The outside appearance of a house is always the first thing to make an impression. Many people assume that if the paint job looks good, the house must be in good condition. However, there are a few important areas to consider when it comes to judging a house's exterior.
The most important element of the landscape around the house is drainage. The lawn should crown with the house at the highest point to keep water away from the foundation.
See if the driveway, sidewalks and patio slabs slope correctly. Any sink holes close to the foundation indicate existing drainage problems.
- positive grade away from house
- no standing water
- no flooding from septic system
- yard, landscaping, trees and paths in good condition
- no branches or bushes touching house or roof
- exterior structures (fences, sheds, decks, stoops, retaining walls, detached garages) in good condition, no evidence of termite damage
- railings on stairs and decks are adequate and secure
- driveways, sidewalks, patios, stoops in good condition and sloping away from house
- downspouts empty away from house
- neighboring lots don't adversely affect the property
Take a good look at the house up close and from a distance. Note the balance of the structure. House lines, siding, windows and doors should all be fairly straight and in good condition.
Pay attention to the details of construction, such as symmetry, tight joints and most important, ask yourself if the house appeals to your tastes and can accommodate your needs.
- ridge and soffit lines appear straight and level
- sides of house appear straight, not bowed or sagging
- window and door frames appear square
- visible foundation in good condition -- appears straight, plumb, with no significant cracks
Moisture and acids in the soil can cause stains and deterioration like wood rot. Look for problem areas where wood contacts the ground.
Cracks in walls may be minor problems. But, look for gaps and uniform, step-cracking in brick and block that indicate foundation settling.
- adequate clearance between ground and wood materials
- shingles and siding: no cracking, curling or decay
- brick veneer: no cracks in joints or broken bricks
- stucco: no large cracks (discuss all stucco cracks with a professional inspector)
- vinyl or steel siding: no dents from hail damage, no bowing
- no vines on surface of house
- exterior painting or stain: no flaking, blisters
- no stains on exterior surfaces
Windows, Doors & Wood Trim
Inspect the condition of window and door glazing and frames. Make sure frames are tight and weatherstripped/caulked where they meet the house. Check for energy efficient materials such as fiber glass-clad or vinyl-clad wood window frames and storm doors.
Common areas of wood decay on older, elaborate window frames are the top piece of the outside window frame and the bottom trim close to the ground. Check with a probe to see if they're getting soft.
Look for any unevenness or sagging in the roof (check inside the attic, too). If the top ridge row or whole sections of the roof sag, there could be insufficient framing support -- contact a pro.
It's always better to inspect the roof by accessing it. But when that's not possible, or you feel uncomfortable at heights, use binoculars. Tar/patching marks or sections of different colored shingles indicate past repairs. Also, check them from inside the attic.
- composition shingles: no curling, no loss of granulation, no broken, damaged or missing shingles, only one layer of roofing
- wood shingles or shakes: no mold or decay, no damage, no curling
- flat roof: no obvious patches, no cracks or splits, minimal blisters and wrinkles
- flashing around roof penetrations
- no evidence of excess roofing cement
- soffits and fascia: no decay, no stains
- exterior venting for area under roof (soffit vents and ridge vents are preferable), vents are clean
- gutters: no decay or rust, joints sealed, attached securely to structure, no bending or sagging, no sections of gutter or downspout missing, gutters clean
- chimneys: straight, properly flashed, no evidence of damaged bricks or cracked joints, cap in good condition