Suppose you bought a house and later discovered, to your dismay, that the stucco exterior concealed a nasty case of dry rot. Or suppose that when you fired up the furnace in the winter, you discovered a cracked heat exchanger leaking gas into your home. The best way to avoid unpleasant surprises like these is to arrange for a home inspection before you buy.
Home Inspections Help You Avoid Unpleasant Surprises
A good home inspection is an objective, top-to-bottom examination of a home and everything that comes with it. The standard inspection report includes a review of the home's heating and air-conditioning systems; plumbing and wiring; roof, attic, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, foundation and basement.
Getting a professional inspection is crucial for older homes because age often takes its toll on the roof and other hard-to-reach areas. Problems can also be the result of neglect or hazardous repair work, such as a past owner's failed attempt to install lights and an outlet in a linen closet.
A home inspection is also a wise investment when buying a new home. In fact, new homes frequently have defects, whether caused by an oversight during construction or simply human error.
Getting an Inspector
Real estate agents can usually recommend an experienced home inspector. Make sure to get an unbiased inspector. You can find one through word-of-mouth referrals, or look in the Yellow Pages or online under "Building Inspection" or "Home Inspection."
Home inspections cost about a few hundred dollars, depending on the size of the house and location. Inspection fees tend to be higher in urban areas than in rural areas. You may find the cost of inspection high, but it is money well spent. Think of it as an investment in your investment – your future home.
Some builders may try to dissuade you from getting a home inspection on a home they've built. They may not necessarily be trying to hide anything because most builders guarantee their work and will fix any problems in your new home before you move in. Some builders, in fact, will offer to do their own inspections. But it’s best to have an objective professional appraisal - insist on a third-party inspector.
An Inspection Will Educate You about Your House
Education is another good reason for getting an inspection. Most buyers want to learn as much as they can about their purchase so they can protect their investment. An examination by an impartial home inspector helps in this learning process.
Ask if you can follow the home inspector on his or her rounds. Most inspectors are glad to share their knowledge, and you'll be able to ask plenty of questions.
Inspection Timing and Results
Homebuyers usually arrange for an inspection after signing a contract or purchase agreement with the seller. The results may be available immediately or within a few days. The home inspector will review his or her findings with you and alert you to any costly or potentially hazardous conditions. In some cases, you may be advised not to buy the home unless such problems are remedied.
You could include a clause in your purchase agreement that makes your purchase contingent upon satisfactory inspection results. If major problems are found, you can back out of the deal. If costly repairs are warranted, the seller may be willing to adjust the home's price or the contract's terms. But when only minor repairs are needed, the buyer and seller can usually work out an agreement that won't affect the sale price.
Your Role in a Home Inspection:
1.Choose a home inspector who understands your situation as a home seller and is willing to guide you through the process.
2. Be prepared with questions on all the systems in the house and also the environmental issues the buyer may be concerned about. Some of the environmental issues may include lead paint notification, radon, UFFI and certification of the septic system.
- Lead Paint: Homes built before 1978 are likely to have lead-based paint, which may lead to the risk of lead poisoning. Find out if your home falls in this category.
- Radon: This is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in rock deposits. High levels or radon can increase the risk of lung cancer. Check your home records for any references to radon.
- UFFI: This is a type of insulation that was sprayed in the 70' s and emits a toxic gas, due to which the state banned UFFI in 1979. Get more information on this if your home was built around the 70's.
3. Get organized and compile good records of each of the components and structural elements of the house. You can create a folder with files on each of the areas and make notes.
Here are some of the components you may want to begin with:
- Foundation •Roof
- Heating System
- Electrical Service
- Water Heater, Pool & Jacuzzi
- Septic System
- Deck • Garden
4. Try to think of all the questions you may be asked. Be prepared with suitable responses to the questions below:
- How would you describe the condition of the roof? What type of maintenance would be required going forward?
- Based on the geographical location of the home, is any special equipment needed?
- Is this home equipped to handle natural occurrences like a tornado, hurricane, flood or earthquake?
- Did you observe any safety issues? Considering that we will have children and pets in the home, do you recommend any enhancements or special proofing to avoid accidents?
- Are there any other hazards that may cause long-term health issues? Are there any environmental concerns regarding the location and the zoning that I need to know about?
- What is your estimate of the cost for fixing the major problem areas?
- Can you explain the structure of your report? Will you be able to provide me with a summary of the vital issues in the report? • What section of the report will include information on energy efficiency and maintenance?
- If I forget to ask something, or if my bank or insurance company has a question after the inspection, may we call you?
Here is an alphabetical checklist of the areas you may want to cover:
A - Air-conditioning, Appliances, Attics
В - Basements, Bathrooms, Blinds, Shades & Drapes, Brickwork
С - Carpet Spots, Ceilings, Closets
D - Decks & Patios, Dehumidifiers, Dishwashers
E - Electrical, Exterior Walls, Energy Efficiency
F - Fences, Fireplaces, Floor Scratches
G - Garages, Gutters and Downspouts
H - Heat Pumps, Humidifiers
I - Insulation, Interior Walls, Insects
L - Laundry Rooms, Lawn & Garden, Lawn Sprinklers, Lighting
O - Odors
P - Plumbing, Pools, Ponds
S - Stairs & Steps, Skylights, Stains, Security, Septic System
T - Tiles, Termites
W- Woodwork, Wood Rot, Water Heaters, Wallpapering