Shopping for a new house means looking past that fresh coat of paint and doing a little digging to see if any big repairs or deal breakers are lurking beneath the surface. 

Sure, it’s likely a few issues will surface during your inspection, but it’s smart to check things out before you put in an offer. Finding a problem doesn’t mean you can’t buy the house. It just helps you get a better idea of what to offer, and what you can live with. A new house is a big investment, and you want to make sure that your dream home doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

Collect this idea

Age of your roof

Knowing the age and condition of your new home’s roof is key to understanding upcoming, potential home maintenance costs. Source: Peter Zimmerman Architects

1. Damaged roof

The first thing you need to know about your potential new home is the age and condition of the roof. The realtor should be able to tell you. Do a visual check of the roof by walking around the house. Look for damaged or missing shingles, rusted flashing, moss or dirt and any other spots that worry you. A damaged roof could seriously impact the interior and exterior of your home. If you have concerns, let your realtor know so they can discuss them with the homeowner when they negotiate your offer.

Collect this idea

When you have a home inspection, be sure to have your air Ccnditioner and Furnace are thoroughly evaluated. Source: Superior Living by Design

2. Heating and cooling performance

Few things are worse than needing A/C or heat, and not having it. So make sure you check the heating and cooling system to see if it’s in good working order. Ask the age of the system, turn it on and off, take a look at the ductwork if possible and see if the filters fit snugly. Don’t forget to look outside, too. Listen to how your air conditioning and heating units sound when they’re running. Look for rust and dirt on the equipment. If you’re satisfied with your initial look, pay close attention to the inspection report. Your inspector will test the system and can give you more thorough details.

If you think the system might need replacing, your local HVAC dealer can give you a quote for installation, labor and equipment. If you need to replace any equipment, you may be able to get the homeowner to reduce the selling price by amount of the replacement cost.

Collect this idea

Checking for leaking faucets, shower heads or signs of leaks like stains on the ceiling can also be good clues when evaluating the home you are interested in purchasing. Source: Kitchens By Clay

3. Water damage

Inside the house, look for water stains on the ceiling. Check under sinks in the kitchen and bathrooms and test all of the faucets and showers. You’ll also want to check out the basement, garage or crawl space to see if there’s a sump pump. These could all indicate past or future problems with poor water drainage which could lead to flooding. Outside, look for sloping areas in the yard, standing water, french drains, water marks on the foundation. Even if the water issues aren’t active anymore, it’s good to know past problems and what could pop up in the future.

Collect this idea

Foundation, or lack there of can really be a good indicator of structural issues you may encounter later down the road. Source: Keuka Studios

4. Foundation faults

If you’re serious about buying a house, be sure to check out the foundation. Walk around the exterior, go into the crawlspace or basement and look for cracks and other red flags. Your inspector will also give you a thorough report on these issues. 

Collect this idea

Look beyond the cosmetics of an updated kitchen to make sure your appliances and outlets are updated as well. Source: SOD Builders

5. Working appliances and electrical outlets

Don’t let cosmetic repairs distract you from potential problems, especially in a freshly painted kitchen. Look at all appliances to make sure they’re in good shape. Turn on the stove, run the dishwasher and peek into the refrigerator. Look for grounded GFCI outlets in your kitchen and baths — the ones with the red and black reset buttons. Also, give the circuit breaker a look and flip a few of the breakers. If this is going to be your new home, you want to make sure everything works as it should.

Collect this idea

Beyond the beauty windows reflect, be sure that they are all operational in case of an emergency. Source: The Sitting Room Studio

6. Working windows

It’s a simple thing, but check all the windows in the new house to make sure they open properly. This is important for fire safety, as well as for comfort on a warm day. Asking the homeowner to get a handyman to fix the windows is easy.

7. Bugs and pests

You may not see any critters during the day, but look in corners and cabinets for mouse and roach droppings. Again, this is another easy fix. You can ask the homeowner for a pest control treatment as part of your contract.

Understanding potential problems will make you more confident during the home buying experience – and allow you to enjoy your new house rather than worrying about what’s wrong. It’s up to you to decide if any faults you find are deal breakers or an opportunity to get a better deal on your new home.