What to Look for When Selecting a Great House

Home for Sale Solid State Home Inspections

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Picking a house that was well built and well maintained could save you thousands of dollars in unexpected expenses in the future. Home Inspectors are trained to look at hundreds of different areas during a house inspection but here are some clues you can look for yourself before calling in a Home Inspectors for your final pre-purchase report.


The exterior of the home is what protects the home and occupants from sun, wind, and rain. A well designed and maintained home will last a long time while a poor design or poor maintenance may present many unexpected repairs.

  • Property - The house should be sitting on the highest point on the property to allow water to flow away from the building. If the property slopes, make sure the slope is addressed to channel water around the building, not into it. Also watch for exterior items on the property like big trees which could impact the building in the future.
  • Roof - Roofs need to shed water to gutters systems which will carry the water away from the building. Complex roof designs increase the likelihood of water getting into the home as do roof penetrations like satellite dishes, skylights, antennas. A good roof will have overhangs protecting the walls from rain water, be in good repair, and have leak-free gutters at all the lower edges. (see more on roof leaks here)
  • Siding - Siding needs to be water resistant and should withstand modest impacts. Our favorite sidings are Hardieboard, Vinyl, and aluminum as they are nearly maintenance free. Stucco, brick, and stone are good materials if well installed and maintained. Wood sidings need very high maintenance. (see more on siding materials here)
  • Foundation - Foundation walls should be visible 6-8” above the grade level of the soil. This is to keep the house above the ground water and to make it difficult for insects and pests to penetrate. Look for any foundational cracks on the visible area. Small cracks may be normal but all cracks require further analysis by an expert. (see more on foundations here)
  • Attached Garages - Because of the gasses generated by our cars, we need a gas seal between the garage and the home. This includes a sealed drywall interior of the garage, an auto-closer on the house door, and an exterior weather sealed house door. (see more on attached garage safety here)
  • General Maintenance - Look for signs of rot or aged paint on wood trim, holes or missing materials in siding and roofs, and vegetation trimmed back from the home. A lot can be said about the maintenance of the home from the care on the outside.


Changes home occupants make after original construction tend to be the largest cause of concerns in house inspections. Watch for signs of amateurish work inside the house as this often suggests further evaluation and remediation may be needed.

  • Doors and Windows - Doors and windows should operate smoothly and seal when closed. Look for double pane windows for energy efficiency. Vinyl windows are the best current material for operation and energy efficiency. (see more on windows here)
  • Kitchens - Kitchen cabinets and drawers should operate well and be in good repair. Counter tops should be a nonporous material (no wood) in good condition. Flooring should be a material suited for wet environments like tile or vinyl sheets. Avoid wood flooring and particularly laminate as these will swell when wet and show permanent water damage. (see more on kitchen electrical here)
  • Bathrooms - Bathroom fixtures should be clean with no signs of mold. There should be no visible water damage signs around showers and tubs or on the ceilings. Cabinets should open and close smoothly. (see more on bathroom electrical here
  • Plumbing - Look under sinks or in basement areas for the water supply pipe material. If you see a blueish grey plastic, this is called polybutylene which is a poor piping material. Copper and white or clear plastics are generally better materials. Watch for signs of water damage on ceilings and walls which may indicate past or current leaks. (see more on polybutylene piping here)
  • Electrical - Check samples of light switches for operation and look for signs of amateurish work like surface wiring or ‘rat's nests’ of wire groupings. If possible get a look at the main breaker/fuse panel. Breakers are preferred as they indicate a newer electrical system which may have more safety features. (see more on aluminium wiring here
  • Heating - Heat may be from furnaces, electric baseboard, or hot water systems. White plastic piping exhaust from the furnace or boiler indicates a newer high efficiency system. Watch for heat sources and controls like heat registers and thermostats to determine how heat is distributed in the home.
  • Hot Water - Hot water systems in houses are typically gas or electric fuelled storage tanks. Inquire with the seller on the last replacement date and anticipate replacing a tank at around 10 years. (see more on domestic hot water here
  • Laundry - Laundry areas should have dedicated electrical plugs for the washer and dryer. Dryers also need proper exhaust lines routed to the exterior of the house to safely remove humidity and lint from the house. Laundry cabinets and sinks should be well attached and operate correctly. (see more on dryer safety here
  • Interior Safety - Watch for smoke alarms on all levels and near bedrooms. All windows in bedrooms need to allow an occupant to exit in a fire. Staircases need handrails and guardrails to prevent children and adults from falling. (see more on fire safety here
  • Basements - Unfinished basements provide excellent visibility of the foundation walls, floor structure, electrical, and pluming systems. Look for cracks or holes in the foundation, signs of water penetration, and for drains at the lowest level in the basement as well as visible plumbing and electrical. (see more on basement suites here
  • Crawl Spaces - Crawl spaces should have a large access and at least 3’ clearances for regular inspection and access. Avoid dirt crawl spaces as the moisture given off by soil can cause rot and mould issues in the home. (see more on crawl spaces here

Final Thoughts

When we buy houses, it is very easy to evaluate the homes proximity to work, friends, and family and to determine what we can afford. For most house buyers, it is much more difficult to assess the quality of a house and with so many items to look at, it can be overwhelming. 

A professional Home Inspector is not caught up in the emotional aspect of buying a house and can give you a clear written report and be an excellent source of expertise on your future expenses when buying a house. Choosing your Home Inspector before you choose your house can save you from an additional stress during the buying process. Always have your house inspected before you buy to know your home is safe and solid.

By James Bell - Owner/Operator of Solid State Inspections Inc.