These guidelines on doing your own home inspection are to help you get an idea of what you should be looking for when buying a house. Knowing what to look for, should give you confidence when viewing a prospective purchase, bearing in mind you are going to be living in and maintaining that building.
Before your offer
Before you sign the contract, after which the professional inspection is done, you may like to know how to do your own home inspection and the procedures involved. Granted, there are people who can afford their own professional independent inspection (before they pay for the official one) but you may not want to spend the extra money.
Down and dirty
It’s not the technical stuff you need, like code conformity or system structure; also you don’t need the safety code violations. You’ll get that in the professional report anyway. By the way, when you get the professional report, go through it like a monkey looking for fleas and miss nothing.
The idea here is that you are going to do your own home inspection before signing a contract and paying for the professionals.
Seeing you are about to spend a large sum of money on a new house it stand to reason you will want to do due diligence for yourself, for your own peace of mind.
Let’s start at the front entrance to the property.
You’ll be surprised what the garden can tell you about the owner. Look for things like; is the lawn mowed, has the trash been taken, what is the condition of the mailbox, how are the trees looked after, what condition are the fences in, are there cracks in the walkways. You get the picture.
Before you enter the house, get your notebook (or device) and make notes, because this is the best time to look around and check the structure of the building. Look for the settling of the building. You do this by checking around the windows for cracks and see if the window frame is still straight. Look at the sills for wood-rot, cracks or metal fatigue. Look at the foundations for waterproofing crumbling material, sagging, or cracks and while you’re checking, look for water pooling anywhere. Step back and see if the roof is straight and without obvious dips. If there is guttering present, check for structural damage, like broken or sagging joints, loose wall brackets and leaks. While you are walking around, check for any termite activity. That is your basic structural search and now you can get into the nitty-gritty of the building.
This is not a job for the ham-fisted or faint-at-heart, so if you feel out of your depth here, begging-out is better than a trip to ER.
If you decide to go ahead, then first find the electrical service panel and check the circuit breakers, how many there are and what they each are used for. In this way, you will know a fair amount about what goes on around the house (pun intended), so make notes. Test some if you like but most never bother because they prefer to rely on the professional report.
You don’t need to be a plumber to check plumbing. Generally, look for damp spots and new paint around the taps; while you flush the toilets, look for leaks and listen for the tanks refilling. Run all taps and check if the faucets need hard tightening or have drips or leaks. Check the pipes are correctly sealed from the outside elements on all incoming and outgoing water. Check the water pressure and if the pipes go clunk when you quickly shut off a faucet. Check all service appliance fittings are in place and working correctly. Check the HVAC and heating system for leaks and if they are working right. Run the hot water to check if the geysers are working properly.
Continue with your inside structural search for cracks in ceilings, walls, and floors and take note of the width of any cracks to ask a professional if you can. If there is an attic, definitely check it out for insulation. In the attic is where you can see faults that may have been painted over downstairs, like leaks and breaks. This is also where you check for bugs and mold that eat you out of house and home, without you lifting a finger. See the windows open and shut correctly and all the fittings are in place, while you look for leaks or damages as well. Check all available appliances for correct functioning like the stove plates and oven.
Try to speak to the owner; it is a good thing to ask what life in their home has been like. If you’re diligent about your own home inspection, no seller will be able to hide too big a problem from you.
Now you can put in your offer to purchase and wait for the professional report to compare with your own notes, happy house hunting!