What to Check Before Buying a House

house buying guide
Buying a home is a big investment. It’s fun to plan the interior decorating and landscaping, but when you’re inspecting it for the first time, don’t focus on these cosmetic aspects. Unless the house is brand new, chances are that it will need some repairs, so be prepared for hidden expenses.

Common problems

Holes in the roof are an obvious problem, but even if an older roof seems to be in good shape it could be hiding problems that will end up costing a lot to repair or replace. Check the outer walls and the interior ceilings for leaks and water damage. If the roof is shingled, look at the shingle edges and surfaces—if some are missing, cracked, warped, or rubbed smooth, that’s a warning sign that the roof needs some work.

Old, drafty windows add extra expenses to heating and cooling bills. As you explore the home, inspect the window frames for decaying wood, water stains, and mold. Open and close the windows in every room to make sure they work smoothly.

Look at the condition of the flooring. Inspect the carpets for unpleasant smells and stains, and if possible, look underneath them for water stains and mold. If there are hardwood floors, check for rough spots and splinters, and step heavily across the rooms to get a sense for loose joints and squeaky spots.

Open closets and cupboards, and peer under sinks. This is where you’ll find evidence of mold problems, mice or insect infestations, and leaky pipes.

bathroom tub

Hidden Problems

Some issues aren’t easy to spot. If the home appears to have relatively few obvious problems, the next step is to hire inspectors to check the electric wiring, the plumbing, and the heating and cooling systems.

Radon, a natural radioactive gas, can be a big health problem in older homes. Because it is invisible and has no smell, you’ll need to measure radon with a test kit (available at home improvement stores or online).

Finally, talk to the neighbors. They may be able to provide information about the history of the house, the problems that previous owners had to deal with, any renovations or repairs that have been made, and other details that don’t come up in any