The following checklist on the things you should do before buying and
older home and or building is for any prospective buyer who is
considering an opportunity to purchase property.
If the home and or building uses gas/electric, call or stop in at your
local energy company (in Milwaukee it would be WE Energies) for an
estimate on the average gas/bill usage for that particular property
address over a two (2) year period. You should also realize that
when analyzing the previous years utility bills that your occupancy
may be different from past occupancies so your use of the spaces
will demand a deeper estimate of your possible utility budget for
the properties energy usage. You should do this for the
water/sewer, telephone and or other related ongoing utility
Turn faucets on throughout the house and or building and let the water
run for about 20 (twenty) minutes, at the end of that time see
whether the hot and cold water pressure is adequate. This is
especially true for properties that have been vacant for and or
winterized for a long period of time. You may have to make special
arrangements to do this check if the water is turned off to the
Please note that no matter how much you do in the inspection phase there
may be unforeseen issues and or conditions that won’t be realized
until you take (or not) possession of the property. These issues
include but are not limited to those things that are hidden behind
walls, under floors and or in equipment like the piping, furnace,
ac unit and or boiler equipment. A private inspector’s contract
will have an unforeseen condition clause in it to cover these types
If there is an upstairs toilet, flush it and check the downstairs
ceiling for leaks. Make sure all toilets operate.
Check for wet rings around sinks, toilets, hot water tanks, radiators/hot
water piping and at roof undersides of attic and porch ceilings.
Rings on ceilings indicate leaks. These areas may also have been
Check the electrical service for enough amperage for your appliance and
other equipment uses in the house ( at least 60-1000 amps
residential with 220 volt service) and or building via a rating tag
on the electrical box. You would probably want a breaker system vs.
a old fuse driven system. Electrical requirements, amps and service
are very important as they relate to your designated building
usage/occupancy so I suggest you take an licensed electrician along
with you during your building assessment and or inspection.
Check all lights and outlets to make sure they are functional.
Make sure you have at least 2 electrical outlets per room in a house and
as many as needed, in other types of building occupancies.
Check the ceilings areas for lose and or frayed electrical and or other
types of wiring.
If the Furnace has a fuel/energy source, turn the thermostat on to
check the heating/cooling cycles. Put hands over duct supply and
return vents to check for air flow and velocity. Have systems
checked by a licensed HVAC (Heating Ventilating and Air
Inspect roof and look for any areas of open holes, evidence of recent
repairs, standing water, clogged roof drains, openings around all
pipe and chimney penetrations, chimney brick areas and litter or
debris piles. Roof maintenance and or repairs can be very expensive
on sloped and or flat roofs.
Look at the gutters along the roof, downspouts and good drainage for
Check all door and window locks. Check that the wood in the sill, jambs
and casing areas is not rotted.
Inspecting the windows, storm windows and screens may determine if you need to
prepare for an energy efficient window upgrade. A home looses a
,lot of its energy efficiency at the door and window areas of the
home and or building.
Go to the rooms nearest the outside of the house, especially upstairs,
and see whether the floors sag outward or are separated from the
baseboards. If so, there may be structural problems.
Look around the exteriors foundation area of the home and or building
for signs of sagging soil conditions and or rotting present in the
Make sure when you inspect the attic area of a home that you can’t see
light through the ceiling.
Check around the foundation and or basement window and door areas to make
sure openings don’t exist that would allow mice, rats and other
types of pest to easily enter the building. Any cracks or openings
wider that ½ an inch will presnt you with problems.
If the city, HUD and or any other entity has inspected the home and or
building you should go to the appropriate agency to get a copy of
any previous inspection records and to check for any code
violations that may be documented in these files. The reports don’t
always mean that all aspects of the property have been taken care
of such as structural and or unforeseen conditions, that we talked
about in tip # 3.
Ask the current owner and or the seller for a certified property survey
to review the property lines and borders. Is it in a flood plain?
Check to see if the property has had any certified environmental Phase I
and or II inspection reports on file. Nobody wants to purchase a
property that may have asbestos, oil, mold, mildew and or any other
type of hazardous waste in its occupancy and or use history. If it
was once a part of a properties history you want to make sure it
was legally cleaned up and disposed of.
Hire a licensed inspector to assist you in the review and assessment of
the property you are considering as a worthy investment.
Don’t proceed on any verbals to make your final purchase, rent and or
lease decision/offer. Always make sure that everything you agree on
is in writing. This still may be the building you want, after
reviewing all of these tips, but understand that it all comes down
to how you negotiate the final purchase options and price as you
figure out how much you will have to spend to bring the building up
to code and your occupancy standards.
Always get 2-3 estimates from vendors/contractors for the work that will
done to bring the property up to the standards, that you the owner
expect, for your occupancy.
Always hire the licensed professional expertise you need whether it be a
lawyer, accountant, realtor, home/building inspection services and
or engineer/architect to assist you in making the best decisions
for your property purchase.