So you are house hunting and you found a home that you want to call your own! You gave the sellers an offer and you’re preparing for a home inspection. Home inspections are a very important part of the home buying process because they should provide you with a lot more information about the condition of the home. Depending on how a home inspection can go, you may decide you are no longer willing to buy the home or it can make you even more sure that you want to live there. Before your home inspection, you should learn about what to look out for and some of the warning signs of bigger issues.
1. Structural Integrity
A big ticket item that you don’t want to be stuck paying for is a structural issue. It costs between $500 and $10,000 to repair a foundation, so this is something that inspectors are always on the lookout for. Some signs that you should look for are cracked walls, uneven floors, leaning porch or chimney and gaps around windows or door frames. Structural issues that are not fixed can lead to more damage and even safety issues. If a structural issue is identified and documented on the inspector’s report, you can negotiate with the sellers so they provide a credit at closing, although most buyers will require that the sellers fix structural issues themselves and then have the property reinspected.
2. Roof Damage
A damaged roof can lead to ceiling leaks and pest infestations, so it is important that the home you are buying doesn’t have damage. Your inspector should thoroughly examine the roof and attic to identify any roof damage. You should look for loose or missing shingles, rust or cracks on flashing, soft spots or unevenness, algae and moisture in the attic or on the ceiling. Even a small amount of roof damage can lead to a much bigger problem, so be sure that you and the inspector take time evaluating the roof. This is another issue that sellers and buyers can negotiate if an issue is identified. Sometimes a seller will knowingly list their home for sale without fixing roof damage (though they legally have to disclose this) because it may be too expensive to fix beforehand.
3. Water Damage
Water damage can come in many different forms but the easiest way to identify it is by looking for discoloration on walls or ceilings and mold that has grown. Inspect the areas around sinks, tubs and air vents and notice any smells in the house. A seller will most likely not put a house up for sale with water damage so severe that it is dripping, but you should look for excessive moisture. Mold can be toxic so water damage is one of the most important things to look for during the home inspection. If it goes unnoticed you may be stuck with a bill to clean up and treat the area. If you or your inspector identifies signs of water damage or mold you should get the air tested to learn more about the severity of the issue. Depending on the results you may be able to ask for a credit from the seller or for them to have it treated before another inspection. If the mold turns out to be toxic, like black mold, you should start looking at other homes unless you’re willing to wait for the seller to have it professionally treated.
4. Plumbing Problems
Unfortunately many plumbing problems are difficult to identify but can burn a hole in your wallet each time you pay your water bill. Be sure to flush every toilet and test each sink and shower. Running toilets and leaky sinks are easy fixes, but usually go unnoticed for quite a while. You should check under sinks and around showers for water damage as this is a sign of plumbing problems. Your inspector should fill each tub beyond the overflow point to check for water leaking in the walls and he or she should also evaluate the piping throughout the house.
5. Electrical Issues
Problems with a home’s electrical system may cause electrocution and fire so it’s important to know that there are no issues before buying a home and moving in. Although there are many signs of electrical issues, some that are easier to identify to an untrained eye include exposed wiring, painted outlets and no GFCI protection. Your inspector should examine the circuit breaker and test all outlets. Rewiring a house is very costly so be sure your inspector does a thorough examination. If your inspector suspects there are electrical issues he or she may recommend an electrician to check it out and provide additional information about the issue.
6. Problems With HVAC Systems
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems are very expensive to replace and repair, so your inspector should take time looking at it. You or your realtor can ask the seller for proof of the most recent maintenance and if there are signs of any issues you may even ask for them to have it examined by a professional prior to closing. Some signs of HVAC issues are dirty air filters, ice or rust around the unit and cracked or dirty ductwork. Your inspector should also test the temperature throughout the home and compare to what the thermostat is set to. Additionally, all these systems have a finite life span, so make sure to check the date it was installed. The last thing you are going to want is to move into your new home and the AC breaks because it's 17 years old.
Most insect infestations are a nuisance but can be dealt with by an exterminator on a regular basis. However, termites can cause serious damage to a house that is not only costly but also may cause safety concerns. Rodents can chew through electrical wiring and bring diseases into the home with them. Look for fecal droppings, urine trails, gnaw marks, carcasses and body parts. Your inspector may recommend a pest professional to inspect the house as well.
Your inspector should be very detail-oriented and should even be nit-picking at anything he or she finds. You, as the buyer, want him or her to find any issues before you close on the property and are fully responsible to fix any issues that arise. Hopefully, if issues are found during the inspection they are not severe and, if they are, the sellers are willing to take care of them or provide a credit at closing. You should attend the inspection and now that you know many signs to look out for, you can ask your inspector about anything you identify.
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