What to Look for when Looking for a House!

Touring homes is one of the most exciting things that home buyers do as they experience the home buying process! From watching auto-emails from agents, to scanning Zillow, to scheduling last minute showings on competitive homes, this process is often times fun and exhilarating. In a competitive buying market, Buyers oftentimes have to identify a home they like, conduct a 30-60 minute showing, and decide within 24 hours if they would like to submit an offer. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for second showings and in depth inspection of the property. Sure, everyone looks at the layout of the home, yard size, counter tops, flooring, and things that are major “checklist” items on many buyers’ lists. But, in the spirit of looking behind the curtain to ensure that you are buying a solid home that won’t need significant remediation or replacements after closing, here are a few things that I recommend checking on each home tour to ask your home inspector about.

  1. Exterior Window Condition and Operation. Windows can be a large expense, so it behooves you to check their condition and functionality during a showing. I recommend attempting to open several windows, especially crank out windows as those frequently can be quirky. You may also notice older wooden windows deteriorating and/or building up moisture or mildew. This is something to keep and eye on and potentially budget for replacement after you purchase. Potentially, this could be something you request the seller to either replace or credit you money at closing to replace them yourselves.
  2. Electrical System updates. Small electrical system defects are perhaps the most common things that I see come up as flags on a home inspection. I would recommend looking for GFCI outlets in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, garage, and exterior of the home, as it is recommended to have them installed in those locations. Additionally, if you are purchasing an older home, you will want to have your inspector check for knob and tube wiring and a fuse box (instead of a circuit breaker panel). These are items that may need mitigation prior to closing.
  3. Downspouts, gutters, and grading. This winter and spring we saw large melt off and over the past few years, large amounts of precipitation that can lead to the dreaded… water in basements. What’s a great way to help alleviate this? Having gutters installed on homes with downspouts sending the water away from the homes can really help! Additionally, you can check to see if the earth around the home is pitched towards the home or away from it. If the earth is pitched towards the home, it may be a sign that additional fill or landscaping needs to be brought in to direct the water away from the foundation.
  4. Testing appliances, bathroom fixtures, and maybe even taste the well water! You absolutely can do this, BUT YOU MUST REMEMBER TO TURN APPLIANCES BACK OFF ONCE COMPLETE. When on a showing, I personally like to turn on the showers to check water pressure, taste the water to see if it’s to your liking, and check underneath sinks to see if there’s a small leak with the water running. All of this will be checked again during your home inspection, but it still may be something you’d like to consider.

With this being said, I always recommend that you get a home inspected prior to closing. And as important as home inspections are, well and septic inspections are just as critical. In my opinion, they should always be completed if you are purchasing a home with a well, septic, or both. You may also want to consider having a chimney inspector take a look at a fireplace or chimney if you are planning on using yours. Chimneys and fireplaces are usually not within the scope of a traditional home inspection. I hope this article was as informative as it was entertaining. Good luck with your house hunt – I will see you out there!

-Tim Nelson, RE/MAX Affiliates, 715-529-0239

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