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Buyer Wise: The Once Over

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Can I tell what shape the house is in?

It’s always smart to have a professional home inspection as part of the home buying process. You may not want to make it a condition of purchase, but, even so, it can give you an idea of what needs to be done and how soon you might face major repair costs.

You can—and should give the place a “once-over” yourself, too. Even an amateur can often spot major problems with building and system integrity that could make you change your mind about buying.

Take an overview. An underview. A side view.

Look up at ceilings for cracks and water spotting.
Look down at floors for stains, rotting or buckling boards, cracked tiles.
Check out the walls for plaster problems, loose drywall tape, discolorations.
If you see an area that appears to be damp or water-stained, feel around it for soft spots or moisture.

Keep an eye peeled for pests.

Roaches. Ants. Especially termites.
Look around the foundation, doors, any entry point of pipes or cables.
Have a professional check the house out if you decide to buy.

Shed some light on the electrical situation.

Look out for too many extension cords going off in too many directions; the house could be under-amped for today’s needs.
Turn on switches to make sure overheads work.
Take a serious look at appliances.
Do you hear any strange noises coming from the refrigerator?
Maybe you could turn on the disposal “by accident” to make sure it works.

Plumb the depths.

Flush toilets to be certain they function properly.
Run water in basins to be sure they drain easily.
You might even ask to turn on the shower to check for water pressure.

Be polite, but be persistent.

You don’t want to go into someone’s house and act like you already own it. But you don’t want to make a purchase of such magnitude without checking on what works and what doesn’t. Of course, you needn’t do a close inspection on every house you look at, just the one’s you’re serious about.