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Home Inspection Advice

Your home purchase is likely one of the biggest investments of your life and it’s important to know exactly what you’re buying. The best way to ensure this is through a professional and thorough home inspection.


Why You Need a Home Inspection

In your excitement to buy a home, it’s easy to miss a small crack in the foundation, some leaky pipes under the house, or a roof that needs to be replaced.

The sellers worked hard to make the home look as desirable as possible, but looks don’t tell the whole story. That’s where your home inspection comes in.

What about inspections for sellers?

While this material speaks primarily to buyers, it’s a good idea for sellers to do an inspection prior to listing their home for sale. An inspection can help you turn up issues ahead of time so there will be no surprises when serious buyers start inquiring. Knowing in advance means you’ll be able to consider all your options – either making repairs before listing or pricing your home to account for anything you’re not going to fix.

For more information about inspections for home sellers, see the Tips on Selling a House.

What does a home inspection include?

A general home inspection will evaluate the house and adjoining structures from top to bottom, inside and out, including but not limited to:

Outside: Roof, porches, driveways, garage, drainage, retaining walls, grading, and plants or vegetation that may impact the home’s condition

Inside: Electrical and plumbing systems, foundation, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, water heater, septic system, electrical system, windows, doors, floors, ceilings, and walls.

What a home inspection doesn’t cover:

The home inspector can’t make any alterations in the course of inspecting a home – so there’s no digging up the ground, lifting carpets, knocking out walls, etc.

Also consider that a home comprises tens of thousands of parts, pieces, nooks and crannies. An inspector will look at a representative sampling, but there’s simply no way to check every single element.

Specialized Inspections – When Do You Need One?

Some states and cities require additional inspections on top of a general inspection. Beyond that, you may simply want a specialized inspection due to a special circumstance, or perhaps a particular concern you or your general inspector may have.

Examples of specialized inspections:

  • Sewer inspection
  • Chimney inspection
  • Mold inspection
  • Lead inspection
  • Asbestos inspection
  • Pest inspection
  • Inspection of a special feature such as swimming pool or hot tub

Seven Common Home Inspection Issues

Here are 7 common problems that general home inspections bring to light:

1.  Plumbing:

  • Leaking around exposed pipes, particularly with washing machines.
  • Outdated pipes. It’s common to find old Polybutylene pipes, which your inspector will recommend replacing.

2.  Electrical:

  • Ungrounded outlets. You can recognize these by their two-slot configuration versus the three-slot configuration of a grounded outlet. Most inspectors will recommend that you upgrade to grounded outlets.
  • Improperly wired breaker boxes. Common hazards include two circuits on a single-pole breaker, oversized breakers, double-pole breakers that supply two single circuits, and wires that cross over the panel’s center.

3.  Heating:

  • Leaks in piping or heating unit; air ducts that need cleaning.
  • Not enough insulation. Insulation requirements vary by location, but an improperly insulated home will always lead to high energy bills.

4.  Drainage:

  • A wet basement is a problem because it indicates that water isn’t properly draining away from the home.
  • Mold in the air. When water isn’t draining properly, it may result in air bound mold. Mold can also be a byproduct of dry rot.

5.  Roof:

  • Torn and/or cracked shingles, or flashing that’s not properly installed. Each of these can cause roof leakage.

6.  Walls:

  • Stress cracks in the walls may indicate a foundation or settling issues.

7.  Dry rot:

  • This occurs when fungus grows in your home’s wood due to high condensation. The affected wood will have to be replaced.
  • The underlying questions: Why is the condensation is occurring in the first place?

Five Deal-Breakers from an Inspection

Easily fixed pipes or a few outdated electrical outlets are no reason to back out of a deal. However, other issues that come up during a home inspection should give make you pause and think about whether or not to proceed.

Here are some red flags that warrant closer attention:

  1. Water intrusion and grading problems: Water in the basement, condensation on the walls, and mold in the air indicates moisture and drainage problems that could cost a lot of money to fix. These issues often suggest improper grading.
  1. Structural damage: Cracks in walls, ill-fitting windows and doors, and visibly shifted bricks on the exterior are all signs of structural damage. Your cost to fix these types of problems can range anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000.
  1. Roof repairs: Old shingles, water stains on the ceiling, or rotting rafters are all signs that the roof may need to be replaced. This is another extremely expensive undertaking, so pay close attention during the roof inspection.
  1. Window replacement: Windows that don’t work, fit the frame poorly, or show condensation between the panes may need to be replaced. Depending on the number of windows, this could easily run between $5,000 and $8,000.
  1. Insect infestation: A general inspection should show you whether the home has a pest problem, which may prompt a need for a more detailed report from a specialist. This is a serious issue because some pests can cause structural damage.

RE/MAX Home Inspection Tip: Condo or co-op boards pay for many repairs, but remember that the costs will get passed on to you eventually – so it’s good to know the building’s overall condition from the start.


Home Inspection Checklist

Attend your home inspection to see first-hand what the inspector notes, and learn some important details about the house — like how to properly use the water, sprinklers, heater, electricity, etc.

When attending your inspection:

  • Wear casual clothes and comfortable shoes. You may find yourself crawling under and behind things to see what the inspector is pointing out.
  • Plan for the inspection to take two to three hours.
  • Bring pen and paper, copies of any inspection reports provided by the seller, and any disclosure reports that identified past problems, so the inspector can follow up.
  • Feel free to ask questions, but give the inspector time and space to work.
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