The Importance of Home Inspections.

 

When you are ready to make an offer on a home, don’t get caught up in the number of rooms, interior design touches or gigantic back porch or yard. The home you fall in love with may be impossible to heat, cool, have mold buried beneath the new carpet, or feature a potential swamp (during rainy days) right where that gigantic yard used to be.

A home is usually the biggest investment you/ your family can make. You need to learn as much as you can about the condition the property is currently in and the need for any future repairs you might have to deal with before you sign on the dotted line, so you won’t be incurring a few unpleasant surprises 1 month into you moving in. Hiring a professional building inspector to perform a thorough visual investigation of your potential home can alert you to any impending or existing problems. Your bank or lending company may insist on viewing the home inspection report prior to finalizing the loan. Even if they don’t, you should still invest in an inspection for your own peace of mind. And be sure your real estate agent has explained to you about your obligations in the inspection contingency clause written into the contract.

A complete home inspection should bring to your attention defects that could affect resale value, safety, and comfort of your potential home. A home inspector is usually called right after the contract or purchase agreement has been signed should be available within a few days. A good home inspection should take between two and four hours (depending on the property in question) and cost between $200 and $500 (depending of the services that he/she offers and the services you utilize) it is investment that could save you thousands of dollars in repairs down the road. Knowing the condition the property is in can put you in a stronger bargaining position, as you will have some idea of the value of what is there and the potential expenses of future repairs.

The inspector’s report should be detailed and easy to understand. You should be present for the inspection so that you can see for yourself areas of concern or reasons for celebration (this first hand interaction will give you confidence when negotiating a lower price). The inspection provides the opportunity to understand/learn how all the systems work and where to find important items such as: Electric panel, water meter, gas meter/oil tank, and shut off valves. In short it allows you to become familiar with all aspects of your new home.

The actual Inspection:

 

Outside the home:

 

The exterior of the property is a good place to start. The inspector will be checking to see that:

· the patios, decks, fences, sheds, steps, retaining walls, and garages are in good shape

· that there are downspouts and they too drain away from the home

· there is no flooding from the water system, or signs of a damaged septic system

· trees and bushes are a safe distance from the home

· stairs and deck handrails are secure.

· Outside surfaces should be free of stains and damage, such as, cracks in joints or stucco or siding.

· Windows and doors are inspected for tight-fitting frames, intact glass, and the use of energy efficient materials.

· A sagging or uneven roof may indicate inadequate framing.

 

 

Inside the Home:

One of the most important things to note is the condition of the mechanical systems in the home: plumbing, electrical, heating & ventilation, air conditioning and heat recovery. If any of these systems are in dire need of replacement then provisions need to be taken care of before the purchase of the home.

· Plumbing. In addition to leaks and inadequate drainage, the inspector will be checking craftsmanship. Old and jumbled plumbing that is pieced together with dissimilar materials may hint of poor work. The condition of the water heater, pump, pipes, and drains will also be covered in the inspection.

 

· The breaker box or electrical panel should have adequate amperage for all of the appliances you want to operate. The inspector will also be looking for exposed wires, adequate wall outlets, and proper cables for branch circuits.

 

· When it comes to heating and ventilation, consider the age of the house. If it’s older, it may have a forced-air heating and cooling system that will eventually need to be replaced at considerable expense—an expense that should be factored into future costs.

 

· The fresh air exchanger should operate efficiently in every room of the house; the air filter should be clean; separate flues for gas, oil, propane, wood or coal should slant up to the outside and there should be no open seams. Warning signs of trouble ahead include the odor of gas, rust in the area of the cooling unit, ductwork deterioration, and the presence of asbestos on steam and water pipes.

 

Inside rooms:

 

An interior inspection should begin in the attic with an examination of the insulation, and covering materials. Inside rooms should not be surveyed for cosmetic appeal but for substance.

 

Here the inspector will be looking for:

· cracks and stains in ceilings, floors, and walls

· windows and doors that may not open and close easily and are in need of repair

· paint, paper, and other wall coverings and trims that may need replacing

· smoke and water detectors

· light switches and electrical outlets that may malfunction

· a sufficient number of electrical outlets in each room

· ample insulation in the walls and adequate heating and cooling delivery systems.

 

Kitchen:

 

One of the most important—and costly to renovate— rooms is the kitchen. Really think about the kitchen and assure yourself it already has most of the features you are looking for. A good inspector will then concentrate on electrical and plumbing to make sure the:
· exhaust fan works

· counter top ground fault interrupters provide adequate protection

· pipes leading to sinks, dishwasher, and other appliances are not leaking

· under-sink cabinet is dry and decay-free

· flow of water in the sink is substantial and drains readily

· garbage disposal works properly

· all doors and drawers open and close easily.

 

Bathroom

 

– Bathrooms are also expensive to repair and renovate, so, in addition to many of the same concerns that apply to the kitchen, special care is taken to ensure that pipes and drains are clog- and leak free; there is adequate ventilation and the exhaust fans work; the toilet is stable and flushes properly; tiles are secure and all coverings are solid and water flow is of an acceptable level in all accessories. Because bathrooms are frequently redesigned, the inspector should make sure bearing walls and plumbing routes will facilitate easy alterations.

 

Basements & Crawlspaces

 

– Cold, clammy rooms are often found in basements and crawlspaces primarily due to improper air circulation. Here the inspector will be looking for water stains, signs of rot, insects, rodents, foundational inadequacies, satisfactory insulation, and wet/dry floors and walls.
Finding a good inspector is paramount. Like most everything in life, you get what you pay for. Hiring a reputable, thorough inspector will pay off in the long run. Hiring a generalist who specializes in home inspections is probably your best bet, as this person will have inspected at least hundreds of homes during their career and will be working for a pre-determined fee, which helps ensure impartiality.

 

 

Asking friends and business acquaintances for recommendations is a good starting point. You can, of course, look in the Yellow Pages under Building Inspection Services or Home Inspection Services. Online services such as YELP, Angie’s List and other referral sites offer reviews from past clients so you can judge for yourself.

What the home inspector does and does not do. The home inspector provides a visual evaluation of the home and property and reports on its physical condition, indicating which areas may need attention. In other words it’s the home inspector’s job to find any “skeletons” in the closet (or more likely in the plumbing, wiring, roof or basement).

The private home inspection is not a guarantee and it is not an appraisal that can be used to ascertain market value. Nor is it a municipal inspection verifying code compliance. What if the inspection reveals lots of flaws? You may want the house in spite of its flaws but at least an inspection will help to show you exactly what you are buying. The inspector can give you some idea of repair costs, which may assist you in the final negotiations. You may request that certain items be fixed prior to final sale or you may simply reconsider the amount you offer to pay.

 

In conclusion:

Hiring a home inspector is a worthwhile investment. It will allow you to become more knowledgeable about your new home and property; give you confidence in negotiating the sale; provide forewarning of what’s ahead and give you an opportunity to alter or repair small imperfections before they become major catastrophes.

If the final contract is dependent on an acceptable inspection, any shortcomings must be repaired or financially offset. With such a contingency clause, you may cancel the contract when alterations are not taken care of to your satisfaction.

Keep in mind that a home inspection is not a guarantee that problems won’t develop after you move in.

 

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