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Open house: 5 tips for examining a home’s interior

Victor Polich
Mortgage Banking

It’s exciting to be looking for a new home. But it’s also important to be objective and keep your eyes open, making sure not to overlook or dismiss interior issues that could cause headaches down the road.

Interior of sunny room with large windows and white brick wall, with only a potted tree as the only furnishing in the room.When attending an open house or visiting a home with a real estate agent, you’ll want to plan ahead. Consider bringing along a checklist to help you focus on the important things, such as evaluating whether the property’s interior meets your expectations and requirements.

You may want to make sure these common interior problem areas are on your checklist:

1. Windows. Notice any condensation? If so, there’s a good chance the window’s seal has deteriorated. While some newer-model double-pane windows can be repaired, the window may need to be replaced.

2. Walls. If you spot patches, or an uneven or replastered wall texture, it’s an indication the walls have been repaired. There can be several reasons for this, ranging from a water leak (check the roof) to settling cracks (check the foundation). It’s important to ask about the reason for the repair(s).

3. Electrical outlets. Many older homes have outdated outlets that are unable to accommodate current appliance and technology needs. Although electrical outlets can be added, it may require an entire electrical upgrade.

4. Bathrooms. Excessive moisture is a major cause of dry rot, which can be a sign of a possible pest problem. Take notice if there is an exhaust fan or window in each bathroom, and pay close attention to any signs of mildew on the flooring or caulking around the shower, bathtub, and toilet. Also, look for any discolored linoleum underneath the surface and test the floor to see if it feels soft or mushy near the bathtub, shower, sink, and toilet. Consider running the water in the shower/tub and sink to test the water pressure, which can be an indication of potential plumbing issues.

5. Structural. To make sure the home doesn’t have a settling problem, examine whether the floors appear level from one room to the next. In addition, take note of whether the doors open and close smoothly and appear to be horizontally even. As you walk around the interior, pay close attention if the floors or stairs creak. Finally, look for any cracks in the window and door frames.

Even if a home’s interior passes your approval, you should still invest in a professional home inspection. This will help remove uncertainty and give you a better idea of the condition of the home and the possible repairs that may become your responsibility or that you’ll want to factor into your purchase price.

Bonus Tip: Take photos. When house-hunting, the many different homes and floor plans you see can blur together. To help you remember the pros and cons of each home, consider taking photos or video. But be sure to ask for permission first. In many cases, the home may still be someone’s private residence.

See an earlier post with tips for examining a home’s exterior.

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