20 things to look for in a home inspection
The home inspection process isn’t perfect. But here are some steps buyers can take to protect themselves.
I continue to receive complaints from readers about problems that they discover after closing their home purchase. Most complain about sellers who fail to disclose defects or home inspectors who fail to find them. The system is far from perfect. However, there are steps that buyers can take before and during a home inspection to protect their interests.
Check all electrical outlets to make sure that they work.
Open windows, even in the winter, to make sure they are not stuck or painted shut.
Look under any area rug or bed and behind any picture to check for cracked tiles, stained carpets or walls. Lift anything on the kitchen counters to look for defects.
Do any of the appliances show any rust? How old are they? If they are discontinued models, you will likely have to replace them if they break down because of the difficulty of finding replacement parts.
Start the dishwasher at the beginning of any home inspection. By the end, it should have gone through its entire cycle, without leaking.
Put a thermometer inside the oven and turn it on to 350 degrees. After 10 minutes, check the temperature. Test stove burners.
Put a cup of water in the microwave for 45 seconds. Does it heat up?
Flush every toilet and see whether it stops running after it is filled.
Check sinks, tubs and showers in the house. Is there proper water flow from each faucet and does everything drain properly?
You may want to consider turning all the faucets on at the same time and then flushing a toilet upstairs to see whether the water pressure slows or stops in any sink. This could indicate a problem with the system.
In older homes, consider a separate sewage inspection. Stan Collini, the President of Roto-Rooter Plumbing and Drain Service in the GTA, tells me that for $295, you can do a video camera of a property’s sewer system to see if there are any problems that would not be visible on a typical home inspection.
Check under the water heater for leaks or stains on the floor.
Ask how old the air conditioning unit is and when was it last serviced Is there sufficient hot or cold air reaching all of the rooms in the house?
Does the owner have a plan with their gas company to inspect the furnace once a year? When was the last inspection conducted?
If the house has an addition, ask whether any upgrade was done to the heating or cooling systems to account for the additional living area.
Look for water stains in the ceiling which could indicate leaking from the roof or other problems with the plumbing system.
When your inspector is on the roof, ask them to check for broken or cracked shingles. If it is a flat roof, look for the low spots where water can collect for any evidence of a problem. Check the eaves to see if there is any rot or decay. If any concerns are noted, consider bringing in a roofing contractor for an additional opinion, especially if the home is 15-20 years old and it is still the original roof.
You may also want to consider a separate inspection for mould or termites, as these may not be visible on a home inspection but can result in significant costs to repair later. Check if this is a known problem in the area.
Always ask the seller and the seller’s agent if they know about any hidden defects that are not visible. They must answer truthfully if you ask them.
Consider looking into after-sale warranty protection. Many of these products on the market will generally cover problems with a home electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling system, as well as the major appliances. But like any warranty, ask about deductibles and what is excluded from coverage.
By being properly prepared and asking the right questions both before and during any home inspection, you will be better protected against costly surprises after closing.
Mark Weisleder is a lawyer, author and speaker to the real estate industry. Email mark at firstname.lastname@example.org