Home Inspection Tips For The First Time Homebuyer

Most of the homebuyer information available is about finances, budgeting and dealing with Realtors and lenders. This article highlights some tips for the first time home buyer, from the point of view of a home inspector, so you can better protect yourself when you are ready to take the plunge.

Home inspectors are trained in the craft of finding safety concerns and or expensive items that must be considered. We conduct a visual inspection of the home, so we leave the walls, ceilings and floors in tact.

As a first time homebuyer, you are excited to move from home renter to homeowner. Perhaps you have narrowed down what you are looking for, contacted a realtor, viewed a few homes and now you’re ready to make a decision. Or, you might be at the very beginning stages of the home buying experience while you prepare the ultimate wish list.

Regardless of what stage you are at, below are some tips and ideas to help you make the best decision for your circumstances.

There Are No Perfect Homes Out There

Homes are a lot like people. They are all different, and all homes will have issues. Some of these problems are obvious and others are hidden. Regardless, it is best to approach the world of home buying with realistic expectations, knowing that no homes are perfect.

This wisdom goes for newly constructed homes as well. New homes will settle after a few years, and depending on the soil conditions, may continue to settle, only to reveal cracks in various places. There may be more cosmetic issues in one home over another. Some of the questions you should be asking yourself are…

1. Can I see past the ugly wallpaper or vinyl counter tops?

2. Can I live with the repair bills required to fix the problems?

3. What is my budget for unexpected issues from the home inspection?

4. How long do I see myself in this home?

5. Am I willing to renovate and make it my own?

Please don’t concern yourself with cosmetic details such small scratches on the walls. These things can be fixed without breaking the bank. Think about the big picture, not the small details.  Look for homes with large overhangs and good flashing details around the windows and doors. These details better protect the home from water damage than those without.

When you look at a home, try to imagine it empty so you can get a better sense of space. Remember, all homes will have flaws, so think about what you can manage and what are willing to walk away from.

Safety Issues Come First

Safety concerns for the first time homebuyer are usually related to structural and electrical flaws. Any cracks that are larger than half an inch on the lower portion of the outside wall (the foundation) may be a concern. If there are wood columns that have rotted out at the bottom, holding up a deck or other structural component, make a note of it.

If the home is old, the electrical service might be out of date and in need of upgrading. Find out if the home has Knob and Tube wiring. Loose wires should be clamped and secured properly. There should be at least one functional smoke detector on each floor, and I recommend installing a carbon monoxide detector as well. These two items are not expensive.

Also, be aware that mold is most commonly found in the basement and in the attic, especially in townhouses and some newer homes because they are tighter and less airy. You will also need to know if there is any evidence of asbestos in the house and or in the attic. Asbestos may not be harmful if it if undisturbed. However, if you are considering renovations and the home contains asbestos, then you definitely need to have it removed by a professional.

Expensive Items To Consider

Water damage is the biggest enemy to all homes, especially here on the West Coast. Look for holes and patches along the outside and around doors and under windows, for example. This may indicate a concern behind the walls. Always get a copy of any manufacturer warrantees. For a town house or a condo, be sure to read the minutes.

Potentially expensive items include:

1.     Out of date furnaces and water heaters

2.     Roof Replacement- You will also need the warrantee documents for the roof if possible

3.     Removal of a buried oil tank – For environmental reason, you must take care of this. Your local fire department will have further details for you about this topic.

4.     Repair of the exterior drainage- Ensure that the drain tile is in working order. Look for large trees close to the perimeter of the house, as their roots can disrupt the underground drain tile, or in extreme cases push against the foundation walls of the home

5.     Ideally, the slope of the house should be away from the house. If you are considering the purchase of a townhouse or condo, find out if the building(s) have been rain screened and when this took place.  A properly rain screened building can save you money down the road.

Home Inspectors Are Not Emotionally Attached To Houses

One of the most difficult aspects of buying a home is being objective. Even though I am a home inspector, I had my house inspected by a different home inspector because I did not want one bit of my decision to be clouded by my heart instead of my head.  Try to look at the house for what it is… A unique set of systems, which work together in providing a place to live. As mentioned, the key is to determine which issues you can live with, afford and fix, while leaving the others behind. I do not expect you to be a robot when buying a home, but all I ask is that you consider the points I have mentioned before falling in love with the wrong house. One thing is for sure, having a 3rd party home inspection will give you the peace of mind needed to get it or forget it.

Prepare Questions In Advance

Once you are at the point where you want to put in an offer, make a list of questions and talk to your realtor so that you can learn about some of the potential issues which may affect the final purchase. You should also have these questions ready before your home inspection, so I, (if you choose me) can help you with some of your concerns.

Finally, be sure to get a proper home inspection report. You want a report that will address all of the concerns mentioned above, from a knowledgeable inspector who truly cares about doing his/her job… Protecting you!

In my opinion, the best home inspection reports are specifically customized and void of checklist templates. They include enough space to provide all of the necessary information about the issues found in and around the home, are easy to read and include relevant photos to help you visualize the concerns. All of these details are included in my inspection reports.

Hopefully this article has been helpful to you as a first time homebuyer. If you would like to learn more about home inspections, details in this article, or would like me to write about a particular topic, just let me know.  Also, if you liked it I would like to know that too.

Good luck on your journey to finding your first home!