Inspecting a property should be done any time it changes hands, whether the situation is sale, rental or lease. Both the party handing the premises off and the party taking possession should do a property walk through in addition to the official property inspection which should be carried out by a professional. The following checklist is a guideline only; not all properties will include everything on the list. However, it can serve as a fairly comprehensive guide to the main things which should be checked out.
- Property exterior – structural safety
- Foundation If the foundation cracked or wet or the structure is leaning badly, serious foundation damage may have occurred. Have a foundation repair specialist check it out.
- Roof The roof should be in good repair, with flashing intact and no missing shingles. Have a roofer inspect it if there are signs of water damage or leaks.
- Deck/porch Inspect the supporting beams for sign of rot or insect damage. Flooring should be even and properly nailed or screwed down. Railing should be intact.
- Property exterior – maintenance
- Trees All limbs should be trimmed away from power lines and away from structures. Limbs overhanging buildings may require the services of a professional tree trimmer.
- Siding If wooden, check for signs of damage or need for painting. If manufactured, check for cracks or missing pieces.
- Doors and windows These should be watertight, with weather-stripping and caulking redone within the last year. Broken glass should be replaced.
- Property exterior – appearance
- Lawn If the lawn is unkempt or in poor condition, a landscaping or lawn care service my be required to get it back in shape.
- Paint If buildings show signs of severe weathering, a new coat of paint may be in order.
- Fencing Fencing should be intact and posts should be in firm footing. Missing slats or rotted posts should be replaced by a professional fencing company.
- Property interior – structural
- Ceiling Any sagging sections should be checked out immediately. Water spots are a sign that integrity has been compromised.
- Floors Places that give way when you step on them indicate a professional flooring contractor be contacted to determine if the damage is foundation or insect related.
- Support beams Doorways should be square – sticking doors may indicate a foundation shift that should be looked into. Load-bearing walls should not be creaked or buckled.
- Insulation Ask for proof that the building contains no asbestos, and ensure that there is sufficient insulation to prevent undue energy loss.
- Property interior – maintenance
- Plumbing Have a plumber do a quick check of all pipes to ensure they are up to code and that there are no leaks. Check water pressure and hot water heater.
- Electrical Watch out for outlets with signs of scorching. Locate the breaker box and determine which breakers control which rooms.
- Floors Carpets should be in good condition, call a professional cleaner if needed. Wood floors may require sanding and refinishing.
- Windows Blinds should be in working condition. Draped may require professional cleaning.
- Fixtures Check all hanging and indirect lighting as well as ceiling fans.
- HVAC Have heating and air conditioning units checked out and serviced by a professional.
- Fireplace Call a chimney sweep if needed to clean the flue, remove creosote and ensure your fireplace is safe to use.
- Property interior – appearance
- Walls Consider having professional house-painters spruce up walls in rooms that show signs of dinginess or stains.
- Cabinets/counters Rotted or outdated fixtures should be replaced. Cabinet doors can be sanded and repainted or stained.
- Doors Any peeling paint indicates a need to sand and repaint doors. Check doorknobs and replace if needed. Remember to check for deadbolts on the exterior doors.
- Pests Look in nooks and crannies checking for insects or vermin. Call a pest control company if needed to spray or place bait.
Inspections should cover several key areas; structural safety, maintenance, and appearance. If it is a rental property, agreements should already be in place about what duties and tasks are the responsibility of the owner, and what upkeep should be attended to by the leaseholder.
If ownership of the property is being transferred, there may be issues that will have to be addressed, with the seller and buyer coming to an agreement about who is responsible for what. In some cases, the selling price of the property may be adjusted to allow for repairs or renovations. Both the interior and the exterior of all structures on the property as well as the land surrounding it should be inspected to save unhappy surprises down the road.
Knowing what you are getting into can have an impact on decision making, particularly when budgets are tight as taking on a dilapidated property can end up being a costly investment. Some areas may have features native to the area, or implements in place to deal with severe weather. Check local building codes if you are unsure if the property is safe. Certain portions of the property inspection are best handled by professionals, so don’t hesitate to employ a specialist if you see something that looks dangerous or not up to code.