Buying a house is a pressure-packed event in someone’s life. Not only is it a commitment to hundreds of thousands of dollars, but it’s also accepting a property in a certain condition. If you’re like most buyers, you want the property you buy to be in a condition that’s held to a reasonable standard, but your eyes may not see the whole story on their own. That is, unless you know what to look for. The first time you ever see a property is a make-or-break period. Not only will it determine whether or not you feel a property is right for you, but it will tell you what needs to be done to that property, and that could tremendously influence your perception of it. That means it’s extremely important to be thorough and know what you’re looking for when doing your initial walkthroughs of different homes or properties. Here is a short checklist of things to keep an eye out for and what you should be aware of when examining a potential property for the first time.
Plumbing ChecklistThe plumbing system is a great place to start because so much of your plumbing system is actually easily visible to the eye. You can see a lot of things for yourself, as you depend on them each and every day. This means it’s easy to determine their condition, see if there are any faults, and even spot signs of a leak or other problem that could potentially be dangerous.
- Check all fixtures for signs of a leak. Any signs of warping, bubbling, or discoloration on the walls or flooring around a toilet, sink, or shower are all signs that the water lines feeding that fixture could be leaking.
- Examine toilets, sinks, and bathtubs for any signs of dirt or mold growth along the walls. This is usually rather easy to spot, as it sticks out pretty readily on white tile or light-colored grout.
- Look for any exposed sections of plumbing lines, particularly around the garage or near the front of the property. If there are exposed lines, figure out if they are copper or a different type of metal. This may tell you if an older home has been properly repiped.
- If a home has a gas-burning stove, briefly turn on a single burner to see if it lights. If the igniter clicks but the burner never ignites, there could be a problem with the gas line that services the stove.
- Find the water heater and look for a manufacture date. If this date is 10 years or more in the past, then there’s a good chance the water heater will need to be replaced soon. Be sure to account for this if making an offer on a property.
Electrical ChecklistElectrical systems are a little bit more difficult to check, as they are not as visible to the eye as your plumbing system is. However, any home will tip its hand to any potential electrical faults if you know what to test and where to check for any potential problems.
- Look at all outlets in kitchens, bathrooms, utility rooms, and outdoor spaces. These should all be ground-fault circuit interrupter outlets (the ones with buttons labeled “test” and “reset”). Test a few of these GFCIs to see if they work. If not, they haven’t been replaced recently.
- Pay attention to the lighting and see if it adequately fills and illuminates the rooms it is in. In some cases this could be a sign that the current owner simply isn’t using a bright enough bulb. In other cases, it could be a sign that the electrical lines feeding this lighting are not adequate or may have some significant problems.
- Look for any flickering lighting, as this is a sign of an electrical system that is growing significantly more inconsistent.
- If a home was built in the mid-1970s or earlier, check the electrical panel and see if it was manufactured by either Zinsco or Federal Pacific. If it is, this panel has been recalled and needs to be replaced as soon as possible. This will likely be a significant expense.