Q1: Are gutters & downspouts in place and draining water away from the home? Are they securely attached and in good shape?

Although building codes in many areas of the United States do not require a gutter system, there are valid reasons for having them on your home. In drier climates where heavy rains are infrequent, a gutter system would serve more as an architectural embellishment. However, in areas where there are frequent or heavy rains or runoff from snow, gutters are an essential element of the roofline. When a house doesn’t have a gutter system, the rain falls off the roof directly to the soil below creating areas where the water can “pool” causing a whole set of additional issues.

The purpose of a gutter system is to move water away from the house. By moving that water, you can avoid soil erosion, compromise to the foundation and prevent exterior mold or moisture damage. The gutters should be securely attached to the roofline area of the exterior. You don’t want them falling off during a torrential downpour and creating another repair project. They should also be pitched with an “easy slope” to allow unrestricted flow of the water to the downspouts.

Let’s not stop there—those downspouts are a pretty important part of the gutter system because these “pipes” serve as the final diversion method for moving the water away from the house. The downspouts should have L shaped “elbows” which carry the water a minimum of 1 foot away from the exterior of the house foundation. During a rainfall, if there are no gutters or the downspouts release the water directly at the foundation, the soil near the foundation becomes saturated very quickly and can erode the soil. By diverting water away from the foundation you allow the foundation soil to stay “dry” longer thereby reducing the possible problems that water can cause to your home.

The last thing you want to do is look at rusty, ugly gutters that are barely hanging on the house… so take into consideration that replacing gutters could cost from $4 to $9 or more per linear foot depending on the type of replacements you would select.

Q2: Are branches or bushes far enough from the house that they do not touch or overhang onto the roof? Will leaves or branches clog gutters?

Yes, a Japanese maple tree can really add curb appeal to your home and even that beautiful maple tree that has the wood swing, but these beautiful trees can also present some serious issues if they are too close to the structure or roof. Trees and shrubs are a beautiful necessity to our world—I thank Mother Nature everyday for all the beautiful green I see outside because not only does it make the air I breathe cleaner BUT they provide many benefits to the soil like improving drainage by creating underwater channels.

But when a tree or shrub is growing too close to your home, there can be structural damage that occurs and clogged gutters from shedding leaves as well. While the tree or shrub roots themselves do not cause the structural damage to your home, as shifts in the soil composition occur due to root growth/shrinkage, your foundation walls respond to the pressure from the soil condition outside of the home. When tree roots expand because they are soaking up water, the soil may put pressure on the concrete or block wall system causing cracks. If the resulting “pressure” causes shifting of the foundation, there may be structural concerns (sinking walls, shifted support beams).

In the Northeast where we experience the beauty of the Autumn season, falling leaves sitting in your gutter can not only create undue weight when left unattended season after season, but they can float to the downspout area and actually clog or stop the flow of water off the roof and away from the house. In this case, you won’t be seeing the problem of pooled water on your lawn but you may see issues with overload gutters pulling away from the roofline attachment and when it gets colder, icing which may cause roof problems. So, if you’re looking at beautiful trees and shrubs but they are too close to the structure, you’ll have to consider whether they stay or go if the house becomes yours!

Q3: If there is wood storage for a fireplace or woodstove, is the storage away from the house?

Did you love the idea of having a wood fireplace or wood stove when you first saw this home? Don’t you just love the thought of the rustic yet warm, homey feeling on a cold winter’s day, warming your toes and reading a good book? It’s the ultimate picture of “Home Sweet Home,” isn’t it? We totally agree—but there are a few things you want to be aware of with regard to those beautiful wood logs you’ll be burning.

First, if the wood storage is at the edge of the property line, the current homeowner is probably aging that wood for future use. Smart homeowner! Why? Because you can’t use logs cut in the current season as burning them will put a lot of creosote in your chimney and could cause not only a fire hazard down the rode but a dangerously smokey home or even carbon monoxide buildup. Storage of that wood far enough away from the structure allows for great air circulation which is necessary to “dry” it out AND keeps those pesky little hitch hikers (termites, spiders, ants, etc.) from claiming territory in your home.

If a “seasoned” or aged cord of wood is stored closer to the structure, make sure the storage system is strong and stable. In other words, if the homeowner is using a steel log rack on the front porch, make sure that the air can still circulate around the stacked logs. If a system of wood planks and posts are used, be sure that if you tug on them gingerly a couple of times that they are not going to let everything loose and rolling.

Just a couple added tidbits about the wood itself: If the wood has been fully dried and aged, you’ll probably notice the bark side stacked up toward the sky in a very organized way—all the better to protect it from the elements (more about this later). If the wood has only been aged for a year, you may see the bark side facing the ground so that the wood core has more airflow for ventilation and drying.

Either way, stacking the wood so that it “feels like a well-organized cabinet” is essential so that it doesn’t fall over and create a tragic event. Some experts suggest using a firewood cover over the top (like a tarp) to keep any rain or snow from ruining the wood. If you’re bringing the wood onto a rack in a covered outdoor porch area you may be able to avoid this additional expense. Either way, always ensure there is good airflow around the stacked wood.

Q4: If there are fences, sheds, decks, retaining walls, a detached garage or arbor, are they in good condition?

Of anything on the exterior that adds to curb appeal, it is fences, sheds, decks and arbors. What you are looking for here by way of “condition” is evidence of decay,rot, or neglect. Each of these structures probably has direct contact with soil or is directly exposed to weather conditions. Anytime wood is in direct contact with the soil, OR exposed to snow, sleet rain or hail, you should check to see if there is any compromise to the structure—are the beams and footers that directly touch ground secure OR does the structure rock when gently nudged? Is there any evidence of wood shavings or wood that has been “eaten” or dug away by critters or termites? If you intend to ensure that your pet stays IN your yard, you’ll want to make sure that there are no friendly exits in the perimeter of the fence as well. We have done a very high-level commentary about wood rot or decay on these structure but if you would like to know just a bit more, see the comments we’ve provided for Q5. When it comes to “neglect,” safety should always be the number one concern with any property you look at. Do the gate doors on the fence or deck close securely?

Are the doors straight or do they require a little “hip action” to open or close? Are the stair railings and vertical slats secure? Are there any deck balusters or fence pickets (slats) missing? Does anything you are observing cause concern for safety? For the detached structures (shed and garage), do the access doors open and shut easily? Are the walls “squared” / not leaning? If there are windows, do they open and close easily? Is the roofing material in good shape (see Q20-23)? While there are quite a few things to notice when it comes to your personal assessment about the condition of the exterior curb appeal, go with what your intuition is telling you—if it appears that things are well cared, you will see it.

Q5: Is all exterior wood “clean” and free from rot or termite damage?

If the home that you are looking at does not have a basement or crawlspace with a concrete or block foundation at least 6-8 inches above the soil level, and you notice that exterior siding is buckling, cracking or soft or that there are signs of mold, mildew or wood chunks, you may be looking at a rotting “sill plate.” The sill plate is the piece of wood closest to the ground sitting on a concrete slab/foundation or piers and wall studs are often nailed directly to it. If there is decay from weather exposure or insects like termites, then you have cause for some structural concerns.

When you look at the house from the inside, some of the other clues you may notice if this issue exists are a dip in the interior flooring in that portion of the room or sponginess to the floor.

Correcting a rotted sill plate can be done— but it is not a weekender type project. The foundation needs to be secured, the rotted sill plate removed along with any other areas that may be decayed and then finally a new sill plate installed. Sounds easy, but it’s quite a bit of heavy lifting, literally. This is definitely a concern when buying a home, but if your intention is to renovate, restore or totally remodel, you might be up for the challenge. Otherwise, we encourage you to speak with a professional builder or foundation specialist.

If you looked at the deck, wooden fences or sheds on the property you need to also take note of the condition with respect to “wood health.” Many of these structures have been made from pressure treated woods, but since these also don’t last forever take a few moments to satisfy your curiosity. There is a protocol for keeping threated wood in good condition and that would include some kind of preservative product. If you can see mold, mildew, moss or dark, dry, broken wood even on treated wood, the project is going to require some TLC (tender loving care) and elbow grease from you as one of the outdoor projects on the list if you buy the home.

If the case of de-attached garages or sheds, floor beams can be sitting on the ground directly or, if the construction was done correctly, could have been “shored up” with concrete to hold them in place. Either way, walk around the structure to look at the condition of the wood closest to the ground; if you see mold, mildew, rot or decay, you’ll want to make note of a project that will require some attention. If the base of the building is raised not on a footer but raised a only inches above the ground to allow for airflow, it would be wise to see if any little critters have been digging for shelter in, around or underneath where you’ll be parking your car or storing tools.

A detached garage poses some special concerns because of its size and the danger that could be associated with rotting structural beams. Don’t hesitate to walk all the way around the garage and look not only at the base of the structure but make note of the roofing, gutters, doors and utility hookups (if any). Even if you’re not a construction expert, trust your gut feelings with respect to safety.

Q6: Are the stairs and railings secure?

Do you remember those old cartoon ghost movies?? The ones where the house is leaning to the side and looks pretty rickety, shutters flapping in the wind and curtains blowing out the open window. If you remember the stairs up to the front porch of those cartoon houses, they were pretty scary themselves and if there are boards at all on them, they’re probably falling off and broken. These are the kind of stairs that you know the hand rails sway as you touch them but it doesn’t matter because the next time you’re going down those stairs you’ll only be taking ONE BIG step as you fly off the porch! While we are hoping you are not looking at a house like that, there is something you can positively take away from that picture in your mind – and once again, it’s safety.

You may run across many other different kinds of stairs – some pre-fabricated concrete heavy-duty steps, some mastered out of brick and mortar and even some that were fashioned from stone and cement. No matter which type of stairs are facing you, there are a couple of things you want to check.

First, are the stairs stable? As you walk up and back down, is there any movement? Do they need to be reset or does it appear that the soil underneath has settled to the point where they will have to be moved and re-placed? Are there concrete stairs that are cracked, bricks that are missing or crumbling, mortar that is crumbling or stones that have decayed or broken as well? These are all observable conditions that make you think safety—you may not use the stairs but there may be an unsuspecting visitor that does and who would want a lawsuit if that visitor falls down the stairs and sustains injury?

One last thing to look at with respect to the stairs is handrails. A good rule of thumb is that if there are more than 2 stairs, there should be a hand railing. When you hold on to the railing, it should be stable as well – no swaying back and forth. If you feel a sway in the handrail, take a quick look at how it is put together – are the brackets, screws/nails or supports missing or decayed? Remember, since safety is important here, you may want to call a professional to fix the stairs and hand railings if you determine that this is the home for you.

Q7: If there is an automatic garage door opener, does it work properly?

Does the auto-reverse feature work and are the sensors set at 6” above ground level? One of the nicest luxuries of owning a home is having a special spot for your car to stay where it will not have piles of snow, ice, sleet or rain accumulating on it. The second nicest thing about owning a home with a garage is not ever having to get out of your car to see the garage door open and drive in. Talk about feeling like the CEO of a major corporation!!!

All that aside, there are a few things you should notice when you’re looking at a home that has an automatic garage door opener. First, you will want to notice if the door goes up and down easily or if the entire unit shakes when the door comes up or goes down. It may require some tightening of a few screws BUT it may also be totally unbalanced and require an overhaul. If the unit is over 10 years old, it would be best to also take a picture so you can call an Overhead Garage Door repair company and find out if you can even get parts for repairs. There are times when the parts PLUS the labor might end up costing you more than purchasing a new garage door unit.

There are usually 3 ways for the garage door to be put into motion:

  1. a small remote unit usually kept in your car so you can get the full effect of being the CEO above
  2. a number pad on the exterior of the garage and
  3. an interior push button.

If you have access to all 3, test them and watch how the door moves. Notice if there is a laser EYE light that runs from each side of the garage door and estimate how far above the garage floor it is. For safety reasons, those eyes are normally set at about 6”—why? You never know when a small child is going to run out after a ball while the door is already in motion or your pet dog decides to race out after the cat. What has the theme been here? Safety…. It’s always the number one concern!

Q8: Are the driveway, sidewalk, patio and/or entryways in good condition and pitched away from the house so water runs away from the foundation?

If the house you are looking at still is sporting the “beaten path” or stone driveway, then your first thought was probably – this is NOT going to be good for my vehicle. You may enjoy the rustic feel in that case or you may be way out in the countryside—and we applaud that you want to live that way… not everyone can handle it.

However, if you live in the suburbs, more commonly you will see an asphalt or concrete driveway, sidewalks or entryways. You can expect that over time both materials can split and crack or pit. Splitting and cracking has more to do with the thawing and freezing factor in colder climates but it can also be a result of improper or no sealing. The semi-annual sealing process helps to keep the splitting or cracking but understand that over time and in the great outdoors, there are very few driveways, sidewalks or entrys that don’t show some wear.

If these kinds of issues are present, note how the homeowner fixed them: if it appears that the repair was a top layer of concrete or sealant, you can be sure it will probably require additional repair down the road. This shouldn’t deter you from the home, but you do want to know what you’re going to be driving up on every day.

In the end, safety is key and you want to make sure you or your guests aren’t tripping or falling and becoming injured. The pitting on concrete and asphalt in colder climates can be a result of ice-melt materials spread during the snowy or icy weather. It could also be just wear and tear. If you decide this is the home you want to consider your castle, try using sand instead of ice melt mixtures – but again, safety is key, so if you are in a climate where you’ll have icy surfaces, you may want to use that ice melt product anyways. Grading of the sidewalks and driveway away from the house has one major purpose – to ensure that water runs away from the foundation mitigating the risk of it finding its way to your basement walls and possibly into the basement itself. The grading can be ever so slight and possibly un-noticeable however if you see indentations in the landscaping near where the driveway or sidewalk meets the structure or areas where there may have been pooling, understand that you are going to have to fix it.

Q9: Is the lawn graded to keep water from rain/ice/snow moving AWAY from the house?

Realtors and Homebuyers talk a lot about curb appeal – it’s that lasting first impression that can make or break a decision to buy. But for as beautiful as the home looks on the outside, it’s very important that you take note of the landscaping and lawn.

If there is grass right up to the foundation wall, you may find it difficult to cut it easily. Grass and landscaping should also be about 6 inches below siding to avoid the exterior mold, mildew and possibly rot on wood siding, You may also find that the grass near the foundation is dead from too little water because the roof overhangs will prevent rainfall within about 6 inches of the house. After that 6 inches however, you will want to make sure that there is a slight grade (versus level ground) so that any water from the elements moves away from the house.

Again, just like with gutter downspouts, the lawn and landscaping being angled away from foundation walls helps to reduce water problems you may encounter with water pooling at the surface and not permeating properly through all of the soil layers. There are simple ways to correct the lawn and landscaping issue – and it’s all good old-fashioned exercise.

Don’t let the lawn grading scare you away, just look for areas around the foundation where there may appear signs of lawn deterioration from pooling, siding that is showing signs of decay or apparent foundation staining.

Q10: Are brick and mortar free from vines climbing up the exterior surface?

Those enchanting pictures of English cottages with beautiful green vines climbing on the exterior can really make you feel like you’ve finally “come home.” But unfortunately, that good feeling can fade away rather quickly once you’re actually dealing with the vines and the havoc they can cause.

English ivy is one of the vines that have clinging roots and creeping tendrils that are very tough and climb quickly up trellises, walls, into gutters, onto windows and can even go as high as the roofline. One of the biggest difficulties with these types of quickly growing vines is that as the tendrils grow, the easily latch into existing cracks in the surface. As they continue to grow, the vine can push its way into the crevice and make the crack bigger or deeper…. The next thing you know is that you have moisture problems inside the house.

Another issue that could present itself is if the vines grow into the gutters, they can reduce the access way for rainwater to exit and cause debris or materials to become lodged. As the ivy continues to grow upward toward the roofline, the possibility that vines can reach under the shingles causing serious roof consequences or between the shingles as well.

While you may like the look of the ivy climbing on the exterior of the building, we recommend you do some additional research to determine the costs of repairs that might be incurred as a result of the vines taking residence on the exterior of the home. If you’re looking for the charm of vines growing on the exterior surfaces of the home, we recommend that you contact a local gardening group or nursery to determine what alternatives might be available to you in the coming spring that would pose less of a problem.

Q11: Are the deck/balcony free from wood which shows splitting, cracking or extreme weathering deterioration? Do safety railings or walls surround the structure?

The deck or balcony area of a home serve as one of the places where you will relax and enjoy the warmth and beauty of nicer weather and be the place where you make lasting memories with friends and family. Many decks have been constructed from pressure treated wood while some are now constructed of highly durable composite materials. Both can be beautiful additions to any home, however one requires more maintenance than the other. Pressure treated wood was a top-notch alternative to regular wood construction for many years especially for exterior amenities such as decks, railings and stairways. Many people leave the pressure treated wood in its natural state. The wood is chemically treated to resist rot, mold and insects however it is oftentimes made from inferior grade pine or fir that can crack and warp over time. Even a diligent Homeowner who ensures that pressure treated wood is maintained every year or two with a sealer will encounter some degree of deterioration over time.

If you’re purchasing a home that has a deck or balcony that presents any of the noted issues (mold, moss or insect infestation) understand that these issues may not mean the deck has to be torn down and replaced BUT that you may need to plan a vacation project to restore the wood. Some of these issues can be easily addressed by you or a handyman if you’re not inclined to take on the project. Ensure that screws in the deck flooring and railing system are not missing, that all floorboards are secure and in place and that the railings and balusters are sturdy. However when it comes to deteriorating wood pieces, take a closer look. If deterioration appears to be the result of years of neglect, realize that you may need to replace boards or supports. Again, in this case it is highly recommended that you contact a decking construction or remodeling expert to get an estimate. Minimally, estimate a repair cost of $500 to $1,000 (or more depending on the extent of deterioration that you notice and size of the deck) when you are deciding if you want the home. If the deterioration is due to rot or insects, look even further near those areas—you will want to notice if any of the exterior siding has been affected or if there are signs that the little critters may be taking residence in the house.

Additionally, for safety reasons, ensure that any of the vertical balusters (spindles) that support the handrail are no greater than 4 inches apart. The railing itself should be sturdy so that it wouldn’t move or sway in any way if anyone leans against it—and if it has any give at all, take the necessary precautions to get it fixed as soon as you become the owner. You can apply all of these criteria to any porch railings or stairways around the house exterior as well. For decking and balconies constructed of composite materials, concentrate on the sturdiness of the structure since it will be unlikely that you will see rot or decay. Ensure that screws are not missing, all boards are secured and in place and that the railings and balusters are secure.

Q12: Are fences or retaining walls straight, in good condition and all sections intact? Do entrances open easily?

When we talk about the American Dream of owning your own home, people oftentimes have the word picture in their minds of “a home with a white picket fence.” While there aren’t many homes with that type of fencing surrounding the property these days, there are many kinds of privacy and security fencing options that you may encounter. Materials such as vinyl, wood, aluminum and steel chain have been used through the years and were selected for cost and durability as well as privacy and style options. When walking around the property line where the fencing is installed, look to see that the posts are secure, that they’re not leaning backwards or forwards giving the effect that with a good strong wind or bump they would fall over. Ensure that all the sections are in place and have a well-maintained appearance. If you suspect that the fencing was in place to keep pets in the yard and you also have a pet you need to keep secure, look at ground level to determine if any “getaway gaps” have been dug. Those escape dig-outs can also allow our furry little friends like skunks or raccoons in, so be aware of an exterior project that may loom out of doors. (In these cases, you’ll also want to see if there are any signs that these “friends” have taken residence in the garage or other outer structures.) If you were looking at a wood fence that requires replacement of a section or a few boards, it would be worthwhile to take a picture to the local home improvement store to ensure that you can match it up. Likewise, if you’re looking at a vinyl or aluminum fence that requires replacement of a section, have the current homeowner provide for repair as a contingency in your purchase offer or have them provide the name of the original installer and find out if the product is available.When it comes to the gates and entryways, you want to ensure that the closing mechanism is secure—yes, there are some that are complicated to use the first time around – but you’re looking for the purpose here – are you trying to keep children inside the year securely? If the existing system does the trick, think no more about it!

The gate or entry door should also swing easily—but if it gets caught up on something, is it because the ground has not been properly graded or is it the hinges? You can easily determine what kind of repair will be required here. Once again, think safety and security.

Q13: Does vinyl or aluminum siding appear free from dents, damage or loose pieces?

One of the reasons you’re being encouraged to look at the siding on the house is to see if everything about that protective outer surface known as siding seems to be A-OK. For example, how many stray baseballs hit the siding and caused cracks or dents? Did the handlebars from the lawnmower or wheelbarrow scrape the surface causing the color to be removed or scraped? Is the color of the siding faded from being exposed to the sun or has it weathered nicely? Were there any storms that may have pulled pieces of siding off of the structure that have not been replaced—and if so, why haven’t they been replaced? (This question alone leads to a whole new batch of queries: Did the homeowner not retain any excess from the original installation? Is the siding such an unusual color that it can no longer be matched and the manufacturer is no longer in business? Did the homeowner decide that rather than have 2 colors of siding, they would rather the new owner make a decision and have it re-sided [could this be an indicator of other things you might find inside the house]?)

Usually a few small dents or scratches won’t be the deal breaker—but you should notice the condition of the exterior and ask the right questions before you make your final decision on the home. If damage or extensive repairs are left for you to “fix”, we recommend that you contact a siding expert for an estimate and propose an adjustment within the purchase contract if the cost is not something you want to accept.

Q14: Are painted or stained surfaces free from flaking, blistering/bubbling, or peeling?

If you notice that the paint is peeling or flaking off the exterior surface, there could be a moisture issue underneath what was supposed to be a protective paint surface. The paint may not have “cured” properly when applied due to humidity or heat, rain or heat after application. You may notice peeling or flaking near a bathroom or kitchen window that has air leaks as well. Fixing the issue near a window is far easier than correcting paint on a larger area of siding. It would be a great idea for you to do a little research to understand the root cause in order to determine the possible fix.

Blisters and bubbles can occur when the coat of paint (and this could be several layers) separate from the exterior material surface. The condition could have been the result of high humidity or rain after paint application or an original surface that had not been properly cleaned or primed. To effectively address the blistering or bubbles the root cause has to be determined, and the bubbling areas should be scraped, sanded and then repainted. If they are not addressed they could fill with water and cause further harm to the surface beneath.

One or two small locations of paint having an issue may not deter you from placing an offer on a home that otherwise is pristine, however if there is an entire side of a structure that presents issues, it may be cause for concern. If you’re determined to purchase a home having extensive exterior paint concerns contacting a professional to assess the cost to repair would be a wise choice.

Q15: Does the exterior brick, stone or stucco surface appear to be free from cracking, crumbling or require replacement pieces?

When it comes to the stucco, bricks or stone you will want to notice whether there is cracking. In the product itself or the mortar that “glues” it together. Normally, some cracking in these types of materials occur in a “stair stepping” type pattern. Remember all structures experience expansion & contraction due to weather and climate and this type of cracking may be the result of the home settling over time and not be cause for concern.

However, if there are more than just a few small stepping cracks and you notice loose bricks or stones and stucco pieces that have broken off entirely, it may be wise to contact a structural engineer to ensure the integrity of the foundation and if settling has caused any impacts or concerns. If you have noticed a substantial amount of cracking or damage to the brickwork of a fireplace, it would be worthwhile to include an inspection by a Professional Chimney Sweep as part of your purchase offer. As you enter the home and look at the basement, take note of interior cracks in the walls and if there appear to be any moisture issues or water damage. For more information on basement moisture or water damage, see Q58.

Q16: Do windows and doorframes appear squared so that they are not sagging? Do frames & trim pieces around the doors & windows appear secure?

Have you ever heard the Mother Goose rhyme about the man who bought a crooked house? While the original nursery rhyme was an illustration of a political situation in the 1600s between England and Scotland, I’m sure you would not want to live in a structure for long that leaned to one side! And exciting as it would be to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa, it would be better to have your bowl of soup remain in the bowl rather than spilling over to the tabletop. Yes, these are both extreme examples of what crooked is, but you do want to make sure that from the exterior noticeable sagging of the door or window frames does not exist. If you CAN notice sagging, it can mean only one thing: the building has settled and that particular area is no longer “square.” While the door and frame can be fixed, you may want to have an inspector or building contractor take a closer look to ensure that headers and other framing is not at risk. If the exterior window or door framing is loose and not secure, see if there is an issue with deterioration behind it. In the Northern states with extreme weather conditions, rain, sleet or snow can blow around and find entry to areas that seem small and then cause concern once the warmer weather makes its entry. While you don’t own the house yet but you should know if those pieces are rotted and need replacement and all of this is part of assessing how much of the work you can do your self or how much you have to contract out.

Q17: Are all window surfaces secure and unbroken?

Remember that curb appeal? Windows are a definite factor in curb appeal. A good Realtor will have the homeowner fix any and all windows that may be broken or cracked before the house is on the market —and by fixed they wouldn’t mean taped! The home you’re looking at may not have a Realtor involved or it may be a property that was held by a bank for default. Although this may seem like a very simple inspection item, after you have walked up to the front of the house and been enchanted by what you’ve seen so far, reel yourself back and check out the other windows around the exterior perimeter of the house. Take a casual walk and notice if by gently lifting the window, any of them lift up. You don’t want to be tangling with squatters or finding out that in the time it took to close on the loan vandals had made their appearance.

If you are looking at a house that is deeply discounted because the owner is willing to let go of it to just get rid of it, there may be several windows to repair – as a word of advice, make sure this is top priority on your list if you take ownership. If there are secondary structures on the property such as a garage or shed, ensure this same kind of inspection.

Q18: Are storm windows or thermal glass present?

Storm windows are windows that are mounted either outside of the main glass window or, not as commonly, on the interior of the home. This older solution for single pane windows can be manually lifted and lowered from inside the house or fully removed for storage during the warmer parts of the year. Thermal pane glass windows are usually a singular window structure that is made of several panes of energy efficient glass. Thermal windows are more energy efficient than older single paned windows and are usually more functional when it comes to cleaning and storage. There is a process of double-glazing construction for thermal pane windows that consists of 2 or 3 glass windowpanes within a frame that is separated by a vacuum or gas filled space and serves to reduce heat transfer into the home.

In the Northern part of the United States and Canada, most homes have storm windows or thermal pane glass. This is especially useful during the long colder months when you’re trying to conserve on energy and keep the home warm. While these are two different window types, they serve the same purpose: to reduce the amount of heat lost from windows and thereby reduce your expenses for heating the entire home.

Q19: Are exterior electrical outlets in working order?

You may have noticed the electrical outlets on the exterior of the house, but you may not have had the opportunity to determine if they work. With that said, who wants to have finished putting up the Christmas lights, flipped the switch and then found out that when you turn on the switch, nothing happens. Although you probably weren’t carrying a receptacle voltage tester with you, you can ask the Realtor if they are aware if the outlets work properly. If not, just make a note if it and if you decide to put a Purchase Offer on the house contingent upon a Professional Home Inspection and ask that individual to test them. This issue in itself shouldn’t be a deal breaker if you love the house, but electrical work is something you will have to have done by a Professional Electrician. If you find out that it is only one exterior outlet that doesn’t work, you may decide those Christmas lights just aren’t quite as important as you originally thought.