Curb appeal is a powerful tool that sellers use to charm homebuyers. On the surface, carefully pruned shrubs and freshly painted walls tell the story of an idyllic, well-cared for property. Still, you should never judge a book by its cover—or a home by its exterior.
One way to see past initial curb appeal is to perform your own mini inspection while touring a home. Bring a DIY inspection toolkit to your next property tour to save yourself time and identify problem areas. If you decide to build your own home instead of buying, familiarizing yourself with the tools home inspectors commonly use will be an asset throughout the process.
Here are some gadgets and tools you should include in your inspection toolkit for your next home tour.
Thermal Imaging Camera
In warm weather, drafty windows and doorways may be harder to notice when you’re touring (or building) properties. Take pictures with a thermal imaging camera to translate heat into visible light, which helps you see where the home is losing or capturing energy. These cameras are expensive to purchase (starting at several hundred dollars), but most home improvement stores have them available to rent. Buying or renting a thermal imaging camera still costs far less than re-insulating a home.
Not all inspection equipment requires a costly investment. Most receptacle testers are sold for $10 or less and are easy to use. Insert the device into a standard outlet to see if it is operating safely. The tester uses color codes to show if the electrical wiring was installed correctly. This information can save you money on electrical work as a new homeowner and prevent dangerous electrical fires.
Uneven floors occur when a foundation has settled or sunk over time. Replacing or installing hardwood floors on an uneven surface is a costly and aggravating process. Unless you repair the uneven foundation, the panels will bend and crack, destroying the wood and creating an eyesore in your home. Even if the home you are touring or building passes inspection with sloping floors, it can still complicate future renovations and affect your flooring options.
Ensure the floors and foundation are all in good shape with a standard surface level before you make any big decisions. Two minutes of effort can spare you from a complex and time-consuming flooring installation later on.
Drinking Water Test Kits
In 2016, a USA Today investigation revealed that traces of lead contaminated the water supply for 6 million people in the United States. Even if you don’t drink water straight from the tap, you should check the pH and bacteria levels in any potential home.
Most kits come with a vial and test strip to inspect water quality for harmful substances like lead. If you’re building your own home, choose plastic pipes over steel to minimize rust contamination in the water supply. Add a water filter to your kitchen sink for extra protection.
Pin-Type Moisture Meters
Mold should be a red flag for any potential homebuyer, but it can be hard to spot. Moisture meters can identify water in potentially problematic areas. Inspect the bathroom, attic, and crawlspace using a pin-type moisture meter to determine if the walls or flooring need replacing.
Builders can also use a moisture meter to stop mold in its tracks. Bring the device to the lumberyard to find dry materials or use it to search for roof leaks. Moisture meters start at around $30, which is a small price to know if your new home contains dangerous mold.
As you’re touring or building your dream home, your eyes are the strongest tools. In one survey, over 35% of property inspectors in the U.S. and Canada said improper surface grading and drainage were the number one issue found during home audits. Look for sloping land that directs drainage toward the property and water stains in the basement. Inspect every home thoroughly before you put in an offer. This DIY inspection toolkit will help you notice a home’s problematic areas before they become your problem.
Robert Kociecki is a real estate industry expert who serves as the Senior Vice President of Property Management and Renovation at Altisource. Altisource and its affiliates provide real estate services for consumers and investors. Visit Owners.com, where home buying and selling is made simple.