The Importance of a Home Inspection

If you want to close on a home, you should perform a home inspection. No matter how low the price of the home is, you should avoid buying it as-is. Though it seems costly upfront, a home inspection can save you thousands--even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Read on to learn why.

Who Should Get a Home Inspection?

We generally recommend every home buyer to perform a home inspection prior to making a purchase. However, when it comes to needing home inspections, two groups stand out: first-time home buyers and real estate investors.

Because of their inexperience, first-time home buyers benefit greatly from home inspections. A home inspection provides first-time buyers a comprehensive assessment at their prospective house with the help of a licensed professional.

A comprehensive check of the home may not be necessary to a second, third, or fourth home buyer because they have a clearer knowledge and understanding of what makes a home safe, livable, and sound. Still, we recommend bringing in a professional for a minimal, if not comprehensive inspection.

The next group that benefits from home inspections are real estate investors. Due to the busy nature of buying, renovating, and managing investment properties, investors simply do not have enough time to perform inspections themselves. What’s more, renting and selling investment properties is risky by nature; it’s best to reduce as many liabilities as quickly and as soon as possible.

What is a Home Inspection Contingency?

A home inspection contingency is a common clause in a homebuyer’s offer contract. This clause allows the buyer to evaluate conditions that would deem the home unsuitable for purchase and grant the buyer the opportunity to withdraw their offer.

During a home inspection, a homebuyer hires a professional contractor to audit their prospective home. A professional home inspector will look for major issues, conduct safety hazard tests, and judge the longevity of various features of the home. A home inspector will then present their findings in a scrutinized report.

Expose Structural Issues

A fundamental assessment of a home concerns the structural integrity and condition of the home and property. During a home inspection, a contractor will check the: 

Foundation. If you are a potential homebuyer, you want your property’s foundation to be strong and durable. A professional inspector can classify large issues like sinking or breakage, or small issues like cracks. If you are serious about buying, you need to determine whether or not fixing a foundational issue is worth it, as these projects can be costly.

Exterior walls and grounds. A thorough home inspection will check the integrity of all exterior features. You should have a general knowledge of the condition of the home exterior walls, fences, and retainer walls, and whether or not they need cosmetic maintenance or a total replacement.

As for the exterior grounds, it is good to have an understanding of the plants, stones, debris, sidewalks, etc. around the home. These details can help you plan future outdoor projects. Another component of assessing the exterior grounds includes taking note of any signs of underground tanks,

Roof. Inspecting the roof is a standard and very important component of a home inspection. Repairs and replacing a roof is a necessary, but costly project. You will want to know the current condition of the house as it stands. In addition to asking your home inspector for an estimate on its longevity, ask the current owners when the roof was last replaced. If possible, ask to look at a receipt or document to verify.

Garage. Inspecting the garage is an extension of inspecting the foundation, exterior walls, and interior rooms. If your prospective property has a property, you will want to be aware of the conditions of your garage, especially if you plan to use it for work and storage.

Grading. Every home inspection should measure the grading around the house. Taking note of the property grading can lead to insights about water drainage, foundational issues, and structural integrity.

Identify Illegal Building

If you were planning on doing renovations to your prospective home, you for sure want to know about any illegal building. Illegal building refers to renovations, additions, or upgrades that neglect municipal safety and zoning codes. Examples of illegal projects can include:

●      Unzoned additional bedrooms

●      Garages or porches converted into living spaces

●      Storage units

●      Substandard electrical work

●      Outdoor structures, such as gazebos

●      Unzoned features, such as fountains or firepits

Projects like these should be carried out by a licensed professional. Discovering illegal projects could uncover safety hazards as well as obstacles for future renovations.

Assess Internal Systems and Structure

A detailed inspector will examine a home’s vents, heating and cooling systems, appliances, plumbing, and electrical work. They will gauge the safety, efficiency, and projected longevity of water heaters, central air fans and ducting, sewer lines, outlets, and more. You can even ask them to inspect appliances to be included with the purchase of the home, like the refrigerator, oven, dishwasher, and washing and drying machines.

Additionally,  a home inspector will also investigate the home’s attic, basement, insulation, and interior structure. The purpose of these inspections is to pinpoint any heating or cooling inefficiencies, discover hazards like rodents, and identify structural issues like cracks, sinks, or damage.

Diagnose Safety Hazards

When it comes to safety, a home inspection is essential. However, testing for toxins and hazardous materials varies between inspectors. Some inspectors consider the following tests part of their routine inspection; others may charge a separate fee for each test.

Radon. Radon is a gas that occurs naturally from within the earth. It is odorless and colorless, and only detectable with a proper test. Radon exposure causes lung cancer.

Radon is a health hazard when it becomes trapped indoors and inhaled. It typically enters homes through cracks in basements and lower levels. If you are considering buying an older home with a basement or lower level, a radon test is a wise choice.

Lead. Lead is an element that occurs naturally in the earth. Lead causes a myriad of health issues, including neurological, developmental, and reproductive damage. Lead poisoning occurs when it is inhaled or ingested.

It was commonly added to paint until it was banned in 1978. If your home was built before then, you may want to consider testing for lead. Even if your home has been painted over several times with lead-free paint, you are still at risk for exposure with chipped paint.

If you are pregnant, have children, or intend to have children, you should test your home for lead.

Carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and flammable gas. Carbon monoxide comes from fumes produced by fossil-fuel burning appliances like grills, ovens, and fireplaces. Without proper control and ventilation, carbon monoxide is fatal. An analysis of the home will discover areas that have higher concentrations of carbon monoxide, which will in turn find pipes or appliances with leaks.

Black mold. Black mold is a blackish-greenish mold that grows in areas with constant exposure to moisture. Mold has varying health effects on individuals with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. For some, black mold causes and worsens asthma and allergies. It is also suspected that black mold causes pulmonary hemorrhage among infants.

Regardless if there will be an infant living in your house, a black mold test is a good idea because it will identify water leaks and traps. Left untreated, these issues will completely damage your home. 

Asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring fiber that was once used in a variety of building products, like insulation and tile. Inhaling asbestos damages the lung and creates scar tissue. Continued exposure to asbestos causes lung cancer.

Asbestos was eventually banned from residential use in 1989. If your home is older than 1989, and you see cracking, peeling, or crumbling on the interior or exterior structure, you should test for asbestos.

One of the most important parts of a home inspection is this safety assessment. Not every test will be necessary for your home. If you are unsure whether or not to ask for a certain test, you should evaluate the current condition of your home, research common hazards in your area, and determine your level of comfort.

Discover Rodent and Pest Problems

You do not want to buy a house infested with critters and insects. Mice and rats can damage your electrical wiring, drop feces, and spread fleas. Pests like bed bugs, lice, and termites can cause illness and structural damage.

A home inspection scans areas commonly inhabited by vermin and pests. This includes attics, basements, crawl spaces, and more.

Estimate Future Projects and Costs

After assessing every nook and cranny of your prospective home, your inspector will create a report. This report will cover all their findings concerning the safety, integrity, and longevity of the home as a whole.

A home inspector will address issues that need to be repaired, replaced, or rezoned before purchase. And though they might not be urgent, they may also suggest repairs or replacements for certain aspects of your home.

Whether you are concerned about the longevity of your roof, the efficiency of your windows, or the pressure from your water heater, you can ask your home inspector to give a ballpark estimate regarding how much it costs to have a professional replace or repair them.

How Long Should a Home Inspection Last?

A home inspector will be as thorough as you want them to be. Depending on your requirements and the size of the home, be prepared for the home inspection to take two to four hours.

Should You Be There During the Home Inspection?

It may be boring to wait throughout a home inspection, but being onsite is essential. Being present during your home inspection gives you the opportunity to ask and answer questions. If you want, you can shadow your home inspector for most of their assessments to get a better understanding of your home’s interior and exterior systems.

How Should I Prepare for a Home Inspection?

If this is your first home inspection, refer to a home inspection checklist. You may or may not need all of the items listed on the checklist. Referring to a list will make you aware of assessments you would not have otherwise thought to check. When you are ready to proceed, pick the inspections and tests that are most important to you and ask your inspector to assess those items thoroughly.

What To Do After a Home Inspection?

When the review of the home is complete, you have a choice: proceed with the necessary repairs and buy, or withdraw your offer. If there must be projects or repairs before purchase, does their cost outweigh the benefit of moving in? You will need to weigh the pros and cons in this situation.

Fortunately, your home inspector will leave you with a copy of your detailed report for you to revisit. You can use this report to continue your deliberation, learn more about your home, or plan for future projects.              

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