Do You Have a Property Inspection Toolkit? (9 Must-Haves to Get You Prepared)

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If you are a real estate investor (or would like to become one), it is more than likely that you will walk through many properties.  I recommend that anyone looking at houses put together a “toolkit” that they leave in their car.  That way, when they inspect properties, they have the main tools that they need.

Related: How to Systemize Your Initial Property Inspection to Avoid Surprises

Here’s what you should have in your property inspection toolkit:

1. Flashlight

Properties that you walk through may not have the power on (for example if they have been foreclosed on).  Even if they do have the power on, you may want to check attics/basements/corners where there may not be any light.  These are places where issues can hide, so make sure to check them.  In a pinch you can use the flashlight on your phone, but I recommend a little bit of money on a nice bright flashlight.

2. Tape Measure

All houses are different.  Some rooms are shaped odd, some have had poor work in the past.  I always find the need to measure something.  In an early inspection, measuring distances of electrical outlets might give me an idea of if the electrical codes were followed.  I can also do some initial planning to see if we could do something like add space for a laundry hookup (if the house is lacking one).  These items are important as part of an early inspection.

Later when we are creating a Scope of Work (SOW), it is essential to be able to give specifics on sqft of rooms and a multitude of other tasks.

3. Recording System (Paper/Tablet)

As you walk through the property you will want a way to record notes.  If this is my first walk-through a potential property for purchase, I will want to keep general notes about the property, issues and potential ideas.  If this is a property that we own but don’t have utilities on, I will walk to get a little more detailed so that I can prepare the Scope of Work (SOW) that renovations that we will make.

In addition to simply a way to record this information, I would recommend a spreadsheet or app that allows you to run through a checklist of things to consider.  This way you can go room by room, make sure you cover everything, and if you have doing a SOW have a organized sheet to then get estimates on afterwards.

4. Camera

In addition to taking notes, to use the cliché, “a picture is worth a thousand words”.  Especially if we are going through several properties, a picture can really help us remember each property.  Additionally you can go back and reference details or questions after the fact.  If there are major problems that you identify with the property, pictures will also allow you to remember/go back and reference after.

5. Multi-Purpose Respirator

You may not know the condition of a property that you are walking through.  Especially if is an older have and/or has been vacant, there could be dangers that lurk inside such as lead, mold, asbestos, fecal matter or other less than pleasant/safe items.  That is why I recommend having a nice multi-purpose respirator in your toolkit.

6. Phillips & Flathead Screwdriver

There may be situations where you can to unscrew something in a house.  Having a set of screwdrivers will allow you to dog deeper.  Additionally, they can be used to pry as well as poke through different materials.  If you are worried about a weak spot in a wall, you can poke and prod with a screwdriver.

7. Utility Knife

I own ~143 utility knives.  I have them everywhere.  Like a screwdriver then can be used to poke, but obviously they can be used to cut.  You never know when you may need to cut, chip or slice something as part of an inspection to dig deeper (no pun intended).

8. Electrical Circuit Tester

If the power is on, a good initial check it to test a few out the outlets to verify that they are working and wired correctly.  That could give you an idea as to any electrical issues that could be hiding.

9. Appropriate Clothing

Inspections can be dirty, depending on the house, season, part of the country.  You may be walking through a vacant property that is run down, walking in a dirty basement, crawling through a crawl space or many other scenarios.  I recommend a nice sit of boots/heavy duty clothing and a hat (for spider webs).

There it is, a basic list of what a property inspection kit for real estate investors consists of.  This kit is to allow you to take the first pass at a property or help prepare a SOW.  A home inspector will have many more items in their kit to do a full and thorough inspection.

Do you use a toolkit for inspecting properties?  Is there anything that you would add to this?

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About Author

Tom is a serial entrepreneur and real estate investor from Rochester, NY. His real estate investments primarily target multi-unit properties. Along with his wife Ariana, they run a blog called Entreprenewlyweds, which helps couples understand how to manage being real estate investors/entrepreneurs while also maintaining a great relationship and family life.

18 Comments

  1. Jason Mutschler on

    Take a can of DEET (OFF!) with you! The deep woods variety and spray your pant legs. I have found that often the fleas can be BAD when inspecting especially one that has sat for a while. No reason to take them with you.

    J

  2. Awesome Article. I am a newbie and this is worth so much to me… We get so caught up in learning the biz, this probably saved me from being unprepared at walk thrus!
    Thank you!

    • Dena – If you are new to real estate, your most important tool might be to take a friend/contractor who will know what to look for and teach you what is cosmetic and what to run from. If they’ve been doing construction for a while they can tell you if the plumbing/electrical is outdated. They can give you a ballpark idea off the top of their head what things cost too like a bathroom remodel, roof, etc. That will help you get some numbers together before making an offer on one. You can line up a 1/2 dozen houses to look at in one day and just pay him for his day or something. Once you gain experience you can certainly do this on your own. With the right person you will learn a lot about what to look for. Hope this helps.

      • I agree wholeheartedly with Dave’s reply. There is nothing better than spending a little bit of money to have a pro show you what you look for. It will save you a lot of time and money in the end.

  3. Joseph Thomad on

    Tom, nice article and contribution. To go with tape measure I would recommend a two foot level. That can be very nice when you are looking at homes with basements especially. A level can help you see if your eyes are telling you the truth when something looks out of plumb.

  4. Good article and advice Tom. As a home inspector those tools are all valuable. Another one to add is a moisture meter. This is just another tool to help potential buyers confirm the roof conditions and ensure they are not falling victim to a home with hidden water damage. Its a investment that will certainly pay you back.

  5. Geoff Van Dusen on

    Such great ideas, I really like the DEET one, I had thought about most of the others, but would not have thought of that one.

  6. Great list. Yes, I learned the hard way on the electrical outlet tester. Inspectors only test a few, and they manage to test the ones that work. Had to call electricians back to fix stuff found during a city rental inspection I could have had them do had I tested all the outlets myself. I would also advise getting familiar with what building codes are required to be followed. Around here just about every city has rental inspections…you don’t want to find out after you redo a kitchen that’s on a slab foundation that that kitchen island needs an outlet in it!

  7. Craig N.

    Wouldn’t the owner be upset if you were caught poking holes in walls with a screwdriver? Also, am I not supposed to be hiring an inspector versus doing the poking and prodding myself?

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