8 Critical Things to Check Before Buying a Home

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By Kate Reggev
Don’t neglect these critical—yet often forgotten—areas when purchasing a home.

Congratulations! You’re this close to becoming a new homeowner. Before you sign the papers, however, there are a few areas to inspect: whether your future home is a new build or a historic property, there are surprisingly many places where things can go wrong, from outlets that don’t work to windows that don’t open. Here, we go through some major and minor things to confirm before making the big step and purchasing a home, even after an inspector has come by.

1. Check That All Appliances Work

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Just because there’s a new-looking fridge or oven in the kitchen doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re working, especially if they were purchased specifically to attract buyers. If the home inspector has already come by and you’re making your rounds in the house before the closing, make sure that all of the appliances, from the microwave to the washer and dryer, work as expected. 

2. Bring a Phone Charger to Test the Outlets

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Similarly, you’ll want to make sure that all of the outlets are functional before signing on the dotted line. The easiest way to do this is to make your rounds in each of the rooms, plugging in your device at each outlet.


3. Take a Peek at the Electrical Panel

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Your home inspector will perform an electrical review, but it won’t cover absolutely everything. Generally speaking, an electrical panel that is neat and organized with each wire and connection clearly marked is a sign of good workmanship, while a messy nest of disconnected wires is not a good sign, and could be a potential safety hazard.

4. Open and Close All Windows and Doors

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By the time winter rolls around, it will be too late to do anything about drafty windows and doors that don’t close properly, so it’s a good idea while you’re making your rounds in the house to open and close any windows, doors, and shutters. 

5. Test Toilets, Sinks, Showers, and Baths

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While changing a faulty faucet after you purchase a home isn’t the end of the world, it is still preferable to have everything in working order when you move in—especially when it comes to larger problems like toilets that don’t flush properly or showers that drip. Give everything in your bathroom a thorough look-over.

6. Scout Out Areas of Potential Leakage

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There are specific areas of a home that are more likely to have water infiltration and leaks than others, so you should make sure you pay particular attention to these areas. In a single family home, if there are outdoor patios with drains in the ground, make sure that these drains are cleared and in good condition, and that gutters at the eaves of the roof are in good shape with proper drainage into the ground and away from the house foundations. 

7. Pay Close Attention to Basement Walls

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One of the most common problem areas in a home, especially single family houses, is the basement, where moisture can easily lead to mold, mildew, and worse. Unless you’re visiting just after or during a big rainstorm, it can be difficult to know whether this is an issue or not. But one tell-tale sign of moisture problems is the smell in a basement—if it smells musty and damp, there are likely some moisture issues, and if you see a dehumidifier, you can be sure that you’ll need to buy one, too. A home inspector will do an initial evaluation of this, but keep your eyes peeled for rusty metal, moisture on foundation walls, crumbling grout, and other signs of a moisture problem. 

8. Check Under the Sinks

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One final place to double check is under the sinks in both the kitchen and the bathrooms. A quick look under a sink will give you a chance to see if there is any water damage, mold, water stains, or musty smells, likely indicating a leak in the plumbing. Do this once you’ve left the water running in the sink for a few minutes to really make sure that it drains correctly!