Buying Tips

Under ideal circumstances, a home inspection will be allowed before you make an offer on a home. However, if the seller doesn't agree to it, you should make an offer contingent on the inspection outcome. Such a contingency will allow you to renegotiate or withdraw your offer should any problems turn up.

Here are some of the basic tasks involved in a home inspection, which can be performed by you or a professional inspector:

Interior:

  • Determine whether windows and doors protect the house from the weather. Look for weather stripping, working locks, ease in opening and closing, water damage.
  • Look for weaknesses in ceilings and walls, including water stains, bulges, sags and cracks. Evaluate condition of interior paint.
  • Make sure floors are reasonably level without sags or soft spots that might indicate water damage.
  • Check bathrooms carefully for electrical, plumbing, ventilation and water damage. Examine grounding and shut off valves on all fixtures; test water pressure; look for leaky pipes, loose tiles and spongy flooring.
  • Evaluate attic insulation and ventilation. Measure insulation thickness. Look for signs of water damage, exhaust fans venting into attic, and structural beams that have been cut for ductwork.

Exterior:

  • For pitched roofs, determine condition of shingles and roof sheathing. Look for repairs, cracked or missing shingles, signs of age, sagging, softness or unevenness, and vent placement.
  • For flat roofs, look for problems that might cause leaks. Watch out for cracked, blistered or torn spots, water accumulation and improper drainage systems.
  • Look for horizontal, vertical or stair-step cracks and bulges in foundation walls. Inspect mortar joints and masonry. Inspect soil, gravel or concrete around foundation for proper drainage.
  • Inspect siding, windows and doors for bulges, cupping or buckling, open joints at corners, wood siding closer than six inches to the ground, water damage to trim. Evaluate exterior paint and windowpanes.