One of the most important things you must inspect when buying a house is the plumbing. While you are house hunting, you may visit dozens of houses before choosing the right one for you. You are not going to hire a professional for each house you may potentially buy. To save time and money, you can conduct your own informal inspection before you make an offer on a house. Since the sellers only have to disclose what they know, you must uncover all potential serious and expensive problems that aren’t always immediately apparent.
The following tips can help you inspect the plumbing of a home before you make an offer. Be sure to make an appointment, bring a flashlight, and wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet or dirty.
- Flush the toilets in all of the bathrooms. Make sure they empty and fill correctly. Examine the bowl and floor for water, which may mean a leak.
- Check all the faucets around the house and make sure they do not drip. A dripping faucet may seem like a minor thing, but it can end up costing you a lot of money in the long run.
- Locate the water meter and examine the shut off valve to make sure it is working. If the water comes from a well, the shut off valve should be inside the house.
- Examine the size of the water pipes in and around the house. There should be a three quarter of an inch to one inch diameter line directly from the main water source in order to have adequate water pressure. The pipes inside the house should generally be a half inch in diameter.
- Check to see if the plumbing consists of lead pipes. Homes constructed before 1986 tend to have plumbing that is lead or galvanized. However, newer homes may also have a lead pipe leading to the water meter.
- Inspect the hot water heater. You should check the water heater’s capacity, location, and how old it is. One important thing to check is the level of mineral deposits that settle at the bottom of the water heater. The more the mineral deposits build up in the water heater tank, the less room there will be for hot water.
- Find out what type of sewer system the house uses. If the house uses a septic tank find out where it is located, the capacity of the tank, and the location of the lateral lines.
- Make sure the plumbing has protection for freezing weather. The protection can be things such as wrapped pipes and vents, which will close off in the winter when the weather gets extremely cold. If the home uses well water the well should be protected from freezing weather as well.
Of course plumbing isn’t the only thing you need to inspect. Once you decide on a home you would like to buy, hire a general contractor or home inspector to inspect all major house systems, from top to bottom, including the roof, plumbing, electrical and heating systems, foundation, and drainage. This will take two or three hours and cost you from $200 to $500, depending on the location, size, age, and type of home. Accompany the inspector during the examination, so that you can learn more about the maintenance and preservation of the house, ask questions, and get a real sense of which problems are serious and which are relatively minor.
You can negotiate to have the seller pay for necessary repairs or to lower the purchase price, or you can back out of the deal, assuming you wrote that into your contract to allow you to do so.