Safety Information Center
Pre-Purchase Home Inspection

Pre-Purchase Home Inspection

Tips to protect your interests before you buy your new home

Whether you are buying an old or newer home, it is in your best interest to have the property inspected before you make that down payment. Hiring a licensed home inspector is the best road map to finding your dream house. Although a qualified inspector will be able to provide you with a detailed analysis of many aspects of the house, here are a few of the most common problems they, and you, should look for.

Electrical

Electrical service that is inadequate to meet the demand of the household can cause wires to overload and start a fire. Older homes in particular tend to have electrical service patched together and added on as the demand grew. Today’s lifestyles place additional demands on home electrical systems not anticipated when first built, including computers, microwave ovens, larger refrigerators, air conditioners, more lighting and television/video centers.

Roof

Old or damaged shingles, improper flashing and broken gutter and drainage systems can all contribute to roof leaks and water damage around the house.

Heating System

Old and inefficient furnaces and heating systems, old duct work, malfunctioning thermostats and controls can pose costly problems. Blocked chimneys and poorly vented heating systems can pose a health threat to occupants.

Drainage

Improperly graded property that slopes toward the house can result in water penetration in basements and crawl spaces, and damage to foundation walls.

Plumbing

Faulty and inefficient fixtures, lead water pipes, non-compliant gas lines, inadequate or old waste pipes, and a mix of incompatible piping materials can present problems. Water heaters should meet the needs of the occupants.

Structure

Foundation walls, floor joists, rafters, windows and doors and sky lights should all be examined for cracks and air/water leakage.

Maintenance

Observing an overall pattern of poor maintenance is often a signal of trouble. Crumbling masonry, makeshift wiring, peeling paint, cracked cement surfaces, broken fixtures and appliances may indicate that other, even more important problems, have been neglected.

Insulation

Inadequate or cracked caulking around windows and doors, and insufficient wall and attic insulation drive up winter heating costs.

Poor Ventilation

A house can also be too "tight" through over-sealing. It can result in excessive interior moisture, which can rot wood portions of the structure.

Additional Tests

Separate inspections for termite infestation, asbestos, radon, well-water contamination, and other potential hazards are often advisable.

Inspecting with the Inspector

Be sure to accompany your home inspector to see any problems first hand. Take notes and be sure to ask questions about mechanical operations and emergency shut-offs so you can familiarize yourself before you have a problem. Be sure to ask for life-expectancies on major appliances, HVAC and the roof.

Note: These tips are designed to help you assess the safety and maintenance of your home and property, and to offer some precautions. Application of any or all of these suggestions may not prevent damage or protect you, or your property from harm. Your knowledge of the situation, use of your common sense and compliance with local and state codes should direct your course of action. These recommendations may or may not have any relationship to your insurance coverage.
This article was prepared by Direct Response Corporation, on December 6, 2006 as a service to you.