Inspecting a House
Before you buy any house, take time to thoroughly inspect structure and mechanical systems.
Costly repairs can often be avoided or at least anticipated by a preliminary inspection before a purchase offer is signed. If house is inspected before a purchase offer is made, you will know in advance if heating equipment, rewiring, or any other costly repairs or replacements will be needed. If defects are found, you do not necessarily have to reject house. A purchase offer can include a contingency clause that identifies what needs to be corrected before sale is finalized. Another option is to offer a lower purchase price based on cost of correcting problems.
After an offer to purchase contract is signed (but before a loan is applied for or a title inspection ordered), a thorough inspection should be done. Some lenders require a mechanical and structural inspection by a qualified house inspector. Even if a lending institution does not require such an inspection, you may want one. Reserve right to cancel or renegotiate a purchase agreement if a professional inspection reveals significant defects.
If you decide to hire a professional inspector, be there when inspection is done. Follow him or her around. Ask questions. It is important to know what is being checked, why, and condition of each area.
· Pencil and paper to record information on house.
· Measuring tape (25 or 50 feet) to measure dimensions of house and individual rooms. (The measurements will show whether pieces of furniture will fit into specific rooms).
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· Stepladder, if needed, for access to an attic
· Flashlight with a strong beam for inspecting attic, basement, and storage areas with poor lighting.
· Coveralls to protect your clothing when inspecting attic or crawl space.
· Ice pick or pocket knife to test condition of wood structure.
· Hand level to check drainage of sidewalks, porches, and basement floor and to see if floors are level.
· Screwdriver to remove electrical faceplates to look for evidence of insulation and condition of wiring. (Turn off electrical power at fuse or circuit breaker box first!)
· Three-prong electrical circuit tester to test receptacles.
· Binoculars for inspecting roof shingles and flashing from ground. INSPECTION PROCEDURE
Walk around outside of house at least twice. As you walk, note specific areas that you need to inspect more carefully when inside house. Look first at foundation, drainage, and siding; second time check windows, gutters, and roof.
Once outside inspection is finished, move inside house. Start in crawl space or basement and work up through house to attic. Take plenty of time to look behind boxes, in dark areas, under cabinets, etc.
The items listed below will help you do a thorough inspection. Use this list as a guide when inspecting any house. The items do not include such personal preferences as interior decoration (color, carpet, window treatment, etc.) or presence of optional equipment (air conditioning, security system, etc.) NOTE: The items are not listed in exact order which you might follow when inspecting a house.
Answer YES or NO to as many of questions as apply to house you are inspecting:
Does slope of lot prevent water from standing next to house? Water-saturated soil could indicate lack of drain tile.
Is there easy and safe access to lot? Is lot safe and convenient?
Are there signs of septic field drainage problems? These may include odor of raw sewage, extremely soggy soil over drainfield, sewage discharged over ground or in nearby ditches, broken or cracked white pipes that stick out of ground, or an alarm flashing or beeping in house. Are there enough electrical receptacles to meet your needs? Grounded receptacles have a third, round hole. Use a circuit tester to see if receptacles are wired correctly and are grounded.
Does house have ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection in kitchen, bathroom, garage, and outdoor circuits? Special GFCI receptacles can be identified by "test" and "reset" buttons on face of each outlet; GFCI breakers are labeled in service box. If this protection is found in an older home, it indicates that electrical system has been upgraded.
Is there visible electrical wiring in attic, basement, or garage? Note type of wire used and its condition.
As with heating system, you may wish to have a professional check electrical system.
WATER SYSTEM AND QUALITY OF WATER
Are plumbing fixtures, especially in bathroom and kitchen, in good condition? Look for water damage on bottom of sink cabinets, around bases of toilets, and on ceilings (below upstairs plumbing fixtures).