Everyone brings their own priorities to the table when checking out homes for sale. Some folks drive street-by-street through their favored neighborhoods, eliminating or accepting a possibility after that first curb-appeal impression. Others trawl through the web listings, prioritizing by price, or lot size, or by number of bedrooms. Regardless of how they determine which homes get a second look, savvy buyers eventually compare the amount of repair work each will need. They try to think like an inspector.
This is not to suggest that anyone except an experienced professional will be able to complete a thorough inspection – you need a pro for that. Nevertheless, while you are first comparing properties, putting on your inspector’s hat can help you whittle down the field.
If you watch an inspector at work, you will first notice that he or she spends an inordinate amount of time looking upward, so that’s a good place to start. An older home may have roofing issues, since some materials are made to last only about 15 to 30 years. Homes for sale with ceilings that show staining, corners with peeling paint, or buckled plasterboard are tip-offs that damage might already have taken place. An exterior walk-around to check for irregularities in the roof could be an indication of needed repair or replacement, and that can get expensive. Look for cupping or blistered shingles or exposed matrix (the stuff under the shingles).
Then look down. Again, the usual suspect is water damage -- an initial cause of foundation problems, mold and rot issues. Inspect the walls and exposed foundation for discoloration or patching. Then, before you take off your inspector’s hat, look for poor drainage: sloping which leads toward rather than away from the house itself. Drainage that leads toward the home can cause water damage you may never have suspected without crawling under the house -- damage to crawlspaces, walls and foundation. Of course, it's not up to you to get underneath to verify any moisture, but it's a good thing to alert your home inspector to if you suspect there might be issues.
These are only a few examples of elements that are sometimes overlooked when weighing the merits of homes for sale. If you choose an experienced agent to collaborate in your search, you will be sure to get an objective point of view in helping you avoid unexpected expensive repair work – from first walk-through to the final professional inspection you will want before signing on the dotted line.