Prospective buyers commonly submit offers that are conditional upon a satisfactory home inspection. An inspection that reveals problems or weaknesses in the property can result in a reduction in the sale price, delays or possibly the loss of the sale. Prudent homeowners conduct a careful examination of their home prior to listing their property. If they notice potential problems, they can decide whether or not to address them. In some cases, homeowners may decide to repair the problems on their own or hire a professional such as a roofer, furnace repairperson, etc., as required.
If you are planning to sell your home in the near future, be sure to include these items in your examination:
The roots of large trees growing close to a home may damage foundation walls or plumbing lines. Unhealthy trees can potentially fall onto the house. Branches that overhand a home can damage the roof and gutters. Consult a professional to address these situations.
Ideally, the ground should slope down from the house to prevent excess moisture along foundation walls that can result in wet basements. A leaking basement can be a sign that weeping tiles (drainage tiles) around the house have shifted.
If you cannot safely climb up onto the roof to inspect the chimney, you may be able to get an adequate view with binoculars. Check to see that the chimney is straight and that there are no noticeable signs of deterioration such as crumbling or missing mortar between bricks.
Once again, if you cannot safely climb onto the roof you may be able to get an adequate view with binoculars. Common roof problems include missing, warped, or damaged shingles and tiles. This type of damage can allow moisture to penetrate the building envelope. Also look for bent or drooping gutters; the weight of fallen leaves or overhanging branches may be the cause. If you have a slate roof, do not walk on it because the shingles can split; hire a professional to conduct an inspection.
Materials commonly used for siding include wood shakes and shingles, aluminum, vinyl, stucco, asbestos/cement shingles, brick and lumber. If the siding is painted, look for peeling or missing patches of paint. Check for warping and deterioration of the siding material caused by exposure to the elements. Wood siding is particularly susceptible to moisture and sun damage. Although brick is quite durable, the mortar between the bricks deteriorates over time; look for crumbling or missing mortar.
A basement is the root of a home; problems that begin in the basement can affect the condition of the entire structure. As a new home settles, it is common for cracks to appear in the cement. If the cracks are larger than 0.5cm (.025 inches) wide or they continue to appear years after the home was built, they may be an indication that the house is settling unevenly which can be a serious situation.
Basement design varies depending on the style of home construction and also on the amount of moisture and the quality of the soil in a particular region. Areas with heavy clay soils have poor drainage and as a result, water can seep into basements. Sump pumps are a common solution. If your basement has this type of water redirection system, ensure that the pump is in good working order. Of course, you do not need to live in an area with clay soil to experience flooding. Check for these signs of moisture penetration:
- Visible water
- A darkened or discoloured floor
- Mold growing on walls, pipes and furniture (remember mold is commonly black but it can be almost any colour)
- Rust on the water heater, washer and dryer or other metal items
- Warping or rotting at the base of a wooden staircase
Water heaters have a limited lifespan and it is very easy to determine if the water heater has broken because you will wake up to a cold shower! On functional water heaters, it is still important to check to see that the water line connections are not leaking and that there is non-flammable insulation around the tank.
Check the owners' manual to ensure that you are changing and/or cleaning the filter on schedule. Other than listening for unusual knocking sounds that can indicate something has broken, it can be difficult to evaluate a furnace without the assistance of a professional.
Look for signs of termite damage and rot due to excess moisture. Insulation and ventilation are important ways to reduce moisture and heat loss from your home.
If the house has a flat roof or cathedral ceilings, the home likely does not have an attic. However, the space between the roof and the ceiling of the upper floor should still have adequate ventilation and insulation to prevent excess moisture inside and a build-up of ice on the roof in the winter. If the home has an attic, check for signs of leaks, excess moisture, and mold growth. Check to see that the insulation is still in good condition; some types of insulation can settle over time.
Are the floors squeaky or sagging? The floor may not have been built with adequate support or a beam may be deteriorating (e.g. dry rot).
Do you have condensation inside double glazed windows (an indication of a broken seal) or condensation on the window surface (common with single pane windows that provide little insulation)?
Do you have condensation or leaks around skylights?
Do all the outlets work? If not, faulty wiring may be to blame. Due to the fire hazard risk, this is a problem worth investigating further with a professional.
Do the appliances work properly? Are there any leaks in the water line? Is the vent to the outdoors clogged with lint?
Do the appliances, exhaust fan, electrical outlets and lights work properly?
Rust stains around the bolts at the base of the toilet can indicate excess moisture in the room. Is the fan working properly to remove this moisture?
Even if home inspectors do not make note of some 'cosmetic' problems, you can be sure that buyers will notice. As you examine your home, look for signs of wear and tear such as scuffs and dents in baseboards and walls, cracked and chipped tiles, stains on the flooring, rusted faucets and cracked windows.
These tips can help you avoid surprises during a home inspection and give you an opportunity to correct some common problems before listing the home for sale. Hopefully, the home inspector (and your buyers) will give your home a clean bill of health!