Home inspection – for peace of mind when buying a home

When you buy a home, you aren’t just making a financial investment – you are also choosing where you will live, raise your children and create all your future memories – so it is critical that the dream does not become a nightmare and a drain on your hard-earned money.

While it’s understandable that most people initially focus on factors like the layout, room size and storage space, its essential that they look beyond the veneer and conduct a thorough inspection for tell-tale signs of significant potential problems down the line, says Yael Geffen, chief executive of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty.

“You can tell a lot about a house just by noting the overall condition of the property. If a home that has clearly not been well-maintained has a number of obvious problems, then hidden problems are very likely.

“So unless you are looking for a challenging fixer-upper, your inspection should verify that the house meets your standards and, if you are unsure of what to look, for then you are well within your rights to have the home professionally inspected.

“And unless you are buying a recently built home, it might be wise to make the sales agreement contingent upon the findings of a home inspection. You may decide the problems found are more than you are willing to take on; if not, any imperfections found during the home inspection may give you leverage for price negotiation.”

She adds that in a subdued market it’s imperative that sellers don’t give prospective buyers any excuse to find problems with the property that are likely to reduce the sale price or even cost them the sale. They should certainly try to sort out problems before putting their properties on the market.

Geffen says that certain imperfections may not be perceived as ‘problems’ by all buyers, and many are minor issues that buyers would be happy to fix up once they have moved in, but there are a number of problems that cannot be overlooked.

Roof

Check if the shingles are loose, falling off, warping or damaged in any way as the roof will need to be repaired or even replaced. Also ask how old the roof is because if it’s more than 15 years old, it may possibly need to be replaced.

Drainage

Poor drainage is not always easily detected and it can cause serious problems later on if ignored so it’s important to verify that the drainage system is sound. Ensure that the property around the house is graded to divert water away from the foundation. Also check all gutters and downpipes to be sure they are in working condition and lead away from the house to reduce any flooding into the home.

Indoors, one of the most obvious sign of poor drainage is pooling water when the shower is running, or a bouncy bathroom floor can be evidence of hidden damage such as a leaking shower drain.

Framing structure and foundation

The foundation of a house is arguably the most important part of the entire structure, and also one of the costliest to repair.

Look for bulges, cracks, deflections and other irregularities in the roof, exterior walls, interior framing and the foundation walls, which could indicate serious structural problems.

Although minor cracking may only be a sign of settling in the home, large cracks can be a sign of serious problems with the foundation and these needed to be thoroughly checked.

The floors should be level, which is easily tested by placing a marble on the floor and seeing if it rolls without prompting. If the door frames don’t appear to be square or the doors seem to have difficulty closing, it’s possible that the home has structural problems.

If you have any concerns regarding structural components, hire a structural engineer to evaluate them.

Electrical

Check the size of the service and whether it meets modern standards. This is especially important in older homes which might not have as many electrical outlets as newer homes and piling on double adapters and extension cords could be hazardous, especially with faulty wiring.

This check should include the mains panel and wiring, looking for burned wires, overloaded circuits, improper connections, panel openings, or wiring installed by uncertified non-professionals.

Plumbing

Check geysers for leaks, and run taps to check the water pressure and the temperature.

Make sure that there are no leaks in the piping by looking for stains on walls and floors within the house that may indicate leakage.

Windows

Wooden windows and doors should be painted or varnished and the caulking around panes should be free of cracks. Don’t forget to check window locks and ease of movement in the frame, especially in older homes.

Random patches of fresh paint

A coat of paint is undeniably one of the quickest and most effective ways to spruce up a home, but if only portions of walls or ceilings appear to be painted, it’s definitely not to be ignored. It’s possible the seller is trying to cover up a problem, which should be a cause for concern.

Geffen concludes: “This may seem daunting, but once you have signed on the dotted line, you are stuck with these problems which could be considerable. And it’s not only that the repairs will be for your own account, you will also have to invest your own time to hire contractors and make sure the work is completed properly.

“There is no such thing as the perfect home and buyers should also try and be objective, especially if they fall in love with a home with small cosmetic problems that can be easily fixed once they have moved in.

“However, being aware of the imperfections ahead of time will make the buying decision easier, allow you to negotiate the purchase price based on the cost of repairs, and alleviate the risk of big surprises after the deal is done.”