Quick Home Inspection Tips

by Michael Lam | Jul 07, 2015


You’re running around, looking at homes and trying to beat the crowd. The market is hot and competitive. Inventory is low and you have to evaluate homes quickly and put in a reasonable offer without going through the proper motions and having a full home inspection completed prior to making a commitment. What can you do to expedite the process and look out for potential problems that would be a deal breaker?

You can think like most and put in an aggressive offer and let the home inspector do the work. When you’re trying to be competitive, however, this is a great way to lose out on an amazing home. The National Association of Realtors states it takes about two months for a first time buyer to get their home while viewing ten or more homes.

Eventually, you get tired and need to save time and money. Putting in an aggressive offer only to find out you missed a glaring problem on the property and wasted a full home inspection can be costly.

There are many red flags that can affect the value of a property. While everyone has different priorities in looking for a home, these common issues may indicate larger problems that aren’t worth an investment. In addition, with the growing popularity of 3D online home tours, like Planomatic, you can even spot some of these warning signs from the comfort of home.

Items to Avoid

  • Seeing long horizontal/diagonal cracks across outside wall of a home near foundation is a signal of a shift in home and can potentially indicate a foundation problem. Cracks that go vertically down are not as worrisome as horizontal or diagonal cracks that lead toward bottom of wall.

  • Look for the “S” symbol on your street curb. Many cities will mark the street curb to indicate the location of your sewer line that goes from your home out to the street. Check closely for any large trees sitting on top. This can be a common problem people will not notice and many home inspectors will not disclose. Many inspectors just report what they see and not what potential issues that could arise.


    • A large tree sitting on top of a sewer line puts your line at risk. Trees tend to gravitate towards water and moisture, which can lead to cracked or impeded pipes. Having a tree sit on top is just playing with fire.

    • You can either accept this or remove the tree, but you can’t really use this as bargaining chip in your negotiations. There is nothing wrong with a tree sitting in the front yard as long as it is not affecting anything physically.

  • Avoid flat roofs. Flat roofs are hard to maintain and make it hard to upgrade existing lighting in your home. You want recess lighting? Good luck finding space for that with a flat roof and no attic.

    barabasa | shutterstock.com

    • Flat roofs also provide almost no barrier to heat, so on hot days the heat just penetrates your home. This goes for the same when it’s cold.

    • On rainy days or storms, your flat roof does not fare well as A-type roofs. Just the pure physics of a flat roof demonstrates the potential for water damage as water is not drawn away quickly.

      keantian | shutterstock.com

  • Determine how many times roof has been layered. A quick way to see the age of a roof and to determine if an entire re-roof is required is to look at how thick the shingles have been laid on the roof. Typically, if a roof is fairly new, you won’t see curls, lifting, and rough surface visually. If you see these kinds of warning signs, you have two options to re-roof (assuming that is required)
    • Option 1: Tear down shingles to the wood sheathing and install a new roof.
    • Option 2: Just put a new layer of shingles on entire roof, which is cheaper and faster
      • Keep in mind that there are limitations to how many times a roof can be re-layered. Generally, most reputable roofers won’t re-lay a roof or opt to layer a roof if it’s been layered over five or more times. At this point, layering is excessive and it’s better to just do a complete job to tear off entire roof down to the sheathing material

  • Pay attention to how flat your home and surrounding area is. Make sure if there is rain, the home has gutters to move water away, and that the water will naturally move away from property instead of going into the property. See if there are ground gutters that will drive water away from property. Without these key features, you must be especially careful in evaluating the home for flooding damage. Sometimes flood stains are not visible or have been cleaned, making them hard to detect.

brizmaker | shutterstock.com

These tips of the trade can help save you time before putting in an offer or paying for a home inspection on a home that may not be worth the risk. Keep in mind your risk tolerance may be different and your prior experiences may make you more willing to accept those types of conditions. It’s your choice how you do your preliminary evaluation of a home. A home inspector will validate your concerns once you get to that point. Happy house hunting! Please don’t forget to subscribe to get the latest news in real estate.

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