Buying a house is one of the biggest investments you will ever make. But far too often, buyers get so caught up in the excitement of purchasing a property that they fail to do their due diligence and rush head-on into the purchasing process. This can lead to huge headaches down the road.
Usually the biggest purchase a person would have up to this point would have been a car. At least with a car, you are going to bring along a family member or friend who knows a bit about cars to have a look under the hood and give the car a test drive before negotiating price and making a purchase.
A new house is no different. Except that the stakes are higher.
It is always advisable to seek professional help when buying a house, someone who has industry experience and looks at the conditions of building for a living.
However, If you like to do things on your own, I have created a house inspection checklist that you can take yourself when you are seriously considering buying a property.
If some concerning items do pop up on the checklist, then it is advisable to then call in some professional help to assess the extent of the problem.
Tick of the sections below and take any appropriate notes:
What you will need:
- A printed copy of this checklist
- A torch
- Two screwdrivers (Flathead and Phillips-head)
- A power point tester (fairly cheap from hardware and electrical stores)
- A ladder
Places to look outside the house:
Start on the roof:
If you can, use the ladder to get a visual look at the roof.
Check for the following:
_____ Guttering. Look for bends or a wavy roof line along the guttering.
_____ Broken or missing roof tiles and loose ridges.
_____ Faded colour on concrete tiles which may show the need for new sealant.
_____Cracked mortar along valley iron, gutters and down pipes.
_____ Ensure that all corrugated iron sheets are in good condition and nailed down.
_____ Sometimes owners may have painted over rust so check for inconsistent or fresh paint.
_____ Any holes or rust in the guttering.
_____ Rust marks on timber and under eave linings beneath the roofline indicate leaks in guttering.
_____ Check down pipes to make sure they are connected to storm water pipe and ground level and not just going onto the floor to soak up at the base of the house.
_____ Look along walls to ensure that they are straight. If the walls are made of timber, bow lined or sagging boards indicate issues with the stumps below the house.
_____ Check all wood surfaces for rot. Press on wood with finger and if soft, it indicates rot.
_____ Check for damp rot adjacent to window openings, plumbing and at ground level.
_____ Look for buckles or badly fitted eaves
_____ Check the condition of the mortar between bricks. Scrape with a screwdriver to see if it is removed freely and has a dusty quality.
_____ Look for any cracks in the brick work, especially around door and window openings.
_____ Pay attention to walls adjacent to large trees as the roots may be causing structural damage.
Underneath the house:
_____ Check to see that the ground under the house is not excessively wet.
_____ Look carefully over the ground surface for termite tubes
_____ Check under the floor for props or bricks holding up the floor instead of stumps, piers or dwarf walls.
_____ Check the quality of the stumps with a large screwdriver.
_____ Inspect for rot or mold on the timber framing and flooring.
_____ If the house is on a concrete slab, check that the levels of the garden bed are below the line of the internal floor level.
_____ Ask if there has been asbestos used and where. Commonly found in walls, roofing and fencing, this will need to be removed professionally.
Places to look inside the house:
In the Roof:
If possible access the roof space:
_____ Determine the type of timber used.
_____ Check to see if the ceiling has been insulated. If so, is it consistent and has it been correctly laid.
_____ Without touching, look for damaged electrical wiring.
_____ Look for sagging roof framing, cracked or broken tiles, rusty iron roofing and leaking ridges or valleys.
_____ Keep an eye out for any rat/ mouse droppings or pungent smells such as urine. This would indicate vermin.
_____ Check that all timber floors are level.
_____ Look for any gaps between timber floor and the skirting boards.
_____ Bounce lightly on the timber floor to detect any rotten floorboards or looseness in the floor framing. This should be done at regular intervals.
_____On concrete floors look for signs of dampness such as lifting floor tiles or rotten carpet.
Walls and Ceilings:
_____ Look for cracks in walls.
_____ From the door way openings look at the line of the walls to see if there is any buckling.
_____ Inspect closely any freshly painted or wallpapered areas.
_____ Inspect walls for any signs of dampness, mould stains or irregular areas of fresh paint around floor level.
_____ Lightly tap walls and tiled surfaces with the handle of your screwdriver to see if anything is loose.
_____ Tap solid brick walls for a hollow sound
_____ Check the level of the ceilings is even and consistent.
_____ Look out for patch repairs on the roof or damp stains such as mould growth which would indicate roof leaks.
_____ Look for any cracks in the ceiling.
In the fuse box:
_____ Check for fuse wire system or circuit breaker system
_____ Check for an Earth leakage Safety Switch
In the house:
_____ Check all light switches and power points work
_____ Test all power points with the tester
_____ Check under all sinks for leaks from waste pipes.
_____ Check plumbing fittings by gently shaking the plumbing underneath the sink to ensure the fittings are secure.
_____ Turn on and off all taps
_____ Check how long it takes the hot water to start running
_____ Check water pressure in both hot and cold taps
_____ Partially fill bathroom or laundry tubs and see if water drains properly.
_____ Check for damp ground in the vicinity of the drains
_____Check the outgoing pipe at the water meter to determine the material used for the main supply line.
_____ Look for any damp stains at the junction of the splash back and kitchen sink.
_____ Open the cupboards above the exhaust system over the cook top and check for excess cooking fat. This will indicate that the exhaust system does not have an external vent.
_____Check for any sealant or grout missing from the edge of shower bases, bathtubs and tiles
_____ Check that an exhaust fan is installed to remove excess damp/moisture
_____ Open and close shower screens to check if it can be performed without damage
_____ Flush the toilet and look behind the cistern and waste pipes for leaks.
_____ If there is excessive use of silicon sealant then it indicates leakage and poor quality repair.
_____ Listen out for running water after the cistern has filled.
_____Check for excessive condensation and mould growth on windows and walls
_____Open and close each window. Check for sticking windows as a result of warped or rusted frames.
_____ Check wooden window frames for rot
_____ Are there any cracked panels of glass?
_____ Make sure fly screens are fitted where necessary and aren’t damaged.
_____Can you open and close each door without obstruction/ jamming on the door frame?
This list should at least get you started by looking in the right areas for the usual types of problems, instead of walking through with rose coloured glasses daydreaming about where you are going to put your furniture. If you don’t have a background in a professional building trade, this list will at least minimize some of your costs if you are interested in multiple properties.
By taking a measured approach to this inspection, you will be able to identify any problems that could potentially be costly in the future.
If you do notice any concerning issues, definitely call in a professional building inspector to assess the extent of the problem BEFORE moving forward with price negotiations.
All the best.