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Basic Property Inspection

How to do a Basic Property Inspection

This is an area that can make you money or cost you money. If you are advanced this information likely won’t be for you. This post is for those wanting to learn what to do during a property inspection. A basic property inspection should include the following at minimum…

  • Pictures
  • Walk around exterior
  • Walk thru on the interior
  • Turn on faucets, A/C, Heat, etc
  • Turn on lights in every room
  • Look up every time you look straight ahead
  • Make notes

Why are Pictures Important?

The answer to why pictures are important is easy. A picture tells a thousand words. You are likely about to try to sell the house. It’s important to take good pictures that make the house look bigger and more appealing. How do I do that?

When I arrive at a property the first thing I do is take a picture of the street in both directions. I always include a corner of my car in the picture. Why? It proves I was there. I also take pictures on my camera not phone. It’s important to have a date stamp on pictures. If an investor can see the date it takes the questions about the current condition away. This helps investors proceed to making offers that are higher and more timely. It also removes any he said, she said down the road if you find yourself in the grasp of a cranky investor that likes to cause problems after close.

I always take exterior pictures at a 45 degree angle of the corners of the house. This will make it look bigger and highlight the depth of the house as well.

Basic Property Inspection
My car is the white hood at the bottom of the picture

Interior pictures should use the flash with lights turned on in the room if possible. A dark picture is a negative emotion to all of us. Why would you want your investor to have a negative emotion looking at your pictures? I understand they will have negative emotions because of renovations, etc. My point is lighter pictures make ALL negative emotions a little less severe, which should lead to a higher sales price.

Walk Around the Exterior

This is where the story begins. Believe it or not a house tells multiple stories. It tells the era a house was built, the story of the family living there, and the story of the care it has received over the years and currently.

A house doesn’t tell a story. Sure it does. Have you ever noticed a leak on a ceiling only to find out there was or is a leak in the roof? An exterior inspection begins to tell you what you might see on the interior. It is a rule of thumb assumption that the inside will look like the outside. That’s why Appraisers can do drive by appraisals.

You need to check the roof, siding, windows, any decks, etc. If you notice any issues take a picture for your records. If not, proceed to the interior inspection.

Interior Inspection

The interior inspection is likely the most difficult and time consuming. Do not rush through it.

When you walk thru the interior you need to look up, down, and straight ahead with almost every step. Why? There is a ceiling, wall, and floor with every step you take. This habit helps speed up the inspection because as the floor color changes to the wall paint to the ceiling color you will notice things that don’t flow almost automatically. As you go room to room turn on the lights in each room for a brighter, sellable picture.

Once you have done a basic inspection of the interior you need to check mechanical systems. This includes turning on the water to check the pressure and drainage. I ask the owner first but always try to turn on every faucets in the house then flush both toilets to see the drop in pressure. If it’s noticeable there is a reduction in my offer since I will have to repair the pressure problem before I sell it. Some owners won’t let you turn on all faucets. Be respectful if this turns out to be the case.

You should also try to turn on the A/C and the heat, even if it’s Summer to see if it engages. It won’t blow hot air but it will engage any time of the year. The same for the air conditioning.

If the owner will let you I would also raise at least one window in each room. Do not immediately close the window. It’s important to see if it stays up. If it doesn’t stay up then it won’t pass an FHA, VA or Housing Authority inspection. One window in each room needs to open and stay open on its own.

Final Thoughts

No one expects anyone to be an expert and know everything. Some people would like you to think they know everything but inspecting a property is about your comfort level not checking boxes. Each house is different. That means each house will have different issues and amenities that the neighbors don’t have with their house. The condition of each house is going to be different because no two people are the same. One homeowner may have the money or know how to keep everything up-to-date. The neighbor may be struggling or simply not care what the outside of their house looks like. That’s why inspections should never be rushed. You’re almost playing a game trying to find what the owner is hiding. Trust me, they all try to hide something. I’ve inspected thousands of houses as an appraiser and investor. If you look hard enough you’ll find what they are hiding. Play their game without them knowing you are playing. Ask a question in a polite way when you find it and watch the deal fall in your lap.

Make sure as you grow in your Real Estate career you know more than any owner you meet. Your knowledge is your power. It will not hurt to do an inspection then go straight to Lowe’s. If you find an issue at a house but don’t know what to call it show the picture to an employee. They know what department you need to go to for more information at least. You might not buy the material to repair the problem but they are still there to answer a customer’s question.

As a Reminder…

Please do not go to a group on Facebook and ask what it will cost to rehab your house. Building materials that are used & accepted change from neighborhood to neighborhood. Prices of materials change by region. Prices charged by contractors change neighborhood by neighborhood also. Find a contractor and be honest with them. They can grow as you learn because you will close deals and get to the point of hiring them for properties you hold or flip.

Do an inspection right start to finish and you will make more money on that deal and your future deals.


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