Is the House Structurally Sound?  Things to Look for Before You Buy

From on July 30, 2009 in Tools and Tips

Save yourself from expensive surprises down the road. As you’re shopping for your new home, you should know how to identify signs that a house is in poor condition. House inspections can be costly and, even though you should always get an inspection once you start escrow, you sure don’t want to pay for one if the house has serious problems. Save the inspection for the good prospects and know how to weed out the bad ones. siding-damage.jpgPhoto Credit: iLoveButter The Telling Signs:

  • Check the roof out on all sides. Look for missing tiles or shingles and signs of aging. A new roof can be very expensive and, although you’ll get a roof inspection during escrow, this will help you determine whether or not the house is worth the effort.
  • Stand back and look at the exterior walls of the house to check for soundness. The walls should be flat. Look for cracks at the corners of windows – this is a sign of foundation problems.
  • Check all interior walls to make sure they’re not bowed or squared at the corners.
  • Walk around the entire floor instead of just passing through. Carpet can hide holes and recesses that your inspector may not catch. Jump in the center of the living room floor – if it feels solid, that’s good news, but if it flexes, it’s a major problem.
  • Look for water damage. Does the house have gutters? If so, do the downspouts drain away from the house or into the foundation or basement? The ground should slope away from the foundation.
  • Here’s one that most people forget about, but it’s super important – check the water pressure in the toilets and sinks.
  • Check the main circuit breaker for proper amps – if it doesn’t have at least 100 amps, the system probably won’t be sufficient. If the electrical system is a knob and tube system, like my house, you might be denied insurance coverage because of the increased fire risk. Homes built from 1880 to the 1930’s commonly used knob & tube.
  • Another insurance issue, meaning you may be denied coverage, is the piping. Check the pipes that lead from the water heater to the fixtures. If they aren’t copper, you may not get hazard insurance.
  • Check the air conditioner and vents to make sure the A/C unit is appropriate for the size of the home and that all rooms have heat & air.
  • Don’t forget the little stuff - check the workmanship in molding, tile work, baseboards, and cabinets. Check the quality of the sinks, tubs/showers and fixtures, dishwasher, stove and oven. Check all the windows to make sure they slide easily – are they single or double pane?

Print this checklist and use it for every prospective house you look at.

Happy house hunting!