Depending on the type of financing you obtain, there should be either 2 or 3 distinct inspections on the home you want to purchase. First should be your own basic home inspection. Second should be a professional whole-house inspection by a reputable home inspector with experience in the area. If you are receiving a government backed FHA or VA loan, the third inspection should be performed at the time of the appraisal, which amounts to a mini-inspection. But please Do Not rely on the appraisal as the only inspection of the real estate!
Necessity of a comprehensive home inspection.
Many home purchasers, desiring to save the money that a good inspection costs, or due to simple ignorance, spend enormous sums of money repairing items that any good home inspector would have pointed out. Any offer to purchase a home that you make should be contingent upon a house inspection with a satisfactory report. Do not let anyone — not the selling agent, not your family, and especially not the home seller — keep you from getting the property thoroughly inspected! A professional home inspection can give you an escape hatch from a contract on a defective house. If the contract is written contingent upon an acceptable inspection result, you can insist that any defects in the home must be either repaired or monetarily compensated for by the seller. If you are not satisfied, or the seller refuses, you have included the option to cancel the contract and can legally back out of the home sale.
Home inspections are intended to reveal any defects in the property that could materially affect its safety, livability, or resale value. They are not intended to address cosmetic deficiencies. You need to determine on your own, and with the help of your Buyers Agent, those types of items that need attention.
Find a qualified and certified home inspector before you make an offer on a house. There will be a deadline in the contract determining when the inspection must be completed by, typically between 10 and 15 days. If you start looking to find an inspector then, and can’t find an acceptable Home Inspector to schedule it within that time, you will only have two choices: go with an inspector that is not your first choice, or run the risk of running past the deadline for the inspection which could void any chance having the seller take care of repairs.
Your Personal House Inspection
The purpose of your personal house inspection is to eliminate properties from consideration that have too many obvious deficiencies. It is not to take the place of a professional house inspection. If a house passes your initial tests you should schedule a second visit so you can spend an hour or so doing a more detailed inspection of the house.
The Personal Home Inspection: What to look for
- Foundation: Are there obvious cracks or leak marks on the walls? Any apparent movement or settling of the foundation?
- Roof: Does the roof appear new, old, or cant you tell? What is the overall condition? Are there bumps and uneven lines that look like sagging. Are shingles loose or missing?
- Evidence of leaks: Check inside as well as outside. Check all ceilings and areas around windows.
- Basement or crawlspace: Is there dampness? Is there adequate insulation? Always check crawl spaces for water.
- Attic: How does the interior of the roof structure look? Do you see sawdust around on the floor of the attic? Where is the insulation located: floor, ceiling, both?
- Quality and workmanship: In general and in especially in any later additions to the house
- Apparent energy efficiency: Does the house appear tightly sealed? Do you detect any drafts near windows, etc.
- Electrical: Any obvious malfunctions? Always ask what the Amperage of the electricity service is… generally 80 to 100 is good for an average sized single family home… 100 or more is best.
- Plumbing: Any unusual noises or malfunctions? Always flush the toilets and turn on faucets… look for leaks.
- Appliance condition: What is the age and condition of the stove, dishwasher, refrigerator (if included), etc.?
- Heating/cooling system: Does it seem to do the job heating or cooling? Oil, Gas, Electric?
- Exterior: Does the house need repairs or paint soon?
- Lot: Does the drainage appear good — away from the house?
- Lot: Are there any trees encroaching on the roof or foundation?
Professional Home Inspectors
Questions to ask
- What is the inspector’s experience? How many years have they been in the business and how many inspections do they do a year?
- Exclusively home inspections? Beware the contractor who does house inspections on the side… this may be a sales pitch!
- What type of report? Will it be written, oral or both? Will the report contain suggestions for remedying deficiencies? Will photographs be included?
- How long will it take? Good home inspections take between 2 and 4 hours, depending on the size of the house.
- What will be included in the inspection? See below.
- What certifications do they have? Are they ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) certified?
- Does the inspector have Errors and Omissions Insurance? This affords you some protection should there be an error or omission in the inspection… meaning the inspector missed something he should not have missed, and can be held responsible.
Your Buyers Agent should be able to recommend several qualified home inspectors who have worked in the area. We stress that they should have worked in the area due to climatic peculiarities that may commonly have effect on home structures in the region. Things like mold, termites, other pests, recent severe weather conditions, etc.
The Professional Home Inspection
A competent and professional inspection will include a minimum of the following
- Foundation: Evaluates the structural integrity of the foundation. Is there evidence of cracks, movement, (settling or shifting) or moisture problems?
- General Construction: Quality of the general construction: carpentry… does the house look like it will remain robust into the future, or is the house begriming to deteriorate structurally.
- Exterior: Does the house in need of exterior repairs or maintenance?
- Plumbing: Condition of the overall plumbing system. Any evidence of leaks or water pressure problems?
- Electrical: Any dangerous electrical wiring situations exist? Are there code violations in the electrical system? Circuit breakers or fuse box clean and without issue?
- Heating and Cooling Systems: Ages of the systems? Are the systems adequate for the size of the house? Have they been maintained properly?
- Interior: Doors and windows open and close properly? Are floors firm and level?
- Kitchen: Appliances functioning properly? Is the plumbing, including the dishwasher connection, in good repair?
- Baths: Is the floor solid? Evidence of previous or current water leaks? Is the plumbing in good repair?
- Attached structures: What is the condition of any attached structure (sheds, decks, garages, etc.)
- Roof: Approximate age of the roof? Estimated remaining life of the roof? Condition of the roofing structure as well as the shingles?