Updated May 10th, 2019
Before you speak to a home inspector, it can't hurt to check things out yourself. The good thing about doing a DIY home inspection is that it's tough to do it wrong.
You can't replace a professional service but it can highlight some glaring problems. This is useful; not only does it allow you to get things fixed before the official inspection but it helps you feel more at ease. A big list of problems is more daunting to tackle than a smaller list even if the total labor ends up being the same for you in the end.
There are some aspects of inspection you may not have the best idea about. If the window frames are busted up, do you need to replace the entire window? Depending on the age or extent of damage, the answer might be yes. Or it might be no. This is where a professional home inspector comes in. They'll tell you the things you can't tell yourself based on local ordinance and the standards of home construction today.
Getting Your DIY Home Inspection Started
Your own personal home inspection can take on many forms, and you can use your creativity and judgment here. Some people like to incorporate a physical checklist where they go down the list and manually fill in forms about what they're seeing. Others are content to just file the knowledge away mentally for when they can get the problem addressed. There is no right or wrong way to do this, so take the approach that suits you best.
You'll want to wear gloves and make sure you're not wearing any overly loose or fragile clothing if you plan on getting into tight spots or crawling around in crawlspaces and attics. If you have designated ‘work' clothes, wear those.
Next, you'll want to bring some tools along. A bright flashlight is a given but you will also want to make sure that you have a couple of different kinds of screwdrivers with you. A flathead screwdriver can be used to pry things open while a Phillips-head screwdriver can open panels that you might need to take a gander in (such as ducts).
Now you're equipped for the job and ready to start inspecting. This list isn't exhaustive but is certainly a wonderful place to start.
1. Check the attic, cellar/crawl-space, and exterior for rotting wood.
The three mentioned areas are hotbeds for the challenges rotting wood provide. It is easy to spot, somewhat easy to fix, but catastrophic if left unchecked. Replace any rotting wood you find to ensure integrity is tip-top and to address any unsightly concerns a potential buyer might have.
2. Check the top of the house for clogged gutters and roof damage.
This might be difficult to do if you have an aversion to heights, but it's good practice to check the top region of your home for anything that may be amiss. Make sure that your roof isn't sinking or otherwise in disrepair, ensure that your tiling/shingles aren't on top of older layers, and check the gutters thoroughly. They should be empty, rust-free, and secured snugly to the house. The gutters should also be attached to something that directs any water flow away from the walls.
3. Check pipes for leaks.
Ensure that the pipes beneath sinks and behind faucets are leak-free and up to a respectable standard. Any DIY repairs you've done in the past should likely be replaced with new piping before you put the home on the market. If you have a crawlspace or an exposed basement, you will need to check the piping there as well.
4. If applicable, clean and check your chimney and fireplace.
While some modern homes have ‘fake' variations for aesthetic purposes, it's still incredibly common to have a home with a functional chimney and fireplace. If you fall into that category, it is worth investing the time and money into making sure both are cleaned and up to spec. Check the construction for cracks and missing pieces, ensure the passage is clear of debris and soot, and test it out in case you haven't used it before.
5. Inspect the exterior and basement for foundation damage.
This is where it's better to be safe. It is easy to dismiss small cracks and stains, but this grows more challenging when you get inspected by a professional and a lineup of potential buyers. Investigate the ‘bottom' of your house from the outside and then finally from within your basement for water damage, cracks in the foundation, and mold in any free-hanging insulation.
6. Ensure all appliances and glass are properly maintained.
Now is the time to make those fixes that you muse over but never got around to doing. Replace broken glass in the windows, give all your glass and mirrors a proper cleaning, and make sure your appliances are up to snuff. This includes any faucets in your home. Problems with the water pressure? Is water not coming out right? Puddles beneath the washing machine? Check everything out and get any issues solved. Many of these problems are simple repairs that you can do yourself without any financial investment.
7. Go over your property for sinkholes and other outdoor threats.
Cut back any trees that are hanging over your roof. If it rains and there are deep puddles of water, check for sinkholes or damage to the septic tank (if applicable). Fix any damage to the fences. Fill any holes made by interloping wild animals. These are easy things to see and easy problems to solve.
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