Let’s go house shopping!
With all of the houses on the market today, what do you look for when buying a house? Most people count the bedrooms, fantasize about their new kitchen, see how big the backyard is, but miss many important (and potentially expensive) technical items. Here are a few helpful hints on what to look for.
LET’S START OUTSIDE:
The first thing we look at is the property and its relation to the house. Is the house overgrown with shrubs, trees, or vines? Is there positive drainage away from the building? Are there any pedestrian traffic hazards and is the lot maintained?
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Walk around the perimeter of the house and see if the foundation shows any serious signs of cracking or movement. Look especially at the corners, areas hidden, and at the porch appendages.
Stand back! Go across the street if necessary and look at the house from a distance. Do you see any distortion? Everything should be basically square, straight, and plumb.
What about the roof? Standard shingles last about 20 years. Does the roofing material show any distortion or are the shingles lying flat? Roofing starts to “curl”, crack and shed its granules when it gets old. Do you see any patched areas or missing pieces (new roofs shouldn’t have this)?
Are there gutters and downspouts (which are USUALLY preferable and help make for a dry foundation)? Are they secure, pitched, clean, good condition (no rust, damage, or missing pieces), and do the downspouts have the proper extensions and splash blocks?
What condition are the windows in? Approx. 20% of all heat loss is through windows and replacing them can be very expensive. Do they function, have adequate security hardware, have a complete and functional storm, show any exterior deterioration, and have they been maintained (especially from the outside)?
Is there a masonry chimney? Does it show any movement or separation? It should preferably have a flue liner (especially if it is hooked up to a fireplace). Is it properly sealed where it penetrates up into the roof (should preferably have a metal flashing? What is the condition of the bricks near the very top (the area that gets the most exposure to the elements)?
Is the house adequately vented? There should be attic vents located on the top of the roof. The overhangs (soffits) should also have some vents. If the house has a crawl space, there should be crawl space vents. All of these are very important and should be functional and unplugged.
Well, that’s it for the outside. The inside has so much (plumbing, electrical, furnace, basement walls, etc.) that I have decided to split this article into 3 parts to give you as much information as possible.
Please realize that this list does NOT make you an inspector. If you see any irregularities with the above items this is an indication that you need outside help and that you should contact a friend, contractor, inspector, etc., to give you more input.
Mitchell Kuffa Jr. is a licensed builder who performs private home inspections.