NJM Safety Center - Residential

Safer Home Checklist

Understanding how a home was built and what natural hazards it may face are just as important as the aesthetic features that attracted you to it. Use this checklist to help determine some of the risk factors to keep in mind.

Natural Hazards

Understanding your risk

  • Is the house located near a woodland area?
    If so, it may be more vulnerable to wildfire. Consult the local fire department about the proper precautions.
  • Is the house within 50 miles of the coast?
    If so, it's important to protect it against hurricanes, high wind and wind-driven rain. Look for signs of interior water damage on ceilings and walls and around windows.
  • Is the house located within sight of a river or lake?
    If so, it may be more prone to flooding. But remember, flooding can happen even outside of a designated flood zone. Check for exterior water damage.
  • Is the house located in an earthquake zone?
    If so, ask if the owners have made any structural improvements to better protect it.

A properly maintained house can provide years of enjoyment for your family. It pays to know whether you are inheriting someone else's problems.

  • What year was the house built?
    This will help determine what building codes may have been in place at the time of construction. Modern, well-enforced building codes can help homes stand up better against natural disasters and other severe weather events.
  • What materials were used to build the house?
    Some materials are better suited than others when it comes to holding up against natural threats.
  • What is the condition of the roof?
    If you can see obvious signs of wear such as sagging or damage, it may need to be replaced.
  • Do the floors appear level and feel solid when you walk through the house?
    If not, there may be foundation problems or prior water damage.
  • Will the appliances be sold along with the home?
    Appliances more than five years old will soon need to be replaced. Water heaters often begin to leak at age 10, according to research by the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).
  • Does the house have a history of plumbing problems, such as sewer backups or deteriorating pipes?
    Older homes will be more prone to these problems, according to IBHS research.