Don't Just Look at the Paint - Take a More Critical Approach to Viewing
A property inspection is an important part of the buying process, but it comes near the end, after you have looked at and possibly even made offers on more than one home. Sometimes an inspection report sends you right back to square one because the inspector identifies something that is a deal breaker for you. This process can be both time consuming and costly, so how can you reduce your risk before you get to the offer? The following guidelines will help you put on your inspector hat and take a more measured approach to viewing homes so you make offers on only the right home!
Before You Start Looking
You have likely already created a list of what you want in your home; number of bedrooms/bathrooms, kitchen and back yard finishings, location, etc. but have you made a list of conditions that would be deal breakers? Take a moment to consider what you absolutely CANNOT have in your new home.
Examples may include:
Significant mechanical upgrades in the next five years
Serious structural issues
poor lot drainage
Old - risky plumbing
asbestos or other environmental hazards
Maybe you are looking for a diamond in the rough and anything but the structure is not critical, but if you are like most buyers, you have a budget and it doesn't include buying AND doing significant repairs or renovations to make it livable. Either way, make sure you know what you will be walking away from before you even consider it.
During The Viewing
While you walk around a prospective home, take some time to look at details rather than simply taking in the whole feel of the house. Here is where you really need to think like an inspector.
Take more time, and keep the following in mind while walking around:
Are there any places you can't get into and see? Ask for access and make sure to look around.
Do you see anything that looks worn, or damaged, or even out of place? Odd vent lines, strange repairs, damaged wiring or plumbing, or stains can indicate a potential issue
Is there any evidence that someone was trying to solve a problem? Sometimes sellers forget to hide the pile of towels from a plumbing leak, or use inappropriate methods for repair (like duct tape on plumbing fixtures). Sometimes you can see evidence of a major repair such as a big roof or foundation leak.
How well were any renovations done? Do they appear to be professional? (Hint: The pros know how to finish edges and tough corners so it should all look uniform)
Take pictures that won't be in the listing. Sellers want to put their best fave forward and will present images of their house in the best possible lighting and angles. What you rarely see in listing images are the possible problem areas, mistakes, and systems of a home. Don't be afraid to take pictures of the mechanical room and equipment, under sinks, and in garages and storage areas. These will be useful when making decisions later (i.e. cost to replace furnace is made easier by knowing the brand)
Before Making the Offer
Once you have viewed a home, take some time to gather other information you may need to make a decision. Consider how long you plan to live there and what changes you will make. Get a sense of the cost of any repairs or upgrades, and consider materials currently used in the home. Questions you may have to answer include:
Availability of materials used in current finishings
Lifespan of current finishings and materials (i.e. wood shingles last far longer than asphalt)
Maintenance requirements (i.e. that long-lasting wood roof will need more attention)
Details about use and maintenance of any component you are not familiar with
Details regarding renovations: permits, warranties, paint formulas, etc.
Any condition that meets your Deal Breaker criteria (walk away - there are other homes)
Once you have gone through this process, and you know you will be making an offer, take note of anything you are still unsure of or need more information about and provide this to your home inspector. They should be able to find an answer for you or direct you to someone who can find an answer.
Happy House Hunting!!