DIY Home Inspection: Your Ultimate Guide to Thoroughly Inspecting the Condition of a Home

inspectionYou’re nervous. Your heart is racing. You’re sweating bullets.

No, you aren’t about to leap out of an airplane at 10,000 feet. You’ve put in an offer to buy a home and it’s been accepted.

Now what?

You’ll want a home inspection. But home inspectors charge hundreds of dollars. Don’t worry, you can do a home inspection all on your own.

Keep reading for a complete guide to the DIY home inspection.

Home Inspection vs Appraisal

If you’re getting a loan, then your lender orders an appraisal. But an appraisal and a home inspection are not the same things.

An appraisal is an opinion of value.

It’s based on the personal expertise of the appraiser. Although the appraiser takes into account the condition of the home, he or she doesn’t do a thorough inspection.

A home inspection reports the condition of the home, not a value.

It’s important to get a good home inspection so you know what you’re getting into. And to save some cash, try doing your own home inspection.

Other Reasons for a DIY Home Inspection

Keep your home in good shape. A regular inspection of your home systems lets you know what maintenance you need. This saves you from costly repairs in the future.

You’re in the business of real estate investment. Buying rental properties can get costly. A DIY home inspection checklist can save you some money.

Buying or changing homeowners insurance might require an inspection.

If you’re planning to remodel, it might make more sense to repair everything at the same time. An inspection is useful to show you what needs to be done.

Plus, buying a home is expensive. You need all the help you can get from your Seattle mortgage company to save you money. You may as well save a few bucks on the home inspection.

Major Areas to Inspect

Before you start, you should create a checklist of all the areas you want to check. Here are the most common:

  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • HVAC
  • Foundation/basement
  • Windows
  • Roof/Attic

We’ll take a look at each of these areas and give you some tips on how to inspect them yourself.

The most important thing to remember is to use all your senses. Listen for strange noises. Feel pipes and wood to check for water damage. Notice any strange smells. And look in, around, and under everything.

Plumbing

Turn on the water. Do you hear strange sounds coming from the pipes? That could mean rusted pipes.

Look underneath and inspect the actual pipes in the sinks. Are they leaking? Are there water stains around them? What about the floor around the pipes? Stains on any surface can mean water damage and plumbing repairs. Loose tiles in the shower can also be a sign of water damage.

Flush the toilets and check the water tanks behind the toilets. Make sure that water is flowing into and out of them properly.

This may sound odd, but sit on the toilet and make sure it’s not wobbly. A wobbly toilet could mean water damage in the subflooring. Plus, it’s annoying and would eventually need to be tightened or replaced.

The toilet is also a good place to see if you’ve got water quality issues. Red stains along the water line can mean high iron content in the water. Make sure and check for a functioning water softener if you see this.

Does the home have a well or city water? If it has a well, make sure the previous homeowner has done the proper maintenance. It’s also not a bad idea to test the well water with an at-home water testing kit to make sure it’s safe to drink.

Electrical

Turn on all the lights. Do the lights turn on easily or flicker? Are the light switches up-to-date with current standards?

Lights flickering or strange noises are all signs of hazardous electrical system problems.

Bring a small, plug-in lamp with you and make sure the wall sockets work throughout the house.

Pay attention to the walls around the plugs to ensure there are no stains or burn marks.

After you’ve looked at all the lights and plugs in the main living areas, check out the breaker box.

You don’t need to be an expert to spot tripped fuses. If the breaker box seems out-of-date, make note that you may have electrical work in your future.

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

The HVAC system is one of the most important systems in your home. It also requires the most maintenance to run properly.

Your system includes the furnace, vents that allow air to travel through the house, and central air conditioning (AC).

Turn on the heating and AC. Make sure that they fire up when they’re supposed to. You’ll be able to hear when they turn on.

Go outside and check the air conditioner unit that sits next to the home. Does it have good clearance from the wall of the home? A unit that sits too close can have airflow issues.

Is it overwhelmed by dirt and debris? A dirty outside unit could mean a lack of maintenance by the previous homeowner.

Listen to how it runs and notice any unusual sounds. It should sound like a smooth purr.

Also, you can see the fan spinning inside. Make sure the spinning is steady and not halting.

When you’re back in the house, look at the floor vents. Make sure they aren’t blocked or dirty. A dirty vent could mean the ventilation system needs cleaning.

Feel for the air and make sure that it feels cold or hot if you’ve got the AC or furnace on.

Do the same type of check with the furnace. Notice anything that looks strange, like burn marks or shaking.

Like the AC, it should sound steady. Clicking or other loud bangs are not normal. Filters are super important to how your HVAC systems function. Check all the air filters.

If they are dirty, that means they haven’t had the regular maintenance they should. You may have problems with the systems functioning.

Find out the age of the furnace and AC. A furnace can last up to 20 years as long as it’s properly maintained.

Foundation/Basement

The number one thing to pay attention to is wood quality. Rotten wood is a bad sign in any part of the home. Walk around the outside of the home and look at the siding and cement foundations. Cracks or rot are a red flag that the foundation isn’t so hot.

Don’t forget to feel the wood. Rotten wood feels soft and may even be wet from water damage.

Painted wood can hide the problem. That’s why feeling the wood is a good way to find hidden foundation issues.

Check all the door frames. Feel for loose boards or doors.

Doors should shut tight but open without any rubbing. If a door rubs against the frame, it could mean the foundation shifted or sagged. In the basement, keep a close eye on water damage. Are the floors or walls wet?

Be aware of the smell. Mold and mildew will give the place a musty smell.

If the basement walls are sheetrocked, feel the sheetrock to make sure it isn’t soft and wet.

Watch for cracks in the concrete. Remember, problems in the basement are usually expensive to fix.

Windows

The same way you checked around the doors, check around the windows. Window repair is one of the most expensive repairs to make.

If you see cracks in the caulk, it could be a sign that the previous owner let the maintenance slip.

Signs of wood rot around could mean water damage. Watch for stains and paint warping as well.

Windows should be easy to open. A window that sticks too much or doesn’t open at all, needs replacing.

Of course, you want to be aware of any broken window panes. Find out how old the windows are. Windows can last up to 20 years. But the older the window, the less energy efficient they are.

It pays to know the age of the windows so you can plan for a replacement if need be.

Roof/Attic

If the home has a crawlspace or attic, be sure to crawl through it and look around. Again, keep your eyes, ears, and nose open.

Strange smells could mean mold. Stains and warping are a sign of a leaky roof. Do you hear the wind blowing through the attic? That could also mean there’s damage to the roof.

While you’re in the attic, look at the insulation. If the insulation is below the floor joists, then there isn’t enough. Usually, 10-14 inches is good, depending on the type of insulation.

Also, how do the floor joists look? Step on them and see how they feel. Joists with lots of holes from old screws are weaker than whole joists.

Go outside and look at the roof. Missing, rotted, or curled shingles are a bad sign.

Inspect Your Home like a Pro

The DIY home inspection can save you money. Not only is it handy when you buy a home, but it helps you keep your current home maintained.

Follow the guidelines in this article and give your home an annual checkup that will make your doctor jealous. Check out our property buying blog for more tips and tricks on what to look for when buying a new property.

If you’ve done your own home inspection before, feel free to drop a comment about your experience.

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