Buying a new house is exciting but daunting. You’re starting a new chapter in your life, but you’re also tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that new chapter starts out in the right home. A lot of things can go wrong during the house buying process—and even more, can go wrong if you don’t properly inspect the house first.
There’s nothing worse than spending your first night in a home only to discover a significant issue with the structure, electrical, plumbing, or more. You’re stuck paying for the exorbitant bill to fix the problem, while also waiting around even longer to move into your new home.
So what can you do to minimize the risks of buying an “unhealthy” home?
We did some digging and asked a local realtor for some advice on inspecting a home before purchase.
The most important part of buying a home (aside from falling in love with it) is the inspection. A good inspector will point out everything he sees wrong with the house, even cosmetic items. He’ll determine the level of condition of the house to help you make a determination if it’s a smart purchasing decision.
But an inspection isn’t always the end-all-be-all of house buying. Some people, like Chip and Joanna Gaines on HGTV’s Fixer Upper, don’t mind a poor inspection review. They flip houses by finding inexpensive homes with some issues, and they make the repairs with the extra money leftover in the budget. Flipping a house is a great way to stay within your budget while also tailoring a home to your needs and wants.
However, there are some things you should never ignore. A thorough inspection is the best way to unearth all of the current and potential problems you would face as the homeowner of this house—whether it’s a fixer upper or not. These issues can be not only costly but dangerous as well.
We asked Karen H. from Weichert Realtors about understanding the house inspection from a buyers’ perspective.
If you walk through the house and it’s a mess, you know they don’t take care of their property. You can tell immediately when you walk up the driveway what you are going to find hidden inside. Oftentimes, the landscaping is a telltale sign. For every problem you see, there are two more problems hidden beneath the surface.
I also always look to see if the furnace has been properly maintained and serviced over the years. The furnace and HVAC system is a place where maintenance could easily fall to the wayside. However, disrepair could cause a serious heating, cooling, or gas problem in the future. If the seller maintains their furnace, you can usually feel comfortable that they’ve maintained other areas of the home as well.
First and foremost, structural issues. If an inspector comes back saying that the foundation is cracked or there isn’t proper drainage away from the house, it’s an immediate no-sell in my book.
Another large deterrent would be if there is an underground oil tank on the property and the seller refuses to remove it. If the tank has been leaking oil, it could cause a severe contamination problem, which is incredibly expensive to remediate. In that case, I would definitely recommend the buyer walk away.
An inspector will generally be able to notice signs of an underlying issue. For example, stains on the walls, floors, or ceiling are obvious signs of a water or gas leak that could be exorbitantly expensive to fix (and a safety hazard too).
Take for example the water system. City water comes from various reservoirs owned by a given water company. It’s tested for impurities and toxins before entering the home. Well water, however, is taken directly from rainwater on the property. It’s brought through a natural purification process in the well. However, you’ll often find that ground impurities, like arsenic, lead, and coliform can seep into the well water.
Depending upon the state, the seller is often required to test well water for impurities. If any area comes back high, then the owner has the choice to fix the problem. If they don’t, the buyer should definitely walk away.
Unfortunately, these things can easily slip through the cracks without
a comprehensive inspection.
Below we’ve included a basic list that you and your inspector should review to ensure the house is ready for purchase.
In summary, take note of the general maintenance of your future house. If people aren’t taking care of the visible aspects, they likely aren’t taking care of the invisible ones.
Focus your inspection especially on electrical, plumbing, water, and air quality; problems in these areas are generally the most expensive to repair. If you find structural or drainage issues, always walk away. Moisture and leaks are the leading cause of dry rot, structural damage, and toxic mold—which can do serious damage to your house and your family. Remember that a stain (more than a red wine stain) could mean a serious leak in the house.
You want your next home to be a perfect start to a new journey. Don’t get bogged down with dangerous, financial burdens before you even embark on that voyage. Do a thorough examination, and heed the advice of your realtor and inspector.