What are the clues I should look for that may hint to catastrophic repairs?

2 Replies

I'm going into a few distressed/rundown properties to give them a preliminary look over. I'm no pro (obviously), but I have watched a few episodes of Holmes Inspection on Netflix :-), and from what I have gathered there are some things that constitute a deal breaker. 

Now I'm under no illusion, those shows have houses that were sold with people living in them to people that are going to move in immediately. Im going into some rundown ones. 

I WILL be getting an inspection after an offer has been accepted subject to that inspection. I am going in just to identify the condition of the house. Unfortunately, the electricity and plumbing is off. Things I will be looking for, starting from basement up:

  • Water in the basement 
  • Large cracks in the foundation
  • Bowing in the foundation walls. 
  • Sagging in the basement ceiling 
  • Temporary supports.
  • Evidence of repairs
  • Musty smell

Floors between:

  • Water damage
  • Bowing in the ceiling
  • Evidence of repairs

Roof (I wont be getting on it):

  • Shingles missing
  • Venting present?
  • Gutters exist
  • Rain flow (it's raining today, so thats good).

Now obviously, if I see a caved in floor, bowed foundation, hole in the roof, etc I am probably going to need to run the other direction. Aside from this list, what else can give clues that MAJOR repairs will need to be done. 

Electrical system that isn't grounded is first that comes to my mind. If you take the cover off an outlet, connected to an outlet will be a pair of black wires, white wires and bare copper wires (this is the ground wire your looking for). Some old homes only have black and white which is definitely not to code and the house should be wired. You can check this with the power off (and you should). Keep in mind that those shows also need to have drama to keep the viewer interested so don't be too scared get a couple quotes first and use that to your advantage when negotiating...missing gutters...easy fix.

Attic space is another I check. You can look for major leaks! Caved floor is easy to fix in most cases! You have to replace flooring anyway so it's not a big deal.

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