Things to Test and Consider Before Listing Your Home

Home inspections are conducted on 97% of homes sold today. With an inspection a buyer may feel overwhelmed, could potentially back out of the deal, or ask for a price reduction because of a long list of small petty items. So, it’s important to prepare yourself for a home inspection and get a head start on identifying and fixing obvious items that a home inspector will likely discover.

Home inspections are conducted on 97% of homes sold today. With an inspection a buyer may feel overwhelmed, could potentially back out of the deal, or ask for a price reduction because of a long list of small petty items. So, it’s important to prepare yourself for a home inspection and get a head start on identifying and fixing obvious items that a home inspector will likely discover.

Conduct a general walk around of the inside and outside of the house. Look for things out of place and or damaged, dirty, or old. These are similar thoughts that will be going through a buyer’s mind, and likely the mind of a home inspector.

Keep in mind: A home inspector needs to gain access to nearly every part of the home to complete the inspection, make sure the access to the attic and crawlspace are accessible, able to be opened, and personal belongings cleared to allow for entry. The furnace, water heater, and electrical panel will also need to be accessible. A path to the appliance and access directly in front to remove any panel covers will be necessary to complete the inspection.

Hillsboro, Oregon

Safety

Smoke Detectors cannot be older than 10 years per most manufactures specifications. A chirping sound indicates that a unit with a battery is low on power, replace the battery and test the unit. Most homes in the last 30 years will have a wired smoke detector system installed in the house, it is required that wired units be used in this case to ensure maximum safety.

CO Detectors, like smoke detectors, have a shelf life indicated by the manufacturer, usually at 10 years but sometimes as early as 5 years the device will need to be replaced. CO Detectors are necessary in any house with a gas source, wood or pellet fireplace/stove, or even just an attached garage. When required, one should be installed within 15 feet of each bedroom and an additional unit on each floor is great for safety.

Handrails and Guardrails are there to prevent one from falling or slipping and will be thoroughly reviewed by the home inspector. At first, making sure they are strong and sturdy, not climbable, and high enough to prevent easily falling over is a quick start. Beyond the basics, it is best to consult with a professional.

Fire Extinguisher are important for the safety of you and your family and should be available in any home. Understanding how to use it, whether it is still ready for use, where to keep it, and how many to have are important questions to ask. Your local fire department is one of the best places to consult with in regards to these matters.

key in door

Roof

Starting with the roof: If you don’t remember the last time it was cleaned, inspected, or potentially repaired (depending on material type) then it might save you a lot of money to have a professional come look. Moss, debris, and damaged shingles are easy things to have cleaned and fixed and they will be called out in an inspection. By staying ahead of this you are improving the curb appeal of the house, making it easier for the inspector to conduct his job, and likely increasing the chance of the roof not becoming a major topic of concern for the buyers. Gutters are another important topic but to keep it simple, keep them clean, and make sure the downspout gets the water at least 6 feet away from the foundation.

Roof Inspection

Exterior

The remaining areas of exterior we will break up into two categories; the house, and the property.

When reviewing the house, the three biggest things to look at is the paint, caulking, and flashing. All of these go back to managing moisture and how we keep it out and away from the building. Paint will last 5-15 years, depending on quality, location, and installation. Areas with a lot of sun (specifically the south) will fade and the paint will deteriorate faster, this also goes for caulking. Cracking, splitting, and peeling caulking or paint will need to be cleaned, prepped, and reapplied.

The property pertains to everything else, decks, fences, landscaping, land grade (slope), and the list goes on. Decks; look for rotten boards, unusual slopes in the structure, loose components and handrails, and proper structural brackets/fasteners. Fencing; make sure gates open and close properly, fence boards are not loose or rotten, and posts are not leaning. Landscaping is a broad topic but by keeping trees and shrubs away from the structure you will protect the exterior components of the house and allow for a full inspection.

Bethany, Oregon

Interior

Inside of the house, every guest, potential buyer, agent, and even home inspector seem to accumulate around the kitchen. So, it’s were I like to start as well as you should start.  Run all the appliances, make sure the burner/elements on the cook top work, is the dishwasher leaking (usually from the door seal), is the anti-tip device for the range installed? Fridge, Microwave, Rangehood/Fan, Garbage Disposal are all items that may also be looked and evaluated. Next check the cabinet doors and drawers to make sure they are not loose, broken, or off track. Buy a GFCI outlet tester (amazon or local hardware store $8-$10) and make sure all outlets are functioning, protection by a GFCI may be required (kitchen & bathroom mostly). You’ll find what ones are worn out or loose this way. Run the faucet, remember hot is also to the left, and check for drips or leaking under the sink.

Throughout the halls and bedrooms will be more outlets to test, check the doors to make sure they open, close, and latch properly. While the door is open, lift from the handle to see if the hinges or handle is loose. Open, close, and lock every window to ensure they are functioning. Double and triple pane windows that are fogged, or “stained” between the panes have a broken seal, this will reduce the efficiency but is mostly cosmetic. Another common issue is a broken spring or in older windows, a broken sash cord, these can be inexpensive to fix in most cases.

The age of the home will likely determine the amount of smoke detectors you have, older homes have less but we’ll come back to that. To start, check the back side of each one to ensure they are not older than 10 years. Then test each one or the group if they are wired, if wiring is present, a wired unit should be installed. Now the question of how many? Typically, one in each bedroom, as well as each floor in a common area is a good place to start, but keep it out of the kitchen, the smoke detector that chirps the most tends to get unplugged (or so it goes). Carbon Monoxide detectors/monitors are required in a common area within 15 feet of each bedroom door. It is also good to add one to each floor, they do make CO/Smoke combo units that can help save some money when replacing all of them.

kitchen

Bathrooms

The bathrooms are easy, treat it like the kitchen and your ahead of the game. Showers and tubs need regular maintenance including caulking and grout touch up. Remember that hot is always on the left but in your tub/shower if you have a turn dial valve then the cold water should always come on first. Toilets should be sounds and secured tight. The tank should have little to no movement and ideally the base will have no movement at all, its good to check but don’t force it.

modern master bathroom

Garage

The garage is the place that is likely holding all your item before you move, we often seen boxes stacked to the ceiling and narrow paths leading to nowhere. To get started, make sure the inspector will have a safe and easy access to the electrical panel, furnace, water heater, and any other important components if they reside in the garage. If a furnace or water heater are in the garage, they will likely need a bollard installed in front if you don’t already have one. Operate the garage door both manually and by remote or switch is possible. Check the sensors by swinging something in front of the sensors eye while the door is coming down. Ensure that your opener unit is plugged into an outlet directly and not using an extension cord to reach an outlet.

garage workshop tools

Attic/Crawlspace

If you’re brave enough to venture into the attic and lower crawlspace than there is a couple things to look for, but be careful not to step through the ceiling. In the attic, check the plywood or roof sheathing over head to see if there are any signs of an active leak, dark staining, or soft spots in the wood. Any bathroom or laundry exhaust fans should duct to the exterior, many of these will run metal flex pipe through the attic, make sure they are exhausting to the exterior. The crawlspace below your first floor should have plastic covering the ground, should be clean of major debris, pest droppings, and moisture. If the plastic has signs of pest droppings or moisture, it is best to leave cleaning to a professional being that it can be a health hazard. If it is dry and clean, then it is a good time to check to make sure the insulation is pinned up tight and ducting is secured off the ground. Check under plumbing for water spots on the floor and if you see an area covered in lint, it means your dryer vent is likely leaking. The crawlspace and attic are not much fun but it is a very important component to the health of your home and in reality the health of the sale.

Insulation Inspection

Utilities

Ensure all utilities are on and operational. A home inspector cannot turn on or off water valves, electrical breakers, and or gas valves. Something as simple as the gas being off will limit the inspection of major appliance and require a future re-inspect. Check all lights, fans, appliances, heating and cooling, and fireplaces to make sure they can be operated with normal controls.

water tap

Appliances

Furnace:

Ensure the furnace is operational by means of basic controls (thermostat, localized controls)

Have the furnace serviced if it has not regularly been maintained, this is one of the most common items reported on an inspection report.

Change the filter and if the furnace cabinet and or ducts are dirty, they should be cleaned.

While running the furnace, make sure there is heat coming from each register, it is often an easy fix when the heat is less than normal. (pull the register cover and check for any debris or personal belongings)

Most furnaces older than 20-25 years are generally considered beyond its service life, be prepared for a request for replacement.

Air Conditioning:

Any shrubs, bushes, or other debris needs to be trimmed back and or removed from the Air- Conditioner, ideally a minimal of a 1-foot area all the way around is clear.

The coils should be clean and inside area clear of debris such as dirt, pine needles, and leaves.

Like the furnace, regular maintenance is very important, this will ensure the coolant pressure is optimal, the out-side unit is level and clean, and the inside components area clean and functioning properly.

Air Conditioning systems older than 15 years are generally considered to be beyond its service life. A heat pump system will typically last 4-6 years longer than most AC systems.

Water Heater:

The water heater should be set to produce 120 degrees on average at the fixtures.

Water heaters in Oregon required specific seismic strapping, here’s a guide to different types of water heaters.

A TPR valve requires a down spout that discharges within 4-6” of the ground, if any water is dripping from the valve or pipe, consult with a plumber.

Any water heater older than 12 years is generally considered beyond its service life, be prepared for a replacements request.

Kitchen Appliances:

Kitchen appliances will be tested using normal operating procedures found in everyday activities. The following are a list of common problems that can be easily fixed.

Range – Anti-Tip device is missing, cook top elements are burnt out or loose and not functioning, gas burners are dirty and not functioning, gas/power it shut off.

Dishwasher – Discharge line is missing high loop, it’s not secured (mounting screws), leaking.

Water Heater Inspection

Infrastructure

Other means of Heat:

Baseboard and Wall Heaters are simple systems that produce heat locally. Over the summer they are left untouched for months and will accumulate dust, before the first use of the cold season it is best to remove the front cover if necessary and vacuum off the heating elements to remove any dust or containments. Always turn off the power supply to the unit before cleaning to prevent electrical shock.

Electrical: A licensed electrical contractor should perform all electrical work.

GFCI: any outlet within 6 feet of a water source will require protection from a GFCI. This only means that a GFCI outlet will need to be properly installed further upstream, any outlets that are wired in after that outlet will have its protection.
Common areas would include the Kitchen, Bathrooms, Laundry, Garage, Exterior

Outlets: all outlets that are accessible may be tested, most commonly found issues are loose outlets, ungrounded outlets, and outlets with revere polarity (hot and neutral wires reversed). Beyond that, outlets that are burnt, worn (plug falls out easily), inoperable, or are wired in another incomplete fashion will need to be properly replaced or repaired.

Panel: the cover of the panel is generally removed in the inspection, this allows verification of proper mounting, wiring, breaker sizing, and other components, hence why access to the panel is so important. At this time the inspector will verify that nothing has been tampered with. Any work inside of an electrical panel should be done by a qualified and licensed electrical contractor not only for your safety, but for the safety of the home.

Some specific panel brands are known to have issues and most home inspectors and electrical contractor will recommend replacement for again your safety and the safety of the home.

Federal Pacific Electric FPE: These panels are one of the most common in our area, typically found in homes from the late 50’s to the earl 80’s. The problem primarily exists with the breakers, they fail to trip when over loaded and, in some cases, may identify as in the OFF position but are still sending current through. Because of this all FPE panels we come across are recommended for removal and replacement.
These panels are typically easily identified by the “Federal Pacific” or “FPE” logo on the panel cover and or “Stab-Loc” on the inside.

Zinsco Panels: Zinsco or GTE-Sylvania panels are much less common in our area, we typically see 10 Federal Pacific’s to everyone Zinsco and they mostly are in the 50’s and 60’s. The problem with the panel also lies in the breakers, the most common failure is the breaker “welding” itself to the main bus bar and loses the ability to properly trip when overloaded.
Zinsco panels usually have their name printed on the panel and almost always have their logo on each breaker, but for a short time they were re-branded as GTE-Sylvania or just Sylvania. Not all the re-branded panels are bad, but it is always best to have an electrical contractor fully evaluate to ensure your safety has not been compromised.

Fused Panels: a fused panel has many features that make it unsafe but it’s not typically because of the fuse itself. A fused panel will protect from an overloading circuit just the same as a modern-day breaker panel, the difference being how to reset a circuit. With fused panel the burnt fuse is removed and replaced, some of these panels will not have a main shut off and so you find yourself in a position to potentially get shocked. The most common issue found are the fuses have been replaced with a size large to handle a larger load that our normal day to day life’s now demand.
Identifying these panels is as easy as opening the cover door, todays panels will contain breakers that look like switches, a fused panel will contain round metal objects with a glass window and light bulb socket on the bottom. Due to the fact that these are outdated, unsafe to maintain, and are sized for an electrical demand we have far exceeded, these panels should be replaced, as always, by a qualified and licensed electrical contractor.

Plumbing:

  • Flush all toilets and run all faucets.
  • Remove anything clogging drains.
  • Check drain stops.
  • Look and feel for leaks under drains, around toilets, and below the bathroom.
  • Check for proper water pressure and temperature. Hot is always on the left and cold always comes first.
wiring issues