Are you a first time home buyer, or on the market to buy a new house? In part 2 of our ‘What to look for when buying a house’ series, get a comprehensive guide & house inspection checklist for the outside and surrounding areas of your potential new home.

When you’re buying a house, there are essentially two checks you should do. One precursory (but thorough) check yourself, where you can eliminate obvious defects and potentially costly problems. Second, a professional Pre-Purchase Building Inspection, for when it’s passed your own inspection you’re more serious about the property.

While the second is essential to avoid buying a lemon, doing your own check is a great way to find flaws before spending money on a professional inspection, and to put yourself in a stronger position to negotiate with the seller.

In our last blog, we wrote about what to look for inside when buying a house. Now, we’re going to give you a comprehensive guide to what to look for outside of the house and in the surrounding areas.

If you’re wondering how to inspect a house before buying, this article and house inspection checklist are for you.

DIY house inspection checklist for first time home buyers

1. What to bring to the house to do your own inspection

  • This checklist (print out a copy before you go!) with some notepaper to document your findings
  • A decent torch with relatively fresh batteries
  • A power point tester
  • Safety boots
  • A couple of screwdrivers, including a Phillips head and Flat head
  • A ladder, if the homeowner doesn’t have one for you to borrow
  • A hardy pair of gloves

2. What to look for when buying a house: yards & exterior of the house

Take a walk around the exterior of the house and look for the following:

  • Ask if the house has any asbestos, and if so, where it was used. It can be expensive to remove should you wish to do renovations
  • Check external pipes and plumbing for rust and leaks
  • Check for termite damage and wood rot. Focus on areas where wood touches the ground – both on the house and any surrounding structures like wooden fences, garages, decks or retaining walls
  • Check for proper grading for drainage away from the house, so rainwater won’t pool in  the yard. Also check for any wet and muddy patches on the lawn, indicating that water pools due to poor drainage
  • Check for trees in the yard or neighbouring yards that pose a potential threat to the house or its power lines (from dropping branches or natural growth)
  • If there’s a pool or spa, check for any bulges in the bottom or sides, and check the filtration system and any heating or lighting systems
  • Check if the railings and fences are secure and compliant to council regulations
  • Check if there are functional and well-located outdoor taps

3. What to look for on the roof

Ideally, you’ll be able to access the roof so you can look for these issues yourself, but if not, try looking at a satellite image from Google Maps.

Roofs can be expensive to repair and dangerous if poorly maintained.

  • Check the gutters for rust, warping and leakage
  • Look for damaged or missing roof tiles, or rust on tin roofs, or fading concrete tiles – these are signs that the roof needs new sealant
  • Check that the roof doesn’t sag – this can indicate serious underlying structural issues
  • Check that the downpipes and roof drainage are in working order

4. What to look for in the neighbourhood

If you’re planning to live in this house, you’ll also be living in this neighbourhood. Here’s what to look for when buying a house in the surrounding suburbs.

  • Check for local amenities like schools, post offices, supermarkets, hospitals, gyms, bars or cafes – whichever will be most important to you when you live in the house
  • Pet owners should check for local vets, parks, walkways and dog off leash areas
  • If you have children, are there other children around? Are there playgrounds?
  • Check for public transport options that suit your needs
  • Check for any surprises in the local area, such as factories
  • Ask about any past problems with neighbours or noise pollution

With this comprehensive checklist, you’ll know what to look for when buying a house – and how to spot a lemon.

Once you’ve finished your own inspection and are happy with the results, contact Coastal Building Inspections to arrange a professional Pre-Purchase Building Inspection in a few easy steps.

Happy inspecting!