9 Critical Things to Look For During House Inspections

28 May 2020

As Covid-19 restrictions, ease across Australia, property, and house inspections continue albeit with social distancing still a concern.

But while inspecting a house will feel a little different in the current climate, there are some age-old warning signs the savvy home buyer should be wary of,  if you want to avoid nasty costs soon after settlement.

Here's a quick inspection checklist to help you make sure you're on the right path.


1. Structural Issues and Foundation Problems

Cracks and other fractures are easy to disguise unless you've got a keen eye for these things. Here are a few signs to watch for during a house inspection:

  • Cracks within the walls or floor
  • Doors that do not shut and open completely
  • Extra space around your window
  • Windows or doors that cannot be locked
  • Misaligned cabinets, cupboards and shelves along the walls
  • A sinking foundation or an uneven floor
  • The upheaval of slabs within the foundation

If you notice any of these in a house, you should know that they are a sign of foundation damage. Even if you don't notice these, be sure to ask about them. Take note of them and consider your options.

2. Signs of an Infestation

Be sure to inquire about termites, silverfish, cockroaches, mice, and other possible infestations in the house.

Knock on any wooden surfaces to check if they are hollow. Mud tubes, discarded termite wings, wood damage, and bubbling paint are all key indicators of a termite infestation on the property.

Also keep an eye out for rat droppings, holes, odors, and scratch marks around the house. A foul or rancid smell is usually a good indicator of a rat infestation.

3. Asbestos or Lead-Based Paint

Asbestos is usually found in walls, roofs, or fences. It has been known to cause several health and respiratory issues and it's essential to stay clear of it whenever possible.

This dust is especially dangerous for those with breathing problems like asthma, and it's best to have it removed. Additionally do inquire about the type of paint used for the walls in each room to make sure you have minimal exposure to lead.

4. Electrical Wiring

When it comes to electrical wiring, there are quite a few things you need to look out for. Here's a quick checklist to help you:

  • Number, placement, and functionality of all plug points in the house
  • Old or broken switches that need to be repaired
  • Insulation of the walls
  • Flickering, buzzing or dimming lights
  • Frayed, chewed or cut wires around the house
  • Discolored wall plates

Also, do ask about the type of wire used and the last time the wires were changed. This can give you a good, general idea of the kind of maintenance your wires require.

5. Heating and Cooling Units

Are the heating, ventilating, and cooling systems functional? What was the time of installation? Do they still run on a warranty?

Ask about the age of each system and a demonstration to show that they are still properly functional. Be on the lookout for rust and other kinds of damage caused to the system. Also, take a look at any service or maintenance records there are and if possible, get an expert's opinion on these units.

6. Mold and Other Moisture Related Problems

Mold is usually found within crawl spaces and damp areas around the house. Examine all wooden surfaces, and keep an eye out for fungus, musty odors, peeling wallpapers, dark spots, and other signs of mold growth around the house.

If you are susceptible to allergies, take note of the rooms that suddenly cause you to sneeze.

Mold is usually an indicator of poor ventilation and unclean crawl space.

7. Newly Painted Surfaces and Hidden Damage

Owners often try to hide damaged areas with fresh paint, objects, and furnishings. If you can, always lift up rugs or suspiciously placed objects to have a clear look at what's underneath or behind them.

Additionally, take a close look at any surfaces that are freshly painted. It could be a disguise for thin cracks or other problems that require repairs.

8. Plumbing Systems

Take a look at any external pipes and test every sink or bathroom for running water. Keep an eye out for leaks, and ask questions about the drainage system.

Is the water discolored? Are the taps or pipes rusted? Does everything function as it should?

9. Land and Structures Around the House

Now that you're done with examining the inside of the house, it's time to take a look at the outside. Look for big trees, and objects around the house.

Are there fire hazards? How old are the trees in the backyard? When was the last time a proper tree inspection was held?

Be sure to ask for receipts for any of the answers you get.

House Inspections Must Go Beyond General Appearances

Inspecting a property is more than just admiring its aesthetics. Of course, those do matter, but there are other elements that need to be examined before you make your decision.

If you feel like you do not have the expertise to conduct house inspections on your own, there are several experts out there who can do it for you.