Think of all the elements that make up the value of a home. Crime rate, school district, local unemployment levels, neighborhood upkeep qualities, is the area rising or falling in quality, any major changes coming like an airport, ballpark, or industrial area. These major changes can impact the future value of your home and the quality of your lifestyle, too.
More subtle, but just as important are these considerations. Is the homeowners association solvent, are there any bad neighbors, any soil or flooding conditions in this general area?
Take a small pug-in night light with you, and a spare bulb. Plug into every outlet, top and bottom including the kitchen counter and the garage and yard plugs. A regular outlet looks like a little face with two eyes and a mouth. If you find an upside down face, mouth on top and eyes at the bottom, this is called a “half hot.” That means half is always active and the other half is connected to a wall switch. This gives you the chance to have a table light come on when you walk into a room by flipping a switch near the door. So plug in the night light and flip the switch on and off to make sure they work together.
Also check to make sure the outlets and switch are securely fastened to the drywall or wood to which they are attached. They should not move around, at all.
Creaky floors are not usually anything dangerous but they can be a nuisance. Or they can be a great alarm system for keeping the kiddies in bed at night, or the dieter out of the refrigerator in the wee hours. They are usually caused by a nail or screw through the floor decking near the floor joist beneath it. The nail slides down the edge of the wood instead of into it. Caught during construction it is easy to repair. After the flooring goes down, not so easy. So walk across every square foot of your floors when they have just been finished.
Homes are exposed to a lot of water and moisture during construction. This is normal. Having residual problems is not normal and can be a real danger to your health and the value of the home. Have a mold test done by a licensed company just to be sure. Look under every sink and toilet and use your hands to feel for water on pipes or on cabinets. If you see signs of a leak or feel water, you may wish to have the contractor look into it with you, especially for anything that might lead to mold growth.
Get down low and look across floors. Do they look level? If you see a drop off, then go outside to see if there is any other consideration like cracked footings, cracking stucco or bricks, siding separating, or soil erosion lurking that might indicate that that corner of the home has dropped or will do so in the future. Walk and feel for any ground water.
Make sure the builder has cleaned everything like window tracks, flower beds, and in the attic. There should not be much construction material left in the home when they finish, if any.
Get your ladder and take a peak in the attic. Just before you remove the crawl space hatch put on the latex gloves so that you do not leave fingerprints on the new paint. Also, if you touch the insulation this will protect at least your hands from the irritation of fibreglass cuts. If you go up there be extraordinarily careful not to step through or fall through the ceiling to an uncertain fate below. In the attic look for rodent droppings, water stains that might be signs of a leak, make sure that all areas have been properly insulated and no areas were missed.
Let’s go outside.
Examine the edges of windows and doors, especially underneath where you don’t normally look. Are there any gaps in materials that look open or are exposing the materials normally under your exterior coatings like siding, stone, brick, or stucco. Stand back and look to see that all materials are reasonably alike in color with patterns of application that seem consistent.
Look at the corners of windows and doors. Are the pieces of the framing tightly attached to each other. Are there any cracks leading through the surface materials, like stucco, out into the field. Minor cracks are normal. Major, or many cracks, may be a sign of improperly settled, or moving or expanding, soils under the house. If you see this, then another inspection by a professional is critical. Nothing is more important to the long term value of the home than whether it properly relates to the soil.
Note: A home is made of materials that move, expand and contract placed into directcontact with other materials that are solid and immovable. A concrete slab shouldn’t move at all. Wood framing moves all the time. You can see that this mechanical enigma will create small cracks. Dry wall sheets don’t move. So if you have doubts about the number and size of cracks consult an inspector.
Concrete both inside and outside will usually have small cracks. A “cracked slab” is one where the cracks are large enough to slide a pencil into and ultimately signal that a lot of movement is going on in the slab. This can separate electrical lines and create a fire hazard, break water pipes and create sewer line separations. All bad. If you suspect a cracked slab, hire a soils inspector to tell you what is going on. If they cannot tell you or the report is bad, buy another house not this one.
Driveways, garage floors in some cases, patios, and sidewalks are less critical in terms oftheir danger to the integrity of the home’s mechanical system. You may find more cracking there than inside the home. If you have the opportunity to examine the home before the new carpet goes down, do so.
Walk every square foot of the land, including flowerbeds. Does anything sink down when you walk on it? Is it spongy or outright wet? Why? Look for low spots where water could accumulate. Do the neighboring properties drain into their own, or onto your property? Does the land slope away from the home or slope toward it. If it slopes toward it, are there proper drainage swales to draw the water off and away from the footings of the home? Check to see if yard drains look plugged. Is there any area where dirt is washed away? Do the hose bibs outside seem to be operational? Check gutters and downspouts to see if they seem to be solid and well attached. See where the gutter water is directed and make sure it flows away from the footings of the home.
Lean against all fences and make sure they do not move.
Is the lawn and are the gardens consistently green or are there brown areas or dead areas where the sprinklers may not be working.
WHEN YOU ARE FINISHED BE SURE TO TURN EVERYTHING OFF. NOTHING LIKE HACKING OFF THE SELLER BY LEAVING THE AIR CONDITIONING AND THE OVEN ON. REMEMBER YOU WILL BE ASKING THEM FOR THINGS IN THE NEGOTIATIONS AND YOU WANT THEM TO LIKE YOU. LOCK UP THE HOUSE WELL AND PUT EVERYTHING BACK WHERE YOU FOUND IT.
SEE CHECKLIST 4 – SELF INSPECTION, at the end of the book.
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