Whether you’re buying a condo or a co-op in New York City, a thorough home inspection is imperative. Before setting up your home inspection, make sure the utilities — including electricity, water and heat — are activated. Also be sure to make arrangements with management to allot enough time for the inspection (at least an hour) and find out whether you’ll be able to enter common areas.
Here’s a list of some of the most important problem areas for your engineer to check during the inspection.
1. Water damage typically results from moisture entering through the roof, terrace and windows. For below ground level apartments, water infiltration from ground water due to poor drainage is also a threat.
2. If the apartment has double hung windows, inspect them to see that they remain up on their own. Newer windows often use a “spiral balance system” — which can rust, bend or break — rather than the older rope and pulley counterweight system.
3. To check for plumbing issues, ensure that the inspector uses an electronic moisture meter and a thermal imaging camera to diagnose any potential leaks. Utilize all toilets, showers, tubs, sinks, dishwashers and washing machines and examine for any leakage. Also check supply and waste piping, faucet valve systems and dishwasher door seals.
4. Be aware that older apartments often use centrally-controlled steam heat and do not have thermostats to control the temperature in individual apartments. In this case, radiators must be turned off by hand in order to lower the heat.
5. Does the building’s electrical capacity meet 21st century demands? If it’s an older building that hasn’t been rewired, it may not.
6. Inspect all of the flooring closely, especially if it’s hardwood. Look for any excessive gaps or buckling and make sure that the installation meets industry standards. If wood flooring areas have been patched, especially near a radiator, this may suggest a leak.
7. Appliances in newer, high-end apartments are occasionally installed improperly due to their proximity to expensive countertops and other equipment. In particular, be sure to check that the dishwasher is properly anchored.
8. If you can obtain access, the home inspector should check the boiler room, roof and electrical system. Do note that building management isn’t required to let you into these areas, but be wary if a smaller apartment building or condo says ‘no.’