. You may have to consult a contractor to estimate repair costs on any problems found.
If everything looks good and you decide to purchase the house, be sure to require a home inspection by a professional inspector before settlement. You will want a professional who will get into the crawl space, climb onto the roof and poke around with a flashlight in the attic. Your professional should also carefully inspect the major systems—electrical, gas, plumbing and heating/air conditioning. Make sure your purchase contract is conditional upon a satisfactory inspection report.
To make sure a home is in tip-top shape before making an offer, give us a call today for more information about how you can find the home of your dreams.
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