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Home inspection tips: pre-qualify a property before bringing in a professional

by CRE on 30 Dec 2014
By Lee Strauss

After reading my previous article on 'Analysis Paralysis', you are now better equipped to take the plunge and purchase that investment property. But before taking any big steps to secure a financial future for you and your family, you need to consider a few more things.

I always recommend hiring a qualified and experienced home inspector, but only after you have pre-qualified the home yourself. In this article, I will provide some tips on what to look for yourself -- before bringing in a home inspector.

I always look over a potential property very carefully before I submit an offer and hiring a reputable home inspector is a part of this process. First, I check the property thoroughly myself and, if it meets my expectations, I then bring in the professional. The last thing I want to do is have a home inspector come in and pick up on something obvious that I could have noticed myself. If I can identify costly concerns around a potential property, I can bring those concerns forward as a negotiation tool in my initial offer. If the seller is not willing to negotiate, I haven’t wasted further time or money on bringing in a home inspector.        

Now let’s go over some things to look for in a potential property when doing your intial inspection: 
  • Check the roof for signs of wear: broken shingles, curled shingles or shingles with 'bald' patches where the granules have worn off. If you are a little more hands-on, you can inspect the eavestrough for excessive granules sitting in the trough, another sign of a worn roof.
  • Age and condition of windows. If you look at the lining in between the panes of glass (usually a silver strip) you may see a stamp with the year of when the windows were manufactured or a small etched date in one of the corners. Also look for rotted, chipped or water-stained window frames, and finally look carefully between the glass panes for signs of condensation. Condensation indicates that the seal is no longer good and the window may need to be replaced.
  • Cycle the furnace and air conditioner to ensure you have good cold and hot air supply. Be sure to also check the furnace and air conditioner for physical signs of damage or lack of maintenance. Also, checking the furnace filter can be a good indicator of how well it is maintained.
  • Make sure to do a complete 360-degree walk around the perimeter of the house. Grading should be directed away from the house and look for cracks in the foundation wherever it is exposed. Often, you will find cracks in the weakest areas, such as the corners of basement windows. If you do find any cracks, landmark where they are so when you inspect the basement from the inside you can check that area carefully for any signs of water entry.
Be sure to look over these things yourself first, as it may save you some wasted time and a few hundred dollars. But please, after you have gone through the house and it passes your initial inspection, do spend the money and hire a professional inspector. Even with my years of experience and multiple purchases, I believe it is important to hire a home inspector to ensure I am not missing something. 

Another benefit of a good home inspector is their knowledge of the area and the other homes in the area. They can potentially advise you on common problems or things to watch out for; that alone is worth every penny and they can save you thousands in the end.

Check in for next month’s article, Real Estate Agents: do they know enough to properly advise you on investment properties?

Lee Strauss is a real estate investor and firefighter based in Kitchener, Ont.

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