You don’t have to be an inspector to help your buyer clients spot potential issues with a home before they even make an offer. Let’s go with licensed real estate agent Matt Hernandez as he walks through a property, pointing out the spots that might have red flags for property damage.
Matt starts his inspection by looking at the exterior of the home. Check out the video:
Wow, Matt really knows his stuff, huh? Another exterior area Matt recommends checking for problems is the foundation.
The foundation is kind of a biggie in any house. It’s difficult and expensive to repair, and it’s something every licensed inspector is going to look at (remember, you’re not trying to replace the licensed inspector here, you’re just trying to help your client spot issues before they move forward with an offer).
What to Look for
Depending on where you live, you might see different kinds of foundations, but a concrete foundation is one of the most common ones. With a concrete foundation, you want to keep an out for:
Evidence of settling: Any cracks, bulges, disconnects, or buckles in either the foundation itself or the exterior of the home are indications the foundation might have settled.
Evidence of poor drainage: You don’t want water to sit against the foundation because that can lead to damage. Water draining under the house can cause settling and even cracking. If you see any water pooling beside the foundation, mud or dampness, or what looks like dirt that was washed away from the foundation, that’s a worrying sign.
Previous foundation repair: If you see places where the concrete is a different color or appears to have been patched, that’s a sign that a previous owner may have had to do some foundation repair. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s something to ask about.
If you notice any potential foundation issues, make sure to ask the seller about them. If your client does move forward with an offer, they’ll want to make sure the licensed inspector gives those problem spots a careful look. You might even want to bring in a specialist.
Now, let’s move to the interior of the home. First, check out this video where Matt shows us what to look for in a water heater and a bathroom:
What else should you be checking on the interior of the home?
First off, make sure all the walls look straight. There should be no wonky angles or uneven corners. Check walls for cracks or buckling, as this can indicate foundation settling. Especially check out where the corners of window frames and door frames meet the wall. A crack running diagonally out from a window or door frame is a sign the house has probably done some settling.
Where the Wall Meets the Ceiling
The line where the wall meets the ceiling is another place that can be a tell for all kinds of problems. If you look up and see bubbling paint, that might mean there are moisture problems. Sometimes you can see yellowing that indicates water has leaked there in the past.
If you see that the wall is starting to pull away from the ceiling creating a crack or gap, that’s another red flag for a foundation problem.
You want to see level flooring throughout the home. Keep an eye out for floors that buckle or bump, loose floorboards, or cracked tile. An uneven floor can point to foundation settling.
With a wood floor, walk around and listen for squeaky boards. An area of squeaking might mean there’s something up with the subfloor.
Open and close doors through the house. The door should pull open smoothly without getting stuck on the floor or jamb. A sticking door indicates that the door has gone out of plumb, perhaps due to settling. (See why that foundation is so important? Foundation problems can make problems throughout the house!)
Check the windows. Can you feel airflow? That means they’re not doing a good job insulating the home. That might mean higher utility bills because it will be harder to keep the home hot or cool. Check window sills and frames for evidence of leaking or moisture. You don’t want water coming through a window!
Obviously, you need an expert to give you their opinion about the electrical system as a whole, but when you’re walking through a property, you should keep your eyes peeled for signs something might be amiss with the electricity.
Are there lights or appliances that are plugged in but not working? Turn on and off light switches. Are any of the lights making a buzzing noise? That could mean electrical problems.
Plumbing is another system that your client will absolutely want to get examined by an expert, either a licensed inspector or a specialized plumbing inspector (or both). Still, there are some things you can check out during a walkthrough.
Turn faucets on and off to make sure that they work. In areas like kitchens and bathrooms, listen for the sound of running or dripping water. If you’re hearing the noise of water running and the sink is not turned on, that might mean something is leaking somewhere.
Those are just a few things to look out for when you’re looking at a home with a buyer client. While, again, you should never ever suggest that they forego a licensed inspector based on your knowledge (that is a liability no-no!), your clients will appreciate you being able to point out these issues before they even get an inspector involved.
Audrey has been an instructional content writer for Aceable since 2018, where she’s created 100+ hours of instructional content for real estate and driving courses. She has written about real estate for realtor.com and Homelight, and written about all kinds of things for Slate, Salon, Teen Vogue