The “Why” and “How”of Property Inspections

While we often think of property inspections in terms of a pending real estate purchase, inspections are a great tool for owners of rental property. Property inspections signal an owner’s commitment to quality and to providing service to the tenant. And they help an owner plan for the future. Here’s how.

  • At times, an inspection will result in the discovery of a minor problem. Catching any problem early can save you time, effort and budget later.
  • Sometimes an inspection will alert you to the condition of various areas. It’s easier to prepare for future repairs if you have a general idea of when an item is at the end of its useful life.
  • Minor repairs can sometimes be very aggravating for a tenant. By inspecting the property and performing repairs, an owner is more likely to keep a tenant happy. Compared with a possible vacancy and time spent looking for a new tenant, the inspection and minor repair is certainly a lot less hassle for everyone.
  • Maybe the most important benefit to performing a property inspection is that you have time to see the tenant face to face – a solid step forward to maintaining a smooth relationship.

When should you perform a property inspection? An annual inspection is recommended, though more frequent inspections do tend to find issues quicker. Inspections that are performed quarterly or half-yearly will help you maintain control of the overall condition of your property.

How to perform an inspection. Best practices for inspections include having the tenant present at the time of inspection. The tenant can answer questions that you may have and will likely be able to point out any major issues. On the inspection date, be sure to bring an inspection form with you, and bring your camera to help document any problems you see. Use all of your senses when inspecting a property. Besides seeing damage, you can sometimes hear problems, such a dripping faucets or water running through pipes. Sometimes problems are more apparent through odors, including pet odors, or the presence of mold. It’s also important that you feel certain areas with your hands to detect moisture.

Besides asking your tenant about problem areas, ask them questions about the occupants of the house – including how many people are living there, and how many and what kinds of pets live on the property.

What to look for. There are certain areas that should definitely be part of every inspection. Here’s a list.

  • Walls and ceilings. Look at their condition and note any dents, holes or cracks. You should also note any peeling paint or water stains. Are all the windows in good condition?
  • Kitchen. You will want to make sure that all appliances are working and clean. Check for plumbing leaks. Make sure all the faucets work (both hot and cold) and that the water runs clear. Check the condition of cabinets and counter tops for scratches, dents or stains. Be sure the exhaust fan is working, as well as any ceiling fan.
  • Bathrooms. Check the faucets in the bathrooms too. Make note of any leaks, mold in the shower/tub and on the walls. Be sure to examine the condition of the caulking around various fixtures.
  • Laundry room. Take the time to fully inspect any laundry area. Pull out the lint trap of the dryer and check out the condition of the hoses behind the washer. Note any plumbing leaks – and if there’s a laundry sink, make sure it’s not clogged.
  • Utility room. Check out the HVAC filter and see if it needs replacement. You’ll want to look at the condition of vent pipes to make sure there is no rust. And the water heater should be free of leaks. While you’re at it, make sure there is no furniture, boxes or other items stored near the furnace or water heater. And flammable liquids should not be stored inside the house.
  • Other items to check include:
    • Fire place – is it clean and free of ashes?
    • If there are stairs, check hand rails and make sure they are secure.
    • Inspect smoke alarms, sprinkler heads and carbon monoxide alarms. Make sure they are all working.
    • Garage doors should open and close properly. Automatic garage doors should stop closing when a person walks under them.
    • Exterior walk ways& driveways should be safe – without cracks or chips that might cause a fall.
    • Outdoor structures, such as swing sets should be checked.
    • Gutters & downspouts should all be connected and clean.
    • It’s best to check the siding and roof of the house and note any missing shingles, siding or other issues.
    • And finally, check the yard to make sure the grass and bushes are trimmed and not blocking views or obstructing walk ways. There should not be any trash or junk in yard.

After inspection, Determine what needs to be repaired immediately for safety purposes. And make a list of what items should be repaired now, in 6 months, 1 year or be on a list for potential issues. If violations are present, a letter should immediately be sent to the tenant.

If you need more information on renting your property, performing inspections or just want some advice, call Tim Knobloch at 240-292-1040.