Common sense considerations. Tips for sizing up a home for sale

Common sense considerations. Tips for sizing up a home for sale
When going through a home, be thorough in your investigation to find potential issues.

By Danny Smith 

As I show properties to buyers, there are some obvious factors that I encourage clients to consider. These factors are not the complex, technical ones that require the expertise of a professional inspector for proper evaluation. They are common sense factors that provide preliminary assessments that you might use to eliminate potentially problematic properties. Once you have narrowed the available properties to the one that is most promising, a professional inspector might be engaged.

In most cases, water is the most serious threat to a well-maintained home. It can cause foundation problems, structural damage, unsightly staining and warping and other issues. A key point that a non-professional can evaluate is water drainage around the house.

Start with the gutter downspouts. Do they carry water away from the house or allow it to soak into the ground beside the house? Is the ground beside the house sloped away from the house so water drains away from the foundation? Look at the general configuration of the lot to evaluate where rainfall will be directed. Is water likely to accumulate beside the house and soak into the soil or freely flow away from the house?

Next, take a look at the roof. A good, serviceable roof is essential to maintain the integrity of a home and replacement of the roof is one of the more expensive home repairs. Even a non-professional can look at a composition roof and see whether the shingles are warp- ing or cupping and whether the surface granules have been weathered away.

Is there loose flashing? Wood shake roofs can also show warping and splitting that indicate deterioration. There are sometimes problems with slate and tile roofs that can be identified just by looking. Missing or broken materials are not a good indication. If necessary, I use binoculars to get a higher resolution look at the roof.

As you walk through the interior of a house, look up. There are telltale indications of problems that may appear on the ceilings. Water leaks from a failing roof or from plumbing issues often cause stains on the ceiling. Also look for cracks, nail heads that have pushed out and even sagging of the ceiling if there is an especially significant problem. Also, look under sinks for moisture, mold or mildew. Copper or PCV plumbing is preferable to galvanized or iron.

Doors and windows often provide useful clues. Look for corners that are not square and for gaps and cracks. Look be- hind the curtains and shades. Test whether doors open and close smoothly. These problems are sometimes an indication of foundation issues.

Floors that are not level can also indicate foundation problems. Place a marble on any floor location that appears to be tilted to see if it rolls. If the windows are double glazed, look for haze between the two panes of glass which indicates that the gap is no longer sealed. The windows would need to be replaced to eliminate the haze.

An important safety feature to look for is the use of outlets with ground fault circuit interrupters near water sources such as sinks and bathtubs. The GFCI outlets are designed to prevent electric shock. They can be identified by the but- tons on the face plate that can be pressed to test and reset the protection. Non-GFCI outlets near water sources should be replaced.

Among other issues that you should look for are siding that is splitting, warping or peeling. Tile work with cracks, uneven spacing or irregular surfaces can also indicate is- sues. Check on HVAC and water heater age via sites like to decipher equipment data plates. Before the 1990s, popcorn ceilings contained asbestos even though further production was banned in 1978, so be wary. Sites like can help to determine the age of appliances. Missing or improperly installed handrails should give you pause.

Factors that are relatively easy to fix and are not particularly important in evaluating a property include paint color, hardware, light fixtures and landscaping.

Common sense indicators are a way to eliminate properties that should not be seriously considered. However, they are not a substitute for professional inspection of a property that has passed the common sense tests.