How to Look

at a House


A blog with answers
to your questions about
HOME INSPECTION
and HOME MAINTENANCE

Welcome to our blog!
We want you to be an informed homebuyer, and each blog post is a question that we have answered for our friends and customers over the years. Hope they help you make a good choice for your next home.

  1. 2)Check the slope of the land around the house. Ideally, the ground should slope away from the house in all directions. If the house is built on the side of a hill or other sloping site, you want to see evidence that a pad of fill was added to provide the necessary ground slope away from the house for at least a few feet all around. Look for small gullies or other evidence of site drainage problems. Also, make sure that the neighboring land does not drain onto the property.

  2. 3)Sight down the walls. Walls that are in structural distress bulge in or out. Look for diagonal cracks at corners, or at the tops and bottoms of  windows and doors—a sign of settling or lifting of the ground under the home. Listen, smell, and feel. Squeaks in a wood floor, traffic noise noticeable inside the home, a moldy smell, or the feel of a sagging floor as you walk across it are all things you will detect when you use all your senses while looking at a house.

  3. 4)Open the electric panel door. No electrical knowledge necessary for this. First, notice whether the panel has circuit breakers (rows of switches) or fuses (little glass circles). Fuses indicate an ancient electrical system. Look at main disconnect switch for a number, which is the size of the panel in amps. It will be 100, 125, 150, 200, or 225. Older panels are 100 or 125 amps and may not be adequate for the long list of appliances used today in a home. Holes in the front of the panel cover and unprotected wires (not in conduit) around the panel box will be a problem.

  4. 5)Test a few windows. They should open easily and stay in place when released. Clouded-over glass indicates an insulating window that has lost the gas between the twin panes. Stuck windows could just be old or the result of structural settlement of the wall around it.

  5. 6)What’s missing? Is there a dishwasher in the kitchen, a garage door opener, a dryer receptacle and vent in the laundry, and water service for the refrigerator? These things are sometimes not there in older houses.

  6. 7)Look up and down. Look up for overhanging tree branches and the condition of the soffit (underside of roof overhang) and facia, and down at the ground for trip hazards and damage along the base of home. On the inside, scrutinize ceilings and floors for stains, cracks, or other defects. Try to sweep your view top to bottom as you go.

  7. 8)Check out the pipes. While you may not know much about plumbing, you can recognize leak stains at pipe joints, corrosion at shut-off valves, and haphazard homeowner plumbing repairs. Be sure to look at the top of the water heater and peek into the cabinets under sinks.

  8. 9) Be there for the inspection. While it is important to have a good home inspector evaluate the house after your offer has been accepted, it’s  equally important that you be there for the inspection. Review your concerns with the inspector at the beginning and ask lots of questions. Your understanding of the home will be much more complete if you be sure to attend the home inspection.

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  To learn more strategies for getting the best possible home inspection, here’s a few of our other blog posts:

  1. How can I make sure I don’t get screwed on my home inspection?

  2. Should I trust the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement?

  3. Can I do my own home inspection?

  4. How can homebuyers protect themselves against buying a home over a sinkhole?

  5. What makes a house fail the home inspection?

  6. The seller gave me an old home inspection report from a previous home inspection. Should I use it or get my own inspector?

  7. Why are expired building permits a problem for both the buyer and seller of a home?   

    To read about issues related to homes of particular type or one built in a specific decade, visit one of these blog posts:

  1. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1950s house?

  2. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s home?

  3. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1970s house?

  4. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1980s house?

  5. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1990s house?

  6. What problems should I look for when buying a country house or rural property?

  7. What problems should I look when when buying a house that has been moved?

  8. What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been vacant or abandoned?

  9. What are the most common problems with older mobile homes?

  10. What should I look for when buying a “flipper” house?

  11. What should I look for when buying a former rental house?

While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here.
© McGarry and Madsen Inspection


More Blog Posts on Similar Subjects:

  1. Should a home inspection scare you?

  2. What is the difference between an appraisal and a home inspection?

  3. Are you licensed and insured?

  4. We looked at the house carefully, and it seems alright. Do we really need a home inspection?

  5. Is a home inspection required?

  6. What is the difference between “character” and a defect in an old house?

  7. Should I be there for the inspection?

  8. What tools do you use for a home inspection?

  9. Is it common for an insurance company to require an inspection?

  10. The seller has to fix everything you find wrong with the house, right?

  11. Can I do my own home inspection?

  12. Is it still possible to do an inspection if there’s no electricity or water?

  13. What’s the difference between a roof inspection and a roofing estimate?

  14. Should I hire an engineer to inspect the house?

  15. Do inspectors go on the roof? Do they get in the attic?

  16. What should I look for when buying a former rental house?

  17. What happens at a home inspection?

  18. Does the home inspector also check for termites?

  19. What different types of specialized inspections can I get?

  20. What are the questions a home inspector won’t answer?

  21. What is the difference between a building inspector and a home inspector?

  22. What do I need to know about buying a 1950s house?

  23. What is the difference between a home inspection and a final walkthrough inspection?

  24. Should the seller be at the home inspection?

  25. What is the average lifespan of a house?

  26. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s home?

  27. Should I use my realtor’s home inspector or choose one myself?

  28. Should I use a contractor or a home inspector to inspect a house I’m buying?

  29. Should I get a home inspection before signing a contract to buy the house?

  30. Can a home inspector do repairs to a house after doing the inspection?

  31. What is a “continuous load path”?

  32. When did the first Florida Building Code (FBC) begin and become effective?

  33. Should I only hire an inspector that is a member of a national association like ASHi, InterNACHI, or NAHI?

  34. What is a “cosmetic” defect in a home inspection?

  35. Where are the funny home inspection pictures?

  36. Should I follow the inspector around during the inspection?

  37. Why do realtors call some home inspectors “deal killers”?

  38. How can I reduce the risk of an expensive surprise when buying a house sight unseen?

  39. Does my home have to be inspected to get insurance?

  40. Who should pay for the home inspection?

  41. Can you do a home inspection in the rain?

  42. What are the most Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) at a home inspection?

  43. What are the common causes of ceiling stains in a house?

  44. Does a home inspector give cost estimates for repairs?

  45. What are the pros and cons of concrete block versus wood frame construction?

  46. Are there any minimum inspection standards that a Florida licensed home inspector must meet?

  47. Can a Florida licensed contractor do home inspections without having a home inspector license?

  48. Should I buy a house that has been remodeled/renovated without building permits or has open permits?

  49. Does a homebuyer need to ask the seller’s permission to do additional inspections after the initial one?

  50. What does a home inspection include?

  51. Why do home inspectors sometimes specify “further evaluation and possible repair” instead of a specific repair or replacement?

  52. The one question we get asked most often: “Will that be in the report?”

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