Let me start off by saying, this is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a comprehensive list of things to look at as you buy a new home. However, as someone who is immersed in industrial safety there are a few things I investigate while searching for a new home. I’m ignoring the obvious things such as the house currently isn’t on fire, it isn’t infested with live eels, or ensuring it has a good school district. Below are more off the beaten path items that many don’t think about.
One of the first things for me is determining the emergency services available. By that I mean does your county/city have volunteer or full-time fire/EMS? What’s the nearest source of water? Is it fire hydrant, local pond, etc. These are usually easy enough to find out by calling the fire department or checking their website. I want to know if I need to have additional means of fire protection beyond the norm in case my nearest fire truck is 45 minutes away. That also can prompt me to make sure my entire family has comprehensive first aid, bleeding control, and CPR training.
Next, how do I turn off the water to my house? Is there an easy main disconnect in the garage? Or do I have to crawl on my hands and knees for 25’ through my crawlspace to get to the main disconnect? If its not something I can get to easily during an emergency or something I can’t explain how to get to, then I want to know where the city feed is. If I can get to the incoming city feed, and I buy a water meter key (Google can help), then I can turn it off quickly and easily. This is less about safety and more about limiting damages.
Keeping with water, does my prospective property flood? That’s usually not a hard thing to figure out, you can search for flood plains in the area and you can get some great info. I would compare that info to the average rainfall as well. But what about the roads to your home? Do they flood? Are there alternate routes to and from your house in the event of a washed-out road or accident that blocks traffic? If you are looking for property in the country this could be a big deal! It would also be prudent to know that when calling for emergency services during a bad storm. Letting them know that the road is impassible can save valuable time.
Another thing I would look at or ask your home inspector to check is the electrical panel. I would have them check it to ensure there are no obvious signs of scorched wires, previous fire, water, or other unsafe conditions. Most good home inspectors can do this. If you are looking at an older home, I would also check to see that the electrical panel parts are still being made or that there are available parts that can be used. If you ever have any issues or plan an upgrade, knowing if you need an entirely new panel can really change the costs.
Again, this isn’t a comprehensive list but just some food for thought about things many people overlook. I strongly advise you to hire a quality home inspector, they can be worth their weight in gold! Don’t skimp on the safety checks and use someone reputable to ensure your family stays safe.