There are several daunting tasks to complete when you’re a first time home buyer, but noticing potential problem spots while you’re walking a home can be one of the hardest if you don’t have a construction or home service background. A few of our friends just purchased new homes and Andy was always one of their first phone calls afterwards if they were concerned about a specific area.
If it’s available to you, adding a formal home inspection to your offer is always a safe route to go, especially on your first home. As with any service, we highly recommend asking your realtor or looking for reviews online to find a trusted inspector. It’s an blind investment up front, but it’s better than a surprise investment later on after you’ve bought the home.
In today’s real estate market though, a home inspection could make or break your offer, which is why we’ve created our list of key items to look for when you walk a home. This doesn’t replace a formal home inspection, but the idea is for you to notice issues that might require one if you’d like to move forward and help you plan any type of renovation budget later.
There’s so many spaces to unpack in a home, so we’ll be sharing a few rooms a week to help you build a full list, starting with the exterior and a few interior items to look for throughout the entire home.
- Roof shingles: Any shingles missing, lifting up, or looking patchy? This could indicate past damage and if it looks bad, it probably is. Ask your realtor when the roof was last replaced – they should have it as part of the information provided about the home. Roofs need to be replaced every 25-30 years, so if you’re nearing that timeline on the home, it should be factored into your budget.
- Rotted trim + paint + siding: On face value, this shows a lack of overall maintenance and if the previous owner didn’t take care of the outside, there’s no telling what’s been ignored on the inside. Also, depending on the extent of the rot, water damage could also indicate improper water management with gutter leaks, standing water, etc.
- Cracked brick: Check for major cracks in the brick or siding of the home. Single or small cracked bricks aren’t too worrisome, but if you can follow a crack a couple of feet or you see a large one near a window, there might be a serious structural concern. Structural concern = expensive.
- Windows: Have they been updated or kept in good condition, or do they need some love? New windows are VERY expensive, so be prepared to replace them if needed. If the glass is double-pained, check to see if it has dirt or water in between the cracks, which could indicate a seal failure. Also, this seems logical but make sure you can open them!
- Grade: Make sure that the ground slopes away from the house. Any pooling water against the foundation can cause issues with the foundation.
- Signs of pest damage: Holes, channels, “rotting” or soft wood can all be signs that the home has more than human occupants. Termites can be bad news so if you see any of the signs we mentioned above, you’ll definitely want a pest inspection to find out more. You don’t want to discover that bats or a raccoon live in your attic on the first night sleeping there and you don’t want to put off the expense of termite damage for later. You also don’t have to bring a full on home inspector into the mix if this is your only concern too, which is helpful when you’re making an offer or being budget conscious!
- Drywall cracking: Monitor for drywall cracks, anything large enough that you could stick a coin through. Small ones are normal in every house after settlement and small movements overtime. Large cracks or any that can be seen in the same area on multiple floors can signify a larger issue.
- Uneven floors: As you walk, feel for any unevenness in the floor. It’s not always a serious issue, but worth getting a second opinion on to make sure it’s not a larger settlement issue.
- Leaks: Keep an eye out for leaks in the ceiling, walls, around baseboards, etc. A shady seller might also try to cover these up with paint, so pay attention to any fresh paint in random areas around the home.
- Smoke & carbon monoxide detectors: Make sure these monitors are visible and readily available throughout the home. They’re required by building codes now, but some older homes might have skated by. It’s always a good idea to have a smoke detector in each bedroom, one on each floor in the hallway or main area, and at least one carbon monoxide detector in the house, usually on any bedroom level.
What were some of the things that you noticed during a home walkthrough? Did you buy the house or move on? We’d love to hear your stories! Stay tuned next week for our kitchen + bathroom checklists.