A Handy 8-Point Buyer Checklist
Buying a home is a big step and a large investment. And while we are not recommending that you become “your own home inspector,” there are ways to approach a potential purchase with an eye to the right details. Every home has a story to tell and knowing the home’s history and the working systems is essential to understanding what you could expect in the future. That’s why it pays to adopt a curious approach – to ask questions and get to know the home. And that’s why we think you’d be better prepared with A Handy 8-Point Home Buyer Checklist.
1. Inspect the Water Supply Systems
Turn on all the fixtures, including showers and taps throughout the kitchen and bathrooms, and then flush the toilets. Now look for two things – is the water pressure and drainage is up to your standards and in working order. Listen for running toilets and even give them a little shake. Toilets that aren’t set properly can let out water and moisture, leading to problems down the road. Water stains on walls or ceilings could mean a leaky pipe – not a deal breaker, but you need to know if it’s an easy fix or a bigger issue.
2. Open and Close the Doors and Closets
The windows, doors, closets, the cabinets – open and close everything to make sure they’re all in working order. Do the windows slide easily, or do they stick? Are there screens missing where there should be screens? You’ll also want to watch for cracking paint along the windows. If the wood feels soft when you press it, it could be rotting due to moisture. Ensure all doors lock and unlock easily, from both the inside and the outside. Poke around the cabinets-take a look inside each one for any red flags like moisture or discolouration – especially the lower base cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom.
3. Look for Exterior and Interior Cracks
Don’t be overly concerned with minor hairline cracks in the foundation you might see from the inside – this is normal, due to settling and movement. But be aware of cracks that are both horizontal and vertical – for those you may need to call in a pro to learn the extent of the required fix. You can also look for gaps along the doors and windows. Look at the bottom corners of the basement windows (on the exterior) to see if the cracks widen to the foundation base. If so, it could indicate a bigger problem due to a major foundation shift. Look for any tar and caulking on the exterior, close to the walkways and driveway along the foundation wall. This indicates an attempt with a quick patch. (Ask why?)
4. Check the Electrical Connections
You do not need to be an electrician to have a first look. Look for the following and make notes: Where are the electrical plugs and switches? Are there enough in each room and are they all in the right places? Note how old they appear, as older electrical switches could mean older wiring. You may even want to check your mobile phone signal in different areas throughout the house. Some basements or corners might have little or no reception. Electrical Panels are important, look for breakers or fuses. Upgrading an electrical panel is not as much of an expense as it would be for new wiring. Always think about the insurance policy. Your home will need one.
5. Check the Furnace
When you look at the furnace, look for dates and numbers that indicate age and service record. Have your agent turn up the temperature and listen to the fan. Does it sound smooth and consistent, or does everything make noise. Is it high efficiency or older? High efficiency units are easy to identify – they typically have white pipes that go to the exterior of the structure. This bring in fresh air and exhausts outside. Great systems, but they need to be installed to current standards.
6. Rattle the Pipes
When looking at the furnace, it’s a great time to have a quick scan at the plumbing. In most cases the ceiling in the utilities room is open. Look for new copper soldering patches, any gas pipes and take a look at the hot water tank, it will have an indication whether it’s owned or rented. Look at the furnace for stains, or rust at the bottom of the unit or on the ground. This will indicate moisture leaking from the condenser of the air conditioning coil. This is not a big deal, but let the third party home inspection know your concern about these areas.
7. Consider the Floors
In high traffic areas, where the flooring is worn, think about the room flow and if you will you use it the same way. Is it hardwood or carpeting? Once the furniture is removed from the room, the worn and tired areas will stand out three times as much. Consider the flooring as something that indicates how the home is currently being used. This will also let you pinpoint the areas to put wooden screw into the sub-flooring to reinforce the plywood to the joist-an easy fix. Most home sub-flooring has been nailed (not screwed), and nails can pop over time, especially in high traffic areas.
8. Spot the Water Signs
How worried should you be about a wet basement? That depends on how easy it will be to fix. Walk outside, look around the foundation walls; at the ground level. Sometimes it’s as simple as a downspout disconnect or a problem with a window.
Water finds the path of least resistance.
If there is a small seam, crack or access point, it will get in! Every leak has a source point, and the cost to repair it varies on how difficult it is to find that point and fix it. A disconnecting downspout is one thing, having to excavate the exterior perimeter to access the footing, waterproof and then put in new drainage, is another-doable but costly.
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**PRO TIP: Proximity to Traffic: The location of a home in relation to traffic stop signs and traffic lights can mean a lot of braking and engine noise from outside. This can be disturbing if you are sensitive to noise, and it will go on day and night. Look to see if the bedrooms are located further away at the opposite end of the home or facing back – this will lessen the effects of street noise.