A thorough assessment of a property you plan to buy can save you headaches and unexpected expenses down the line. A checklist helps you organize key observations as you assess a property's condition. Include enough space on your checklist to note any defects so that you can request repairs, or at least be aware of repairs you'll need to make when you move in. Hire specialists to professionally inspect the property, as most buyers can't identify serious issues even with the help of a checklist.
Inspect Building Structure
Problems with the framing and foundation of your home are among the hardest to identify and fix. Be sure to examine the foundation for cracks, both outdoors and in the basement. Some small cracks are a sign of natural settling, but larger cracks can indicate structural problems. Looked for squared framing by examining the edges and parallels of the building. For example, unaligned windows may indicate shifting. Noticeably uneven floors may also signal structural problems. Check for evidence of termite infestation, too, as termites and other wood destroying pests eat away at wood framing, making the structure unstable. Inspect cabinetry, inside and out, for both structural issues and signs of infestation.
Check Walls and Interior Features
Some defects are more obvious than others. For example, the condition of walls and flooring may be visibly apparent. Thoroughly examine any areas that have contact with water for mold. Feel around for moisture as well. For example, damp plaster is often a sign of water damage. Turn on appliances, including the refrigerator, stove, and garbage disposal and check the heating and ventilation and air conditioning systems. Lack of heat or cooling and excessive noise may indicate problems. Turn on showers and sink faucets to check water pressure, flush toilets and observe drainage in tubs and sinks. Ask the seller for records on the age and maintenance of the furnace. Your local utility company may also be willing to conduct a free safety inspection of the furnace.
Examine the Exterior
Check for water damage outside of the home, as decayed or damaged siding affects the home's framing. Check gutters to ensure they are clear and drain away from the foundation. If possible, inspect the roof after rain to see if it is watertight. Check walkways and driveways for cracks, missing and chipped cement and uniformity. Examine fences and retaining walls for holes, missing pieces, and stability and ensure that gates and security bars lock and unlock with ease.
Ensure Your Safety
Each room should have an operational smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector. As an additional safety precaution, check the condition of any fire extinguishers and their locations. Note uncovered outlets and switches. Noise and burn marks around these may indicate hazardous electrical wiring. Windows, in addition to being intact and free of cracks, should have functional locks. If the property has an alarm system, check with the alarm service provider to see if the equipment is up to date and operational.
Based in Los Angeles, Nicholas Brown has been writing since 2008. He specializes in real estate and finance. He holds a Master of Arts in English from Northeastern University.