Your home purchase is 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, thorough home inspection.
(NOTE: While this material speaks primarily to buyers, it's also a good idea for sellers to do an inspection prior to listing their home. See more in Tips on Selling a House.)
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?
For sellers, a home inspection is also a good idea prior to listing the 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:
Roof, porches, driveways, garage, drainage, retaining walls, grading, and plants or vegetation that may impact the home's condition
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.
RE/MAX Home Inspection Tip: Many home inspectors know about major appliance recalls, but do your own research by noting model numbers and then checking for trouble online.
RE/MAX Home Inspection Tip:If an area of the house is not accessible because of barricades, such as boxes piled in front of a door, request that the seller remove these to allow for a thorough inspection.
Specialized Inspections –
When Do You Need One?
Some states and cities require additional inspections on top of a general inspection. Beyond that, you may just want a specialized inspection due to a special circumstance or 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
RE/MAX Home Inspection Tip: Check with your agent to see which inspections are required in your area and which may not be required, but are standard.
RE/MAX Home Inspection Tip: If a home inspector tells you not to attend the inspection, find someone else. This is a classic red flag.
Here are 10 common problems that general home inspections bring to light.
• Leaking around exposed pipes, particularly with washing machines.
• Outdated pipes. It's common to find old Polybutylene pipes, which your inspector will recommend replacing.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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 can result in mold in the air. Mold can also be a byproduct of dry rot.
• Torn and cracked shingles, or flashing that's not properly installed. Each of these can cause roof leakage.
6. Walls: 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.
• Another main concern is figuring out why the condensation is occurring in the first place.
Home Inspection Myth: You don't need a home inspection for a newly constructed home. Not so. Property defects come up on new construction all the time. Just because the house is new doesn't mean it was built properly.
Home Inspection Myth: You don't need a home inspection if you're buying a home warranty. Home warranties rarely cover everything. You'll want to know of any potential problems before your closing so that you the seller can take care of them.
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 you pause to 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 indicate moisture and drainage problems that could cost a lot of money to fix. These issues often suggest improper grading.
2. 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? Anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.