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Home Buyers Guide to Inspections

   Interior
   Electrical
   Plumbing
   Site Drainage

Interior

Don't just look at the interior as a wonderful place to live, look for the clues that it can give about the rest of the house. Floors are not supposed to be unlevel, they should be solid and sturdy. Unlevel floors and doors that stick, bind or drag may indicate the structure has moved or settled. Are there cracks around the windows? Look for wear and tear and abuse. These may be indicative of how the owners maintained the property in general. If the appliances are damaged and old, the other systems may be also. Look at all stairs. Are they sturdy and easy to walk? Do they have good rails?

There are other concerns you may not be able to see. You may need to test for asbestos, radon gas, carbon monoxide, lead paint, formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, pesticides, or electromagnetic radiation.

Electrical

If the electricity is off you should find out why, and have it turned on to allow it and everything it operates to be inspected. Most people prefer breakers over fuses. There should be smoke detectors and Ground Fault Current Interrupters (GFCIs). Look for exposed and antiquated wiring. Check for extensive use of extension cords. This indicates the house is under wired.

A view of the structure looking down. Good drainage may be a simple solution but often isn't easy to create.

Plumbing

Much of the plumbing is concealed, but there are some areas you can check. If the water is off do not turn it on. It may be off for a reason. If the incoming line is slightly rough gray metal with a bulge at the connections, it may be lead piping. Rock the toilets to see if they move. Loose toilets may leak at the wax ring. Turn on two or three faucets at the same time to see if the flow decreases. The plumbing may require all new pipes if the decrease is severe. Look for mixed types of metal and plastic piping. This may indicate amateur repairs. Does the water drain slowly? Water stains around fixtures or on ceilings may indicate active leaks.

Site Drainage

Ideally, your house should be sited on top of a gentle hill. Water should run away from the foundation in all directions. Most sites are not this perfect. Look for any part of the site sloping toward the foundation. Run off from the site and the roof are main causes of wet crawl spaces and basements. There are many other concerns such as erosion, flooding, site slippage, earthquakes, and toxic waste. You can't "see" some of these and you should ask your agent, Home Inspector, and local government about them. Cracked driveways and overturning retaining walls could be clues to bigger problems.

Continue in the Home Buyers Guide to Inspections in the following sections:

Air Conditioning, Heating/Fireplace, Roof
Exterior, Foundation/Basement/Structure, Insulation, Water Problems

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