Home buyers are in a tough spot right now.
In many cases, in order to compete and win, they’re forced to waive contingencies – including the home inspection.
As a result, many are spending top dollar for homes that, unbeknownst to them, could have significant defects. If left unrepaired, these issues could impact the home’s value, cost much more to repair down the road, and even pose safety risks!
There’s no substitute for a professional home inspection – but the more issues a Realtor can spot early in the process, the better protected their buyers will be in any market conditions!
To help, here are 10 hot spots where defects are commonly found during a home inspection. We’ve outlined the common defects, how to spot them, and the risks of non-repair.
The roof has one main job: to shed water from the home. If it’s not doing this, you could have a number of issues on your hands, including leaks, moisture, rot, and odor.
While you’re not likely to hop on the roof, you’ll want to at least step back and look for problem areas that may warrant a closer look:
- Missing shingles
- Obvious wear and tear
- Foliage (branches making contact with shingles)
- Skylights and plumbing vents (weak seals often cause leaks)
Siding, fascia, soffits: like the roof, they keep the elements out of the home.
Issues here can lead to energy loss, moisture, rot and – everyone’s favorite – rodents.
Simply walk the perimeter and watch for obvious defects:
- Missing pieces
- Gaps between siding, fascia, and soffits
And, pay special attention to wood siding; it should be painted every 4-6 years.
3. Wood Rot
Wood is often the structural framework of the home. Any defects impacting its strength and durability, therefore, could lead to serious issues and expensive repairs.
Wood rot, which is the decay of wood due to moisture and fungus, is a defect we repair often. Because it spreads, and termites just LOVE moisture, it’s important to recognize it and get it fixed.
Pay close attention to exposed wood – particularly around windows, doors, siding, and the foundation – and look for:
- Dark areas or discoloration
- Flaking and crumbling
And, while you’re at it, check for evidence of active wood destroying insects which may accompany wood rot:
- Mud tubes
- Termite swarms
- Discarded wings
4. Foundations/Crawl Space
This is arguably the most important part of the home: it supports everything that sits above it. Issues here can have a serious impact on not just the value of the home, but the safety of the people inside.
The most common issue is moisture. This will impact the structural integrity and, in many cases, homeowners won’t know there’s an issue until a major failure occurs.
Walk the home’s perimeter and, if you can, look inside the crawl space to check for the following warning signs:
- Standing water inside the crawlspace and around the perimeter of the home
- Wood rot
- Cracks in the foundation
Also, take note of the grading around the home as well as the positioning and condition of gutters and downspouts. When water is allowed to pool around the foundation, problems often follow.
5. Electrical Panel
It goes without saying that a home’s electrical systems should be in good working order – especially the panel, which controls electricity distribution throughout the home.
One issue we constantly encounter is double-tapping: two wires using the same fuse. The problem with double-tapping is that can overload a circuit breaker, potentially causing loose wire connections which could spark, continuously trip, overheat, or start a fire.
This is fairly easy to identify: simply open the panel cover and look for two wires in one fuse. It’s also relatively simple to remedy.
This is something that we fix often after a home inspection – and for good reason.
GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets protect you from electrocution. They do this by immediately stopping the flow of electricity if the current deviates from its expected path (like through water or to a human). Regular outlets can’t do this.
When walking through a home, check every room where there is moisture and ensure GFCI outlets are installed. Often, they have two buttons: TEST and RESET.
If they’re absent, install them promptly. It’s an inexpensive fix that can save lives.
7. Attic Insulation
A properly insulated attic keeps the home comfortable.
If insulation is missing, old, damaged, or of poor quality, homeowners can expect higher utility bills, inconsistent temperatures, and, potentially, mold and mildew due to excess warm and cold air transfer.
If you can, pop into the attic and look for missing pieces, wetness, or evidence of rodents.
Not only is this important to keep the home comfortable, but identifying these issues could also uncover other problems, such as a leaky roof.
8. HVAC and Ducts
Like the attic, the HVAC system provides comfort in terms of temperature, but also facilitates air filtration and ventilation, thus impacting air quality.
Where exposed, check ductwork for holes or gaps – and always ask for service records, especially if not indicated on the furnace or AC unit.
Routine maintenance goes a long way in prolonging the life of your HVAC system, reduces the frequency of breakdowns, keeps utility bills low, and ensures a more comfortable home.
And, check the filter; it should be changed once a month. If it’s caked in dust when the homeowners know buyers will be walking through, that could signal neglect and warrant further investigation.
9. Door and Window Operation
Other than frustrating homeowners on a daily basis, there are two main issues when doors and windows don’t open and close smoothly and snugly:
- Energy loss through gaps
- Safety! Gaps give intruders easier access, while “stuck” windows and doors make it tough to escape in an emergency such as a fire.
Test all windows and doors to make sure they operate as they should. If some do not – and there could be a number of reasons why this is the case – take note and get them repaired, especially windows and exterior doors.
10. Leaky Faucets and slow drains
Nothing is more annoying after paying top dollar for a home than a faucet that drips through the night or a sink that takes all morning to drain.
Frustrations aside, it’s important to fix these issues – especially clogged drains as they can lead to significant plumbing issues over time.
And no, we don’t recommend using drain cleaners as the chemicals can eat away at the fittings and cause more serious problems.
Test all the taps by turning them on, letting them run, then shutting them off to identify leaks and drainage issues.
Move Forward With Confidence
Again, there’s no substitute for a professional home inspection. But, by identifying common defects early – and providing repair solutions that will remedy them quickly – everyone will be able to move forward with more confidence.
Now, with the stakes so high for buyers, this is more important than ever.