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First Time Home Buyers Guide

A comprehensive guide to what to look for in your first home

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    Home buyers should arrive armed with a checklist during their inspection.

    The following content is created in consultation with Michael & Son. It does not reflect the work or opinions of NBC Washington's editorial staff. To learn more about Michael & Son, visit MichaelandSon.com.

    First time home buyers are often warned about the terrifying and stressful experience they are in for. While that might be true for some, those armed with the right information can have a fulfilling and even empowering experience. Let’s start with the exterior.
    The Exterior
    The home’s exterior can play a big role on what happens inside. Things like unattended gutters and holes in the roof can cause serious damage to your home’s interior. Here are some things to look out for when inspecting the exterior of a home.
    Roof
    You probably won’t have a ladder on hand but you can tell a lot form the ground. Make sure there are no sags or dips in the roof and also check for hanging shingles. You’ll be able to check for leaks once we get inside.
    Windows
    Check all windows for cracks or chipped framing. Make sure all windows have working locks and screens.
    Porches & Decks
    Examine the foundation and support beams of all porches and decks. Make sure none of the wood is rotting.
    Lot
    Look at the home from a distance -- would water drain away from the home? If not, you’ll need to take a closer look at the foundation of the home.
    After you have examined those items, begin to take a walk around the house, moving clock or counter clockwise. Examine the home starting form the top of the structure and working your way down. Look for any issues that could be a problem and make note of it.
    Interior
    The interior is where you really need to pull your inspectors hat on tight. From the inside the home you can examine all appliances, plumbing and electrical systems. You can also check for foundation and roof problems while on the inside. When doing an interior home inspection, it's best to begin from the lowest level and work your way up.
    Basement
    This is where you can find out a lot about the house you may potentially buy. In the utility area you can usually check the foundation wall. Look for any water on the floor or coming from the ceiling. You can also check the floor joist from the basement; make sure there is no rotting or cracks. Next, check all the appliances that you can find in the area. Inspect the water heater and be sure there is no water overflow and all connections look to be in good order. You can also check the water heater for inspection stickers and recent maintenance logs. Next, you’ll want to locate the electrical panel, which is almost always located in the basement. Check the panel for proper labeling and make sure there are no exposed wires. After you’ve inspected the electrical panel, locate any exposed plumbing pipes. Check the lines for any leaks or condensation and make sure shut off valves are properly labeled.
    Living Area
    When inspecting the living area there are a few key items to check. Make sure no windows have any interior cracks (we’ve already inspected the exterior of the windows) and that the locks are functional and sturdy. Listen for any excessive outdoor noise coming through; this will be a good indicator of the quality of the windows and how much insulation they will provide.  Check the floors and ceiling for any sagging or sloping, this could be a sign of a plumbing problem.
    Kitchen
    The kitchen is another area where you need to pay close attention. As you did in the other rooms, check the floors, ceiling and windows for any irregularities or defects. Next you will want to check the garbage disposal for function and any leaks. After checking the disposal, move on to all the other appliances in the kitchen.
    Bathrooms
    While bathrooms are small they are some of the most heavily used rooms in the home and have the potential for expensive problems. Inspect the base of the toilet for any leaks, cracks or signs of quick fixes (i.e. sloppy calk or putty jobs). Flush the toilet a couple of times to ensure its working properly. Next, move on to the shower and check for a leaky showerhead, faucet and cracked tiles. Turn the shower on and run the water over your hand and make sure the temperature function is working correctly. Lastly, check under the sink for leaks or any other signs of plumbing problems.
    Attic
    If the home has an accessible attic, it’s worth your while to go up and take a look. In the attic you can inspect for any leaks in the roof and also check for proper insulation.
    The most important part of a home inspection is to take your time. Open all doors, check all switches and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember, a home is most likely the largest investment you’ll ever make so you’ll want to make sure everything is in order. Make sure to take a check list, flashlight and small multi tool along. Equipped with the right knowledge, a home inspection can be quick, easy and painless. That’s all for today but be sure to check in with Michael & Son for more helpful home tips. Also, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube page to find out about special offers, upcoming events and much more.