Of course, you want to get a house professionally inspected so you understand what you’re getting for your money. And a good home inspector will discover many things about a house that nobody else will. But, there are many rather simple tips that even the most novice homebuyer can check out as they’re house shopping.
The following are some relatively easy home inspection tips to look over as you’re out touring houses:
Roof: Is it clean and free of moss and debris? Are the shingles relatively flat? You can usually spot this from the street. In general, a roof that is well cared for will be clean and free of debris and the surface will be flat and even. As you drive around looking for houses check out the roofs throughout a neighborhood or two. You will find that it doesn’t take long to spot the good ones from the bad once you’ve looked at a few of them. Keep in mind your inspection will look into this component in great detail but you can at least get a general idea with just a little practice.
Siding/Paint: Take a look around the outside. Is the paint intact? Are there trees and bushes growing up against the side of the house? Any areas of chipping/peeling paint or curling and split siding boards? A quick walk around the outside while really focusing on the siding can tell you a lot about what to expect in caring for the house in the future.
Inside: If occupied, is the house neat and orderly? There are exceptions but, in general, people who live in chaos are less likely to have cared for appliances, cleaned gutters and performed other routine maintenance of the systems of the house. The more cluttered and disorganized things are in a house, the more problems you are likely to find throughout the property in terms of neglected maintenance.
Basement: This is probably the easiest thing on the list and amongst the most important. Is the basement dry? Any damp smells? Is everything stored on wood blocks off of the ground? Or, is there carpet that looks like its been there since 1950 and seems to be dry? In particular, look at wood walls and base moldings for water staining. Also, be weary of newly finished out basements with all new carpet and paint. The materials throughout a basement are a report card of sorts and if there is no history this report card isn’t going to tell you much.
Plumbing: While checking out the bathrooms turn on the water in the sink and then, while watching the sink water, turn the bathtub on all of the way. Is there a big change is water pressure/flow? If so, there’s a good chance the pipes are an older type that will need to be updated soon. After this test keep an eye on the water in the sink and tub. Does it drain in a reasonable amount of time? If not, there are possibly clogs in the line that will need to be dealt with.
Furnace and Water Heater: Household appliances are like any other piece of equipment. Some are old and some are new. Once you’ve looked at a few you’ll realize it’s fairly easy to get an idea of how old something is. In particular, look for stickers from the installers which will often contain an installation date. Also, just look at the equipment itself. Is the paint on the outside intact and clean? Or, is it rusted and dirty.
Electric Panel: If you can find it, take a look and see if it is circuit breakers (switches) or older fuses (round glass tubes). For the most part fuse systems have not been installed for over 50 years and any house that still has them really should be updated to modern equipment. Many homeowner’s insurance companies will not insure houses that contain fuses or charge a premium to do so. You might also be able to find a permit sticker on the service panel or the electric meter that will give you some idea of when the panel was last updated. In general, newer is better when it comes to electrical equipment.
Windows and Doors: With the skyrocketing cost of energy this could make a big difference in the expense to live in the house. Thermal pane windows and doors are much more energy efficient than older single pane glass. Also, check out the functionality of the doors and windows. Do they open and close like they should? Or, are the windows all painted shut? All of the doors and windows should open and close with a reasonable amount of effort. Keep in mind that in an emergency a small child could need to open them quickly.
This is only a very basic list of things covered in a home inspection but should give you some ideas of things to look for as you’re out house shopping. Happy House Hunting!