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What to Look for When Buying a House


When you're looking to purchase a home, there are several essential items to check before you make an offer. You can find some of this data on the listing. But for many of these items, you'll need to view the home in person. Plus, there are questions to ask when buying a house. Preliminary checks don't take the place of a home inspection or appraisal. But if you find some of these problems, get more information from the seller. Depending on what they say, you may need to think twice before making a full-price offer or any offer at all. Here's a short DIY home inspection checklist to help you when you're viewing properties.

Smells and Odors

One thing you can't tell when viewing a home online is if there are any smells. That's why if you're highly interested in a property, you have to visit in person. And if the home has a strong smell of air fresheners, there's a good chance there's something to hide.

Pet stains on the carpet can mean some of the subfloors needs to be replaced. And if you have severe pet allergies, think twice about purchasing a home with a lot of pets. It can be done, but you'll have extra costs like carpet removal and heating and air duct cleaning, and sanitizing.

The same thing is true for a home with smokers. All interior walls, ceilings, and woodwork will need to be sealed with a good primer to lock in the smoke and then repainted with high-quality paint. Any other surfaces and cabinetry will need to be washed thoroughly.

Foundation Issues

What to check when buying a house includes the current condition of the foundation. If there are issues, they can be costly to fix. Generally, you're going to want to look for cracks in the floor, walls, and ceiling. That can be an indication of settling. A few small cracks here and there usually aren't a problem. If there have been any major foundation problems in the past and especially insurance claims, the seller should disclose that information whether they're using an agent or not.

Roof Problems

Just like the foundation, the roof is an important part of the home because it protects the interior from the elements. An old roof or one that leaks can mean having trouble finding a lender willing to give you a mortgage. In that case, the roof may need to be replaced.

Your realtor can find out the roof's age. An older roof can still be in good condition, but you may find your homeowners' insurance is a bit higher. A new roof on any home for sale is a significant advantage, that's one less thing you have to worry about replacing. Plus, your homeowners' insurance should be less.

Ceiling Stains or Sags

When touring the inside of the home, make sure to look at all the ceilings. Stains are an indication of a current or past leak. And even if you're viewing a newly built home, it's still essential to check out the ceilings. If you see any part of the ceiling that sags, that's an indication there was built-up moisture, and the material was damaged.

Sloping — Floors, Retaining Walls, Pavers

Some parts of the country that get a lot of rain or snow can have drainage problems. For example, if you are buying a house in Florida, watch for drainage issues. That's why it's smart to walk around the outside of the home.

Is any drainage flowing away from the house? Are you walking in extremely soggy areas? Do you sink into the ground? Is there standing water near the foundation? Do you see any sinking pavers or crumbling retaining walls? This could be a sign of drainage issues.

That's why shopping for a home in the winter can be a great idea. Then you can see if there are any issues in bad weather.


If the home has a basement, the first thing to be aware of is if it smells damp. That can mean there's mold or mildew — not always, but sometimes. Also, make sure the drainage outside around the foundation is going away from the house. That damp smell can carry through the entire home. There are ways to remedy this, from waterproofing the walls to making sure there are no foundation cracks.

Other Fast Things to Check

  • Lights: A quick test of how some of the electrical is doing is just to flick the lights on.
  • Doors: Do they close quickly, or do they stick and drag? That could mean settling and foundation issues.
  • Windows: Can you raise and lower the windows? Are any painted shut?
  • Screens: Do they have screens? If so, are they in good condition?
  • Pests: Are there any noticeable pests like bugs or droppings? An exterminator may be needed.
  • Noise: Do you notice excessive noise from the street, neighbors, or barking dogs?

What to Look for When Buying a House As-Is

When a seller doesn't want to repair anything, they'll sell the home as-is. Fixer-uppers will often be sold as-is. That's fine if you're handy and can do the work yourself or have the money for a contractor. But, depending on what's wrong with the property, you could have a problem getting financing.

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Apply before becoming a member.

After your application, we’ll help you:

1. Discover you’re eligible to become a PenFed member

2. Open a Savings/Share Account and deposit at least $5