The Savvy Homebuyer’s Guide: Performing a DIY Home Inspection (in Addition to Hiring a Pro)

Mike Wallin
Published on August 22, 2023

The Savvy Homebuyer’s Guide: Performing a DIY Home Inspection (in Addition to Hiring a Pro)

So, you’ve finally found “the one” – your dream home. The excitement is real, but before you dive headfirst into making an offer, it’s crucial to thoroughly understand the property’s condition.

That’s where a home inspection comes into play. While hiring a professional home inspector is highly recommended, there are a few things you, as a savvy homebuyer, can do to perform your own DIY home inspection. Today, we’ll walk you through the process, giving you peace of mind and helping you perform your due diligence.

First, we need to be very clear

A DIY home inspection does not replace the need for a professional inspection. A qualified home inspector has the experience, knowledge, and equipment to identify potential issues you might overlook.

However, conducting a preliminary inspection yourself can help you spot any obvious red flags and provide a foundation for meaningful discussions with the professional inspector. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get started.

Start with a visual assessment

Take a good look at the exterior of the house. Look for any signs of damage, such as cracks in the foundation, peeling paint, or sagging gutters. Walk around the property, checking the condition of the roof, windows, siding, and doors. Take note of any visible issues that might require further investigation.

Inspect the electrical system

Begin by checking the condition of the electrical panel. Look for signs of rust, burn marks, or loose connections.

Test the light switches and outlets in different rooms to ensure they are functional. Pay attention to any flickering lights or buzzing sounds which might indicate electrical problems.

Feel the outlet plates. “Electric current may make a switch plate slightly warm to the touch, but if the outlet is uncomfortably hot, turn off whatever is plugged in and try it in another outlet.”

“If the outlet grows hot even without anything plugged in, it may be wired incorrectly,” according to the professionals with Underwriters Laboratory, a non-profit organization that performs testing for public safety.

They also recommend that you check the outlets in the kitchen and bathrooms. “… both require special shock-resistant outlets called ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).” These are the outlets with two buttons on the face, often one red and one black.

Examine the plumbing

Check for leaks under sinks, around toilets, and in the basement or crawlspace. Run faucets in all sinks and showers to test water pressure and drainage.

Flush toilets to ensure they are in proper working order. Don’t forget to inspect the water heater and look for any signs of corrosion or water damage.

Assess the HVAC system

Test the heating and cooling systems to ensure they are working properly. Adjust the thermostat and listen for any unusual noises coming from the furnace or air conditioning unit.

Investigate the home’s structural integrity

Look for any cracks or unevenness in the walls, floors, or ceilings. These could be signs of foundation issues or settling. Rockford Mutual Insurance Company offers a list of additional things to look for that may indicate foundation problems.

Open and close doors and windows to ensure they operate smoothly. If possible, access the attic or crawl space to check for any signs of pests, water damage, or insulation problems.

Check for water intrusion

Inspect the basement or crawl space for signs of water intrusion, such as dampness, mold, or mildew. Look for moisture stains on walls or ceilings throughout the house, which could indicate leaks or previous water damage.

Evaluate the exterior

Walk around the property and assess the condition of the siding, roof, and gutters. Look for any signs of damage, missing shingles, or loose gutters that could potentially lead to water infiltration.

Don’t forget the yards

Stroll through the yard, paying attention to the grading and drainage. Ensure that water flows away from the foundation to prevent water-related issues. Look for overgrown trees or branches that threaten the house or power lines.

Remember, while a DIY home inspection can provide valuable insights, hiring a professional home inspector to comprehensively examine the property is essential.

A professional will thoroughly assess the structural elements, electrical and plumbing systems, and more, using specialized tools and expertise. Their unbiased evaluation will give you a comprehensive understanding of the property’s condition, helping you make an informed decision about your purchase.

When hiring a professional home inspector, do your due diligence. Seek recommendations, read reviews, and ensure they are licensed and certified.

Accompany the inspector during the inspection, ask questions, and take notes. This will further enhance your understanding of the property and any potential issues.

Combining your initial assessment with a thorough professional inspection gives you the confidence to make an informed decision about one of the most significant investments in your life – your new home.

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