Seeing a home for the first time, buyers can be distracted with shiny new appliances, and gleaming stone counters. Those items count for a lot, but that’s not the most important thing to review at a showing. I want to show you how to be your own inspector, BUT I would never advise you not to also engage a professional home inspector for any home buying purchase. And, it’s not just buyers who get this advice, I often advise sellers to also hire an inspector so they can avoid repair surprises once they ratify a contract.
Notice the Filters and Vents
Firstly, I always look carefully at all of the vents and filters in a home. It’s a quick and easy sign of what to expect throughout the home. Their maintenance, or lack thereof, can indicate generally how well the homeowners have cared for the property. Replacing filters on a regular basis can indicate an approach to not deferring maintenance and ensuring that mechanical systems are working properly.
Your Nose Knows
Another inspection skill I employ is the smell test. I’m always suspicious when I am greeted in the foyer by a plug – in air freshener. Likewise, if bathrooms are awash in scented candles, I don’t trust that they are not covering up moldy or musty odors. Houses should not require additional scents for showings – I smell a red flag and not a pleasant aroma.
When touring a house, I always look up. Ceilings can reveal prior leaks and poorly repainted spots can show evidence of damage that may or may not be on the owner’s disclosure. In my own home, we had a leak from a clogged HVAC line that spotted the ceilings below. This was not a roof leak but we repainted because the stains were unsightly. I don’t plan on selling my home, but when the time comes, the leak will be disclosed in writing. Leaks are not always permanent damage, but it is important to know how and when the water intrusion occurred.
It may be hard to see at a showing, but if you can get a look at the gutters and downspouts, it’s yet another indication of how the home has been maintained. Blocked drainage can cause a multitude of water issues here in the Lowcountry, from mold and mildew, to foundation damage, and wood rot – and rot is just the invitation termites are looking to find.
General Deferred Maintenance
Be sure to look at baseboards, cabinet handles, and faucets. Basically anything that gets daily use and even abuse. On the exterior look at the deck condition, door maintenance, overgrown vegetation, and other signs of neglect. Keeping up with projects small and large can give an indication of the what you can’t see.
An inspector can’t see through walls and floors, or predict what may have failed to be disclosed. A good inspector can however, measure moisture levels, see that systems are operational, and point out long term issues that may arise down the road.