Because you're not a professional home inspector, understand that you may miss vital issues. This list might just provide you some peace of mind. In some cases, your lender may require a home inspection by a professional, and Realtors may not accept any requested fixes unless a proper home inspection is conducted.
Here is how to get started with your own home inspection.
First, carefully inspect the exterior from top to bottom.
- Roof. With a ladder, safely get onto the roof. Check shingles for hail damage. Make sure the shingles are not curling, heavily worn or missing. If you're in the Southwest, make sure no concrete tiles are missing. If you have a metal roof, double-check all screws or loose panels. In short, make sure there is nothing that may cause leaks. While up there, also check the chimney for cracks.
- Gutters. While on the roof, look at the gutters to be sure there's no blockage and it's all well-fastened.
- Windows and doors. Make sure there are no gaps in the windows or doors and that the caulking around them hasn't peeled off.
- Siding. Depending on the type of material, look closely at the exterior walls of the house. If it's brick or stucco, make sure there are no cracks (or missing bricks). If it's wood, make sure the paint isn't chipped or bubbling up. Look for any signs of water damage, including rotted wood or mold. If there's an attached garage, make sure the garage door is functional.
- Foundation. Check the entire perimeter of the house for cracks or dipping. Be sure your yard is sloped so that there is proper drainage for rainwater to flow away from your house. Look at any poured concrete for cracks, including your driveway and walkways.
- Front entry. Whether you have a front porch, steps or sidewalk, make sure the entrance to your home is safe. There shouldn't be any loose boards or missing bricks.
- Sump pump. If the house has a sump pump, make sure it's working. As long as the hose is pumping water away from the house, you should be in good shape. It's best if you can do this on a rainy day.
You want to check for a few major things in the attic. First, make sure there are no detectable signs of water damage from a leaky roof. Then, inspect the trusses — make sure everything is structurally sound. Lastly, make sure it's well-insulated and the insulation is in good condition.
Walk around every room of the house and look for any cracks or sloping of the walls, ceilings or floors. Any cracks would indicate a problem with the foundation. Any stains will alert you of water damage, in which case you'll need to find the source. It's also important to check for termites. Pull on all stair railings to make sure they're sturdy and safe. Open all windows to make sure they're in working order, and open and close all doors so you know they're functional — also make sure they all lock (if they have locks).
If all the appliances are being sold with the house, make sure they're in good working order. This includes starting the washer and dryer, dishwasher, oven and all other included large or small appliances.
Start with the plumbing. Make sure the toilets flush, the sinks work and the tub and shower faucets run. Don't forget to make sure the bathroom vent fans work as well. In the kitchen, make sure the sink does not leak.
Start both the furnace and the air conditioner to make sure they work properly. Examine the boiler for malfunctions.
This is the hard part, because odds are, you're not an electrician and won't know exactly what to look for or the proper tools to investigate. Do plug something into each outlet in the house, so that you know which ones work and that they're grounded. Another tip is to plug a hair dryer into one outlet in each room, with the lights on. If the lights flicker, this could reveal a wiring problem that needs to be looked at by a professional.
Fire alarms and carbon monoxide detector
There should be a fire alarm installed within close proximity to every room, and each one should be equipped with working batteries. Carbon monoxide detectors are an important asset to your family's safety as well.
Each home is different, from the location to building materials, age to structure. This is not an exhaustive home inspection list. When in doubt, hire a professional.
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