An Inspector's Point of view

If you’re starting to fall in love with a house, sometimes it’s hard to look past the pretty parts of a home and see the potential red flags. After you’ve decided a property might be a possibility for you, take a second look with your “inspector glasses” on. 


  • Check for Roof for signs for trouble: Sagging (might be structural issue), bumpy surfaces (might mean many layers of material), curling on shingles or visible tar paper (might mean the roof is old and ready for replacement), or shingle patches (might mean a previous leak). A new roof can be one of the most expensive repairs to make.
  • Check the exterior of the house for peeling paint, especially on the southern and western sides of the house. An exterior paint job can also be quite expensive.
  • Evaluate the condition of the windows from the outside, especially on south and west sides. Newer double-paned vinyl or wood windows will be more efficient than older wood or single pane windows. Peeling paint on older windows can be a lead based paint hazard. Replacing windows throughout the house will really add up.
  • Look up at the exterior chimney. Is it missing mortar or leaning (might need re-tucking or repairs). A chimney cap is a nice upgrade.
  • Look down for earth to wood contact. If the siding is touching the ground, this probably means that framing is also in contact with ground and has the potential for dry rot issues.
  • Large trees in the front yard, back yard, and front planting strip may be beautiful, but keep in mind they are your responsibility and expensive to maintain. If there are extensive trees on the property you probably want to get an arborist inspection.
  • Cracked sidewalks can indicate tree roots coming through or sewer line issues. They also cause trip hazards and law suits. It’s your responsibility to maintain your sidewalk.
  • Holes in the front yard could indicate rodent, gopher, or sewer problems.


  • Check for the “red flag” companies on the electrical panel. Federal Pacific and Zinsco panels are notorious for safety hazards. Pushmatics can require a lot of expensive maintenance.
  • Check for Knob and Tube wiring which some insurance companies will refuse to cover and can also be a fire hazard.
  • Check the number and placement of outlets and light fixtures in each room. Adding additional outlets and fixtures can be tricky and costly.
  • Check out the interior water pipes inside the house. Are they older galvanized steel? If so, they may need to be replaced at some point if you want good water pressure.
  • Check to see if the main water line coming into the house is small and galvanized or whether it’s been updated to a larger copper or plastic pipe that might give you better water pressure.
  • Look for the location of the sewer pipe clean-out. If it’s goes out the side of the house it might indicate a party line which the city may make you replace. Also, if it’s in a difficult to get to location, or you can’t find one, that might mean the sewer inspection will have to take pace through the roof or a toilet and may be more expensive.
  • Crumbly foundation walls are somewhat common in Portland’s older homes, but there is a wide range of how crumbly they can be. Foundations with a mix of different sized rocks, extremely crumbly concrete, or brick are usually not very stable.
  • Water stains on the basement floor or rot around the bottoms of posts can be an indication of leaking walls or a ground water issue. Look for white effluence or water stains. If it’s in the middle of the floor it probably indicates a ground water issue that can be very hard to fix. Stains along the walls probably mean that water needs to be diverted from the house better with gutters or French drains. 
  • Slanted doors, windows, and floors can be an indication of structural issues, but a certain amount of settling is expected in all homes.
  • A finished basement may cover up a lot of houses “innards” like the plumbing and electrical lines, as well as the foundation. It might be difficult even for an inspector to evaluate the condition if these lines aren’t visible. 
  • Look around for a radon mitigation system. If one is already installed, that’s one thing to cross off the inspection and worry list. 
  • Stains on the ceilings can indicate a previous plumbing or roof leak, but usually don’t lead to anything significant. 
  • If the kitchen and bathroom cabinets and srawers are in bad shape (or you wish to update the style) keep in mind this can be an expensive upgrade. 

There are some things that you just have to wait to investigate with a real inspector. It’s hard to tell much about a furnace or water heater without being trained to inspect them. Inspectors also will spend a lot time in attics, crawlspaces, and other spaces you might not see when walking through the home. The home inspector will investigate every nook and cranny for you and is specially trained to look for red flags. You also need specialists to check for oil tank leaks, sewer issues, lead based paint, potential other hazardous substances, and radon problems. We will help coordinate all these inspections for you when the time comes.

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