Make Home Inspections an Annual Event

Filed in Construction by on September 24, 2014

Home InspectionWhen you talk about home inspections, most people assume you’re talking about an inspection completed by a professional home inspector for a potential buyer prior to purchasing a home. Certainly both a buyer and seller should evaluate a property prior to a sale – the buyer to find out as much as possible about the home and its potential maintenance expenses and a seller to assess the condition to gain the highest price.

Actually, home inspections in outstate Minnesota are not that common, but they should be. In many municipalities in the Twin Cities area, a home inspection is required prior to any residential home transaction.

Even if you’re not buying or selling your home, fall is a good time to inspect your property. By evaluating your home annually, you will know what’s needed to maintain or increase its value. It always amazes me how many projects can be overlooked by the people who live in a home. We just get used to seeing them – until it’s time to sell or prepare for a big entertaining event.

After doing that far too many times myself, I have a new philosophy: Get those things done so that we can enjoy them while we live here. I am tired of completing work for the next owner as we prepare to sell.

Take an objective look at your house on an annual basis. Use a checklist, checking off the items in good condition and making notes about those that aren’t. Here are some categories for your list:

Landscaping: The biggest problem I see is improper drainage from the house. Does the soil grade away from the house in all directions? Look for standing water and branches or bushes touching the house or roof. Are the driveway and sidewalks in good condition? Do the gutters and downspouts drain away from the house?

House structure: Does everything appear straight and plumb? Is there bowing or sagging to the walls or roof, or any visible cracks in the foundation?

Exterior surfaces: Are there any stains or discoloration? Is there adequate space from the ground to wood siding; any cracking, curling or decay to the siding, shingles or windows; or any flaking of exterior paint?

Windows, doors and wood trim: Are windows and doors secure, without any broken glass or damaged screens? With wood clad windows, is there any sign of decay or flaking paint? Is the interior trim and base in place and in good condition?

Roof: Is there any bowing or sagging to the roof? Any curling shingles or loss of granulation in the gutters or damaged and missing shingles? Are all of the vents on the roof free of obstructions?

Attics: Are there any stains on the underside of the roof or evidence of decay or structural damage? Is the attic properly vented? Is there enough insulation?

Interior rooms: Is the paint in good condition, without any staining or cracks? Are the floor coverings clean? Do the interior doors operate properly, and are there new batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors?

Kitchens and bathrooms: Are the exhaust fans working? Are the cabinets in good condition and operating properly?

Plumbing: Check all visible pipes for damage or evidence of leaks and water stains on materials near plumbing. Look for rust on the water heater. Do all sinks drain properly, and is there good water flow at each faucet?

Electrical: Unless you are experienced with electrical, there is not a lot you can inspect. Check your ground fault outlets. Do all the switches work properly, and are there working bulbs in all of the lights?

Heating/cooling systems: Again, unless you are experienced, there is not a lot you can inspect. Change the air filter and look for rusting around appliances. Does the system seem to heat/cool evenly?

This is a short list but things that any homeowner can inspect. Just the idea of looking at your home objectively will help you identify maintenance issues. if you are not comfortable with these inspections or find problems beyond your knowledge, please hire a professional home inspector.

If you do hire a professional, check his or credentials and make sure the inspector is qualified. Unfortunately, there is no license requirement in Minnesota for home inspectors, so they come with very different degrees of knowledge. A good inspection by a professional will take between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 hours and will include a written report.

Good luck with your inspection and, as always, remember to measure twice and cut once.

by John Burns, an appraiser and advertising consultant for Lake and Home Magazine.

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