Before You Make an Offer, Investigate the Interior

In my first post, “What to Look at Before You Make an Offer” (which can be read here:, we explored exterior factors to identify or consider before making your purchase. Now we’re ready to take a walk inside, and discuss seven possible issues or areas that should be taken care of before making one of the biggest purchases of your life.

When an Inspector looks at the house, we are not looking at cosmetic issues so if these are important to you, be diligent. Bad paint jobs and old and stained carpets will not make our reports, but may be important to you or halt your decision. Here are several areas you can investigate yourself before hiring an Inspector or Structural Engineer

1. Water Spots, Cracks, and Mold

Inspectors go room by room checking the ceiling and around doors to windows for signs of water damage and cracks. Water spots are easy to find and tell a story of the home’s maintenance and foundational history. Over time, if not corrected, such issues can go beyond a simple water spot and instead lead to mold. Furthermore, cracks can be simple variations from old painting cracking, or expensive structural damage.

Consider bringing a strong flashlight when you look around as poor lighting can make mold, water spots , or cracks harder to find. While Inspectors do their best to find any issues inside and outside of the home, missing something small is a possibility.

Also look for any cracks around doors and windows as they tell us that there has been some movement in the foundation. Not all movement is bad, and even when there is a crack it does not mean that the house is unstable or unsafe. I have seen, and reported, many cracks that when evaluated by a Structural Engineer, were dismissed as normal settlement.

However, I have seen some that required extensive structural support, even small hair-line cracks. So even if it’s small, do not ever dismiss a crack, but do not necessarily dismiss a home because of it. Any discovered issues can be explored further by the right professional and save you a lot of headache down the road.

2. Floors and Doors

As Inspectors walk around a home, they also pay attention to the floor. Squeaky floors are not the problem, but sagging and soft spots could be. They then check all doors to make sure they operate properly; does the door scrape across the floor? Are the door joints cracked along the floor? It may not be a problem with the door itself, but actually with the floor.

It can also be a good idea to check all door locks, dead bolts, and hinges. While these may to squeak from old age or neglect, a key issue is to see if they also sag. Sagging hinges can be a small sign of structural damage next to or above the door; while, sagging locks or dead bolts can reveal the door’s poor structural integrity. In which case, the parts or the door itself may need to be replaced.

3. Windows

With all the attention on larger areas inside the home, one area that is often overlooked are the windows. While broken windows may be an obvious giveaway of a problem that needs to be addressed, other signs are not so easily recognized. Do the widows seem cloudy and unclear? That could indicate too high of humidity levels within the home. Do they open easily? Or are they stuck and off-center? Such issues could indicate structural damage and caving walls.

4. Kitchens, Laundry Rooms, and Bathrooms

You’ll want to pay special attention to all bathrooms, the kitchen, and laundry room. Just like on the outside of the home, water is the most common cause of issues on the inside as well. Look under ALL sinks. Look at the pipes and see is there is any indication of leaks or corrosion (past or present). Look at the flooring under the sink for signs of water damage stains; there, you may also find signs of insect and rodent infestations.

In the kitchen, specifically look around the dishwasher and refrigerator for their water supplies. Both appliances may leak due to old age or incorrect plumbing. Such leaks could lead to water damage and soft spots on the floor, to inefficient operation. 

In the bathrooms, look at the floor on either side of the toilet for signs of soft or discolored flooring. Is the toilet solidly attached to the floor? Are there stains on the tub or sinks from the water? Do all of the faucets, showers, and tubs have hot and cold water? Are they on the correct side of the appliance? When you test the sinks did it take a long time to drain?

When stepping into the laundry room, check if the washing machine is dry along the floor or in a pan. Does it look like it’s overflowed in the past? How do the plumbing hookups look? Like sinks, laundry room plumbing can show clear signs of neglect or erosion.

5. Attic Spaces

If the home has an attic, a look throughout it is well worth it; even if it may be an unfinished space. You don’t need to crawl around, but knowing what to look at and with a good flashlight lets you see a lot. Are the rafters showing any sign of breaking or leaning? Are they bent and bowed? Do you see any sign of water stains on the boards or along the roof line? What does the insulation look like? Is it evenly distributed or matted down and compressed?

Though they may seem like ideal storage spaces, most attics are not designed to carry a lot of additional weight. In older, historic homes for example, timbers, boards, and sheathing can be weakened, not with age, but from too heavy of storage items. Blacken boards can also indicate unreported fires in older, or even modern homes.

6. Electrical System(s)

You will not be able to do much with the electrical system, but there are a few things that you can do. If you open the door only on the main panel box, you will be able to tell some things about its service and age. The electrical code has changed many times over the years and depending on the age of the home, or additions to the home, there can be a wide variety of the type of equipment used.

Most changes were implemented to provide more protection against electrical shock, but if the home is older, it may not include these additional protections. Some signs that a home’s wiring may be dated include: 2 prong receptacles, fuses in the main panel, no ground fault, no arc fault breakers (these are breakers that have a reset button on them). This is not to say that your system is unsafe, but that there are possible upgrades that can make it safer to the most updated codes.

7. Basements and Garages

Basements and garages are, often times, a peak at the core construction of the home. Often unfinished, these areas expose the building methods used in the structure. Looking around the perimeters of these spaces, keep an eye out for water penetration, cracks, and stained or discolored blocks and flooring. If these spaces are unfinished , you may also see insulation between these areas and the finished areas of the home. In the basement, are there ANY support piers that look temporary and not part on the original construction? Look up, do you see any signs of water damage or recent repairs, (new lumber)? Repairs that look more like quick fixes could actually be disguising serious problems with the core structure of the home.

This is by no means a complete list of everything that needs to be inspected and should not replace a complete home inspection by a licensed professional. But, walking throughout a home you’re considering yourself is a great first step in your due diligence process.

Before you make an offer on a home and hire a professional, your walk-through notes can make a huge difference. Every house will have concerns, some greater than others; even new construction home can have issues! But knowing the issues up front so that you can negotiate and plan for them is ideal.

If a specific issue arises that you do not understand the significance of, talk with your agent to get some direction about whether to have the issue investigated by a specific professional or negotiated with the seller(s) before making your offer.

This post was written by Brian Saylor of Saylor’s Home Inspection. To learn more about Brian and his business, visit our Business Directory here:

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