Every Realtor I know recommends that before purchasing a house, you should have a formal home inspection of that house. Normally, this covers the electrical panel, the appliances, termites, roofing, and the sewer line, if it connects to the city sewer, etc.
But what important items are not covered? As a residential architect in Miami, these items come to mind as important to review before purchasing:
The first item that comes to mind is the functionality of the house. Does this house work for you? Are you looking for a split bedroom design or do you want all the bedrooms on the same side of the house? Remember, you are going to be here for a long time. So check out the plan thoroughly.
Is the island in the kitchen properly placed or will it be an impediment when you try to cook? Remember, you want between 7’ and 9’ between the refrigerator, the range, and the sink for the best functionality. You don’t want to be running around an island that is in the way of you preparing dinner every night.
Do you have a gable end roof on your house and if you do, is it braced? A gable end is where the wall ends in a triangle as shown below.
Here is how it needs to be braced. See the blog post here.
4. Does the house have any illegal additions or modifications? Normally, this is not
something the inspectors check. This could come to bite you in the butt later. A
person who buys a house with illegal work becomes responsible to repair that illegal
work, if the building department finds out about it. Check the local building department
for records prior to buying a house.
5. Are there enough electrical outlets in the house? The building code requires an outlet
6’ from the entrance to a room and every 12’ after that as you go around the room.
Recently, I was working on a very small remodeling to a bathroom and the finishes to a
house in Coral Gables, and the house was so old that it only had 1 electrical outlet per
room. I thought for sure this would be grandfathered in. But after waiting and waiting
for the electrical supervisor to respond to my question about this, the client thought it
was easier to just add the required receptacles to the house.
6. Electrical panels that are hidden or don’t have the required 3’-0” clearance in front of it.
This same house had a hidden panel that did not have the clearance. Considering that
they had just bought the house, it is obvious that the inspector did not pick up on this
critical electrical violation. This panel had to be moved after purchasing the house.
7. In what condition is the septic tank? This is normally done by a master septic
contractor. Is the septic tank large enough for the house you are buying? If there are
any illegal additions, the septic tank may not be large enough, and if it is really old, it
could have completely deteriorated.
8. Is the entire house made of concrete block? Sometimes, years ago, houses were
partly built of wood studs with stucco on wire lath on the outside of the walls. This is
particularly true of 2nd floors built in the 70s and 80s. Make sure that you know what
you are buying. There is no comparison between concrete block construction and
wood frame construction to resist hurricanes.
9. Normally, the inspectors will not tell you if you house has ponding on the flat roof of a
house. This term is used to describe puddles that are up there and stay there for a
long while after a big rain. This could eventually cause you issues with your roof. The
roof may need to be redone sooner.
10. If your house is not graded correctly, or if the road is not graded correctly, you could
end up with a lot of water on your property – from your neighbors and from the street.
Before buying look, or have a professional evaluate the grading on the outside areas
of your house. One of my neighbors down the street looked and bought his house on
very dry days. When the rainy season in Miami came, he had to wear boots to get into
his car which was in the driveway! Don’t let this happen to you!
11. Check the ceilings and soffits that contain air-conditioning ducts for staining. These
stains could be caused by condensation leaks from the ducts. This would need to be
12. What about the windows; do they close properly? Are they impact-resistant? If they are
not impact, do the windows have shutters in storage somewhere? If you want to be
safe in your new house, you need to have shutters or impact-resistant windows.
13. Is the air-conditioning unit sized properly for the house? The house may have air-
conditioning, but it might be too small for the size of the house. Check the A/C in the
room the farthest away from the location of the unit.
14. Are you in a flood zone? You need to know this if in the future you want to add to the
house. Read more about this here.
15. Do you see any defects or stains on the walls? This could indicate mold. If you even
suspect that this could be mold, have a special mold inspector review the property.
Mold is difficult and costly to remove.
So here are 15 items you need to review. Once you buy your dream house in Miami and want to bring it up to date, call me, Maria Luisa Castellanos, principal of United Architects, at 305-439-7898, to discuss your project.