Before I joined the Open Book team at Redfin, I was a Redfin Agent. I walked alongside hundreds of clients through the home inspection process, and I know first hand the drama that can unfold. No matter how intrepid you are, buying a home can be unnerving and full of surprises. Like planning a wedding, you probably won’t do it enough times to get very good at it.
So we asked the top-rated home inspectors in Redfin Open Book for their honest advice to home buyers. Redfin certified home inspector Dylan Chalk sent such a great summary that I basically inserted it verbatim below (thanks, Dylan!) along with the wisdom of Keven Swartz (Seattle), Larry Robbins (Chicago) and Jamie Hawks (San Diego). So before you sign an offer on your dream home, be sure to to consider these three main aspects of a home:
- Foundation: It is a cliché, but the investment you make in your house rests entirely on the foundation. The most proven type of foundation is poured concrete. But don’t rule out block, post and pier foundations since they are common in older homes. If the foundation is a hodgepodge of additions, that may be a red flag. Other red flags include: sloping floors or cracked drywall. Look for 45-degree cracks coming off window and door headers. If you find this sort of evidence of settling, don’t run for the hills, but be sure to consider its severity and ask your home inspector to take special note of the home’s structural integrity.
- Maintenance and care: Is this an engineer’s house, a flip or an old meth house? You’ll probably be able to tell without any technical knowledge. Does the house appear well cared for or does it feel…unloved? Are weeds, vines and/or mold growing all over the house? Is the kitchen sink clean? Would your mother use the bathroom? Are there regular service records on the furnace? Does an old wrench hang from the gas meter? (In case you were wondering, this is a good sign; the wrench would be useful for turning off the gas in case of a leak, and shows that the owner is conscientious.) These will give you an idea of the repair list you are likely to get after a structural inspection.
- Building design: There is nothing wrong with a house with three rooftop decks, stucco siding and 240-degree views, but don’t expect the building to be low maintenance. Consider the amount of exposure in the exterior design of the house against your own appetite and budget for maintenance. Exposure provides natural light and improves views, but keep in mind that it means more maintenance. Low-maintenance buildings have simple roof lines and large roof overhangs to protect the building. Dysfunctional rooflines indicate additions. This lack of clarity often translates into similar chaos inside the building. Sight your eyes along the plane of the roof and look at the ridge: Are there excessive sags, bows and dips? Strong homes usually have clean lines.
For even more inspection info, check out Redfin’s Home Buying Guide where you’ll find great resources like our Interactive Home Inspection Tool. And if you’re looking for your own inspector, lender, attorney, handyman or other real estate service provider, check out Open Book on Redfin.com where you’ll find real reviews from Redfin clients.
Have you gone through the home inspection process recently? Is there anything you’d add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!