A home is a huge investment. For most people, it's the biggest and most expensive thing they'll ever buy. So why would you ever sign a contract on an enormous item if you're not sure all its parts are working properly?
Shyness, awkwardness, call it what you will, but it can feel weird to poke around in someone else's home ... especially if they're still living there. Opening cupboards, lifting toilet seats — it feels like you're intruding. Sorry to break it to you, but this is no time to be shy.
Below are some items you should check yourself when visiting a home you may want to purchase. Sure, your home inspector will perform a thorough review of the home and will even cover some items listed below. But a home inspection costs money! Before you make an offer and start shelling out cash for inspections, or putting down earnest money, you can have a better idea up front if the house you're interested in needs more work than you're prepared to take on.
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Check the water pressure.
Not just in the kitchen sink, but the bathroom sink, toilet, bathtub, and shower, too.
Low water pressure is a sign of bad plumbing.
Lift every rug.
Is that rug hiding something? The floor could be stained, warped, or even rotting!
A warped floor is very serious and can indicate the room has been flooded in the past or there's a leak
under the floor.
Delve into the closets and cupboards.
What is that cluttered closet hiding? If the owners have left items in storage areas, move them aside. Too much to move? Ask your real estate agent to arrange another showing after the owners remove their belongings. Same for the garage, attic, basement, and any outbuildings.
You'll want to be sure the home has adequate storage space for all your belongings and note any damage that may be concealed behind piles of stuff.
Note: Make sure there's nothing piled against the house or any
outbuildings as this could be hiding damages, flaws, and even pests.
Examine the windows, doors, and walls.
While an older house may have settled a bit, it's still not good to have a door you can't close all the way or a window that won't open. Cracks in the walls could be caused by normal settling or the result of a house being empty for a while with no climate controls — but it may be something more serious.
If the home has "settled" so much that doors are sticking or the cracks are large, irregular, or diagonal, that could indicate a problem with the foundation of the home, or even a structural issue within the walls. You will need to consult an expert to determine the cause and whether it's easily fixable.
Note: Hairline cracks near windows and doors are
generally not a big issue and can be taped and painted.
Use your sniffer.
Smell anything musty? How about pet odors? Were the owners heavy smokers? Check that the fans over the stove and in the bathrooms work.
A musty smell could indicate water damage. Cigarette smoke and animal urine are very strong smells that can soak into the floors and walls. Getting those smells out can be a nightmare — or impossible.
Look for signs of water damage.
This is an especially important issue you need to investigate. Discoloration on ceilings and walls, bubbling paint, rusted metal items, and mold spots all indicate problems. Yes, you should check every cabinet. Pay extra close attention to basement walls and cabinets under sinks.
Water damage can be expensive and difficult to repair and may involve taking down walls and rebuilding them. Watermarks near appliances that use water or in the basement can indicate poor plumbing — another expensive issue to address.
Meet the neighbors.
Having good or bad neighbors makes a huge difference on how happy you'll be in your new home. In some locations, meeting the neighbors beforehand could be a bit of a challenge, but you should at the very least drive by at different times of day and on different days to check out the neighborhood.
Is there a school or church nearby? Street parking could be a nightmare at dropoff and pickup times and during services. Are there neighbors throwing wild parties? How is the traffic flow during rush hours? Do cars roar up and down the street, or do you see signs of a neighborhood on its way down? You'll want to know the answers to these questions before making your final decision.
By taking the time to thoroughly inspect the properties you view before you
make an offer, you can save yourself time, headache, and buyer's remorse.