Few purchases come with as much pressure as buying a home. After all, pick out a dud smartphone or ill-fitting pair of shoes, no big deal. But a problematic house could haunt you for years. In the absence of a professional inspector (or, ideally, in addition to one), use this inspection checklist for buying a home to help unearth potential hidden issues.
exterior of the home: what to look for
To the untrained shopper, the outside of the home may hold little importance. As long as there's some paint on the house and grass in the yard, you might assume all is hunky dory.
We're here to remind you that it pays to look a bit closer at the exterior of your property — there's more going on than you may realize.
Start your DIY home inspection at the top and work down. Make sure the chimney is straight and whole, no missing bricks or mortar. Also be sure to check the tightness of the flashing (the sheet metal that keeps the point where the roof and chimney meet from leaking).
Make sure the roof lies flush to the house, with no unintended sinking or curling, and doesn't show any mold or rot. There should be no more than 2 layers of roofing. Check the soffits and fascia for decay. No vents should be painted over.
They should be clean, rust-free, and attached securely to the house. Watch out for bending or sagging in the middle. Most important, they need to drain water into a downspout and away from the structure.
There should be at least 6 inches between the ground and any wood on the house. Whatever material the home is made of, check for stains, cracks, paint flaking, rot, vines or other vegetation, and loose siding.
Windows and doors
Frames should be intact, with joints caulked. Make sure there's no broken glass or screens.
From the side, the home should look square, no leaning or sagging. All framing should be straight, and the roof ridge and fascia both level.
Scan for any standing water, as this is a common red flag of sinkholes. There should be no tree branches touching the house or looming above the roof. All driveways and walkways should angle away from the dwelling. Make sure all unattached structures, like fences and sheds, are intact and don't have mold or bug damage.
interior of the home: what to look for
As you move your DIY home inspection inside your could-be abode, here are the components you'll want to give close scrutiny.
Look at the underside of the roof for any decay or water stains. Verify that there's adequate ventilation. There should be no open electrical splices or appliance vents.
All floors, walls, and ceilings should be stain-free and level. Try out windows and doors to make sure they open and close easily and fit in frames squarely (an angled door is another sign of sinkholes or foundation damage).
There should be a heating and cooling source in all rooms. Paint or other wall coverings should be in good shape. All rooms should have an appropriate number of electrical outlets and a working light.
Toilets and sinks should operate normally. All fixtures should be attached securely. Check for water stains and rot under vanity tops. Try out the water pressure in shower and pay attention to the condition of the tile and caulking in the tub.
Ideally, there should be a working fan to ventilate. Look for any stains around toilet or tub that indicate past leaking.
Run the water and make sure there are no leaks or rot in the pipes below. All built-in appliances should operate smoothly, and there should be an exhaust fan available to ventilate to the outside. Test out drawers and cabinets to make sure they latch tightly.
Ceilings, floor, and walls
As long as everything appears level, just keep an eye out for stains or decay and make sure there are no loose materials or visible nails/seams.
Confirm that the masonry is intact. There should be no stains on the outside of the fireplace (this is a sign of back-drafting). All the components should work (flue, damper, etc.).
Water damage in this area can lead to big trouble in a hurry so you want everything to be bone-dry. Smell and scan for mold and mildew. If there is exposed foundation, make sure it's not cracked or stained. Also check for adequate insulation and insect damage.
This includes things like the plumbing, electricity, and air conditioning. Find out when the last time these systems have passed a formal inspection. There should be no exposed wiring, rusted or leaky pipes, or strange, gaseous odors.
Other odds and ends
Notice a random stairwell? See where it goes. Unexplained door? Open it up. This is your chance to get as much peace of mind as possible, so don't waste it!
finding a professional home inspector
A DIY home inspection is a great way to learn about the bones of your potential house and steer clear of future issues. However, you may miss things that a professional wouldn't. For the utmost confidence in your home, nothing will beat a professional home inspection. You can find qualified inspectors in your area by visiting the American Society of Home Inspectors.
homeowners insurance considerations for a new home
The last thing on your home buying checklist? Assessing your homeowners insurance needs, of course. Even though seemingly little may have changed in your living situation, a new home can bring new risks.
- You may want to increase your dwelling protection if the cost to rebuild your new place is higher than your previous one
- Say you moved to a remote neighborhood — you might feel better with more protection against fires if the nearest fire station is 20 minutes away
- If your new home comes equipped with attractive nuisances like a swimming pool, you could benefit from adding higher liability limits to cover any potential injuries of guests.
When you buy an Esurance homeowners policy, you can complete your home inspection by using our DIY Inspection app to save time and money. Simply download the app within 20 days of your policy purchase and earn automatic discounts right off the bat. Get your free, personalized homeowners insurance quote online today and find out how we're committed to making insurance simpler and smarter. Or speak with our licensed agents at 1-866-439-5633, where we're here to help at these times.
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