When planning to buy a home, the most important step is taking your time and making sure that it is the home you want. A home inspection is critical in determining the value and safety of the home. Home inspectors are in short supply and can be pricey due to supply and demand. If you absolutely love the home but don’t have the luxury of waiting for a home inspection, you can follow these basic tips to assess the home.
The essential elements in your home to look for during a home inspection are plumbing, electrical, and the heating and cooling systems.
Water on Basement Floor
If the home you are hoping to purchase doesn’t have a basement, good news, you can ignore this step. The very first sign of an issue is finding water on the basement floor. This is easy to spot and can cause a ton of damage down the road. Figure out the source of the water before you make an offer on the home.
Water damage is common in many homes across the US. Standing water and moisture creates the perfect environment for mold and fungus. Some varieties of mold are extremely dangerous for humans and pets. Water on the basement floor could mean there is an issue with the plumbing, walls, windows, or your heating and cooling systems.
The first thing you should check is the window. Occasionally, basement windows aren’t sealed properly and let water in during every storm. Thankfully, it is fairly simple and inexpensive to reseal a window.
If the windows don’t have any noticeable signs of a water leak, the problem could be with the plumbing system. Homes with older plumbing equipment can develop pin-hole leaks or even burst. This is something that should be addressed by a professional plumber as soon as possible. There is a chance you can ask the sellers of the home to get the plumbing inspected as a condition of the offer you make on the home.
The last system you should check is your HVAC system. If you notice water dripping down the cabinet of the furnace when the air conditioner runs, the drain pan underneath the evaporator coil might need to be drained and cleaned. There should be a small tube running from your furnace to a drain in the floor. This tube is connected to the drain pan and is supposed to drain it when it reaches a certain level. However, it is fairly common that the tube gets clogged and needs to be un-clogged. There are a variety of ways you can un-clog the drain pan tube by yourself. The most popular is to use a drain snake and try to pull out the blockage. If you don’t have any success with this method, you can call an HVAC technician, who will go into the furnace cabinet and inspect the drain pan.
Exposed Electrical Wires
There are two types of exposed wires. Live and dead. While dead wires cannot hurt you, they are still an eye-sore and suspicious. In a fully completed home, there should be NO exposed wires; however, you may find a few in an unfinished basement.
Live exposed wires are incredibly dangerous. If you see any exposed wires you should call a professional electrician as soon as possible. DO NOT TOUCH them to see if they are live or dead. You have no idea how many volts of electricity could be surging though that wire and subsequently through you.
Burn Marks on Outlets
A huge red flag that you should not dismiss is burn marks on the outlets. This is caused by an overloaded electrical panel. Outlets that are hot enough to have burn marks can melt electronics, and start fires. These are extremely dangerous and you should have an electrician over as soon as possible to address the issue.
Rust Colored Stains on Sinks
Rust stains are common in many homes in North America. It has been speculated that over 85% of homes have hard water. Having hard water isn’t the end of the world, but it can cause problems in the future. You can read more about the effects of hard water here.
To check if your prospective home has hard water you can check the most common places rust stains present themselves. These include tubs, showers, sinks, and toilets.
Soap Scum and Lime Scale
Looking for soap scum or lime scale on your appliances is another way to check if your home has hard water. Soap scum forms when the soap attaches itself to the dissolved solids in your water and sticks to your tub, showerhead, faucets, and many other water-using appliances.
If you find evidence of soap scum or lime scale, don’t pull your offer! This issue can easily be solved with a functioning water softener.
While viewing the home with your realtor or during an open house, pay attention to the temperature of each space or room. If you notice that the temperature upstairs is drastically different than the temperature of the rest of the house, often times hot and stuffy, there might be an issue with the ductwork. Duct issues can be as simple as a blockage in a duct or a disconnected duct. This is a pretty simple fix, if you have the right tools. However, since the ducts run throughout the entire home, it might be easier and safer to contact a professional.