If you've got your eye on a house, of course you'll want to look it over carefully, but you may not know exactly what to look for. Here's a guide on how to be like a home inspector, and learn how to spot potential problems.
Good home inspectors are trained professionals who can walk through a property and assess within an hour whether a home is a beauty or a beast. When the time comes, make sure your potential purchase is checked out from roof to basement by one of these skilled specialists.
But what about before that point, when you're just at the open house or the Realtor is showing you around? Can your untrained eye spot potentially serious problems in a quick walk-through?
"There are plenty of obvious problems that you can see beforehand," says Rich Lee, a home inspector based in Sonoma, Calif. "Your first clue is to walk down the street looking at the neighboring houses first. Are they in good shape? Is the landscaping taken care of? Is the paint still bright? These facts will give you an idea of how the previous owners handled maintenance in comparison with their neighbors."Before marching into that house you like, take a small notebook and watch out for these six hot-spot areas where trouble can lurk:
On asphalt shingle roofs, look for patched areas where the colors don't completely match, as well as shingles with warped, upturned edges. On tile or shake roofs, look for breaks that may have a pattern (where a worker may have recently walked). Also, be sure to look up under the eaves.
"You may see water stains, which could indicate a leak farther up the roof," says Mike Lauby, a Phoenix, Ariz., home inspector.
Use your eyes and your nose. Look for areas of "fuzzy" drywall or plaster, which can indicate that water is getting behind the walls.