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For Sale by Owner News and Articles

For Sale by Owner Articles • - Property Inspections

The Prospective Homebuyer's Inspection

By Courtney Ronan
The importance of performing your own inspection of a home before you decide to purchase it cannot be understated. Remember that while this is only a precursor to the professional inspection that will soon follow, your personal inspection allows you to pinpoint first-hand any potential problem areas that could cause you to change your mind about whether or not you want to buy the house. Because more eyes mean a more thorough inspection, it's a good idea to perform one inspection yourself and ask your spouse, another family member or friend to perform one, as well. You'll each find details that your counterpart failed to notice.
In general, you're looking for such details as structural cracks, musty smells, rotting floorboards, wet basements, roof leaks, peeling paint, cracked windows, broken appliances (including air conditioning and heating units), quality of tile, carpeting and other flooring material, and/or any aesthetic (such as floor plan convenience, landscaping or general home maintenance) or structural details that would decrease the value of the home. In particular, you'll want to make note of any serious flaws about which you'll want to notify the professional home inspector.
The following points provide a general guideline for your inspection. By all means, add additional criteria based on your own preferences.
  • Does the home have enough closet space, or do you think you'll need to build additional closets? What about the number of bathrooms? Think your family will learn to adjust to one downstairs bathroom? Think again. Would the home be able to accommodate the addition of another bathroom upstairs or elsewhere in the home? Most important, would you be willing to invest the money in such a project?
  • How far is the master bedroom to the other bedrooms? Does the layout allow for relative privacy? Are the bedrooms located near living areas, which could cause a problem for children trying to sleep? Are the bedrooms configured in such a manner that you're limited to one or two variations of furniture arrangement? Or do you have flexibility in where you place your beds, dressers, desks and bed tables?
  • Does the kitchen provide you adequate space for cooking? Entertaining? What about the eating area? Will your family be cramped? Can others move freely around the table while people are seated? Does the oven door or refrigerator door project into a common area where traffic will be moving?
  • What material was used to construct the walls and ceilings?
  • Check windows. Are they painted shut? Can you open them easily in the event of a fire? Can you fit through them? Do you feel a draft near the windows?
  • Does the house have sliding-glass doors, which have been noted to present a potential safety risk because of their ability to be pried open?
  • Are doors easy to open and close? Are they equipped with durable deadbolt locks?
  • Check the circuit breakers.
  • Has the owner had the chimneys cleaned annually? Are there working dampers installed in the fireplaces?
  • If the home has carpeting, is the carpeting placed over a padding on top of the foundation; or is it covering hardwood floors? What kind of wood? Chances are good you can pull up the carpeting, give the floors a good cleaning, and you'll have a beautiful, durable surface for your home. You may consider asking the owner to refinish the wood floors before you move in (get that promise in writing if the owner consents). If the home has oak parquet floors, watch out for any "peaks" caused by excessive moisture.

As you walk around the home and reflect upon your inspection later, jot down any features -- architectural, interior amenities or other details -- you believe will increase the home's value. Make a master list of flaws and/or potential problems you spotted. Inform your professional inspector of what you saw, and consider his assessment before you make any decisions about whether to buy. If the professional inspector is in agreement with you about particular problem areas, ask him or her for an estimated cost for their repair. Keep a running list of these, as well. If you're comparing multiple residences, seeing this side-by-side cost comparison can be an amazing decision-breaking tool for you. Of course, if the repairs aren't tremendous, if the home is generally of solid construction and your heart is set on a particular home, you can attempt to negotiate (with some guidance from your Realtor) with the current owner about covering the cost of repairs after a professional has validated problem areas.
Performing this personal inspection will help you both now and later with future moves. You'll become educated about how to identify problem spots, how to successfully negotiate their repair and ultimately, close on the home of your dreams.

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© Copyright 2000 by Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

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