Home inspection checklist: What to look out for when buying your first home

February 3, 2021

Found a house that you might be interested in and attending your very first open? There sure are many things to look out for besides the stunning interiors. 

Are inspections necessary?

You might be wondering whether there’s an actual need for inspection when you’re buying your first home. 

A definite answer would be yes, there is an actual need for it because it affects a variety of things. Property inspection helps you identify the existing problems of the house, as well as to check on things like structural integrity.

Identifying the problems early on would allow you to

  1. Get leverage when making negotiations.
  2. Make better decisions on whether the problem is something that you’re okay with when purchasing the property.
  3. Decide on a course of action to take after you have successfully purchased the property to fix those problems.

Knowing these advantages, buying your first house can be daunting when you don’t know what to look out for. Here’s a simple checklist to refer to when you’re inspecting a prospective property.  

1. Walls

The things to look out for when inspecting the walls are 

  1. Cracks larger than 5mm in width
  2. The paint job on places such as corners and window frames
  3. Bumps in wall

Do look out for signs of subsidence.  It is the sudden sinking or gradual downward settling of the ground’s surface, causing the land and the building to move. This movement can cause cracks in the walls or floors.

There is a Building Code of Australia (BCA) where tolerance width for wall cracks are acceptable for cracks 5mm and below. Anything above 5mm is considered dangerous and would require repair for a whole or partial replacement for the wall.

Bumps in walls are usually signs of pipe leakage or failure of waterproofing behind walls. These might cause long term damage to surrounding furniture such as rusting on door frames. This can be a potential costly issue as you might need to fork out $10,000 or more for repairs if the problem is left ignored.

2. Flooring

The things to check when inspecting the flooring are

  1. Uneven floors
  2. Sinking floors
  3. Squeaky floors
  4. Cracks larger than 2mm for concrete floors

Uneven floors could also be caused by subsidence and even by extreme environmental events such as flash floods. Nevertheless, uneven floors indicate structural damage and can be a safety hazard. 

Sinking floors are a common issue when you’re buying an established home since the cause of it is age. Moisture and water weaken the structural foundation over time and hence it causes the floors to subside.

Another cause might be termite infection and it happens when they eat the timber work from inside out. 

Similar to sinking floors, squeaky floors are a common occurrence in older properties. The most common cause for squeaky floors is unsecured sub-floor structure. This happens when there is a gap between the top of the floor joist and the underside of the subfloor, causing the wood to depress and “squeak” when there is stress placed on it. 

3. Electricity

It is important to check the condition of electricity around the house. If left unchecked, things such as exposed wiring could endanger you when you move in. The things to check for are

  1. Uncovered permanent wiring
  2. Exposed wires
  3. Switches
  4. Testing safety switches
  5. Smoke detectors 

Things like uncovered permanent wiring and testing of smoke detectors are best left to electricians to do testing during the pre-purchase phase of your house.

However, the things you’re able to check for would be testing if switches are operating properly. You can easily do that by bringing a charger to plug into each outlet. 

Exposed wires can be easily identified by searching for holes in the outer rubber wiring where you’re able to see the bare wires inside. They can be located around the house that might be under frequent movements such as underneath the carpet. Frequent movements can cause wear and tear over time, resulting in exposed wires. 

Did you know that it is recommended to have an electrical inspection if your house is more than 25 years old?

4. Living Spaces

Things to check in living spaces are

  1. Water damage
  2. Discoloration on ceilings/walls/floors
  3. Wood warping
  4. Musty/sour smell

Molds are something that you want to take note of when inspecting living spaces. They are most commonly observed in high-moisture areas such as bathrooms and bedrooms. 

Discoloration on surfaces, wood warping is usually tell tale indicators of mold growth. 

While some people are unaffected by mold spores, it can have a serious effect on those with allergies. If you or any of your family members suffer from allergies or asthma, it is especially important to look out for these.

Even for those unaffected by allergies, it is shown that mold is bad for your health. Mold releases allergens in the air and these allergens can cause eye irritation and nasal stuffiness. These effects can hinder your experience at home.

5. Roof

The things to check when you’re inspecting the roof would be

  1. Gutters
  2. Roof tiles

The gutters and roof plumbing protects your home from water damage. They stop water from pooling up on your roof and direct water away from your foundations. They enable safe drainage of rainwater and without it, water can build up in unwanted areas causing water damage to the house structure. 

It is important to check that the gutters are not blocked to ensure smooth roof plumbing. It also involves things like downpipes, mountings, wear and tear inspection that you are unable to check without a professional. Hence, it is recommended that you engage a professional as they can check all of the above for you. 

You can check the roof tiling by looking at external roof lines to see if they are straight and free from deflections. Slanted or missing tiling might result in water leakage and buildup, causing structural damage. 

These are some of the things you must check during your first home inspection to identify the potential problems early on. Specific problems could easily be spotted by a surveyor when you go for the second round of inspections.

Ultimately, it pays to be thorough and these inspections can be the difference between buying your dream home and stepping into a costly nightmare.

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