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  • Writer's picturePaul Cummins

Home Inspector's Guide to Assessing a House

We were stuck outside a house the other day for a pre-inspection. This picture shows my attempt to see inside the attic through the gable vent. Not very enlightening!

Well, I put together a little protocol for the potential buyers to use during the open house. They thought it was helpful. So, I'm expanding it a bit to include the outside of the house as well, plus some pointers for sellers.

FOR SELLERS: At the thermostat, switch the fan from AUTO to ON so that the house is always full of fresh air. If you don't have forced air in the house, turn on a bathroom fan. It only takes seconds for folks to see if the air quality is good. They also look for good light, so be strategic about the shades. Put in new HVAC filters and clean the grease filters over the stove by putting them in the dishwasher, if necessary.

OUTSIDE: Look for rippled or broken shingles; loose gutters or poor grading (should be away from the house); cracks at the corners of foundations; window condition; rotted wood; overall condition of the AC unit.

INSIDE: Overall air quality. Our noses are good at determining this. Is basement musty?

Look for any signs of water damage on ceilings or basement walls: dark spots or rusty rings or white salts.

Water heater condition. Look at seals on top. Is there an expansion tank? Is it well supported?

HVAC air handler. Overall condition. Any rust showing?

Look under kitchen sink. Any leaking?

Check draft hood fan or microwave fan. Is it drawing well?

Inspect visible pipes in basement. Lots of gray ones indicates polybutylene, which will need to be replaced. Any greening of copper pipes? White salts? Rusting of steel pipes?

If you can access the attic, look for dark spots on the roof sheathing. Make note of how deep the insulation is.

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