Home inspections are an important step in the home buying process. Buyers are encouraged to purchase a home inspection for both personal and financial peace of mind. A good home inspection can save a buyer thousands of dollars in the long run by identifying potential problems before they appear weeks or months after closing.
What a home inspector looks for varies depending on property type. An older, historic home, for instance, would call for a much different inspection than one for a newly constructed home. Additionally, free-standing houses might be inspected differently than a condominium, for instance.
However, no matter what kind of property you are purchasing, a home inspection should, in general, cover all the following elements.
Your home inspector will look at the structural components of the property you are purchasing, which includes the foundation and the framing. He or she will look for signs that show the structure is intact and is holding up against weather, the natural shifts of the earth and gravity. Please note that an in-depth structural analysis will normally need to be conducted by a structural engineer. However, if your home inspector notes serious problems, you can opt to hire a structural engineer to give you a more detailed report. Most home inspectors are more than qualified to examine the basic structure of the house and note minor problems.
Your home inspector will look at the exterior elements of your home as well. These include sidewalks, driveways, windows, doors and exterior steps, porches, patios, decks etc. He or she will look for signs of cracking in concrete, the condition of wood siding, or decks, and the basic overall condition of all exterior features, including bricks and stone.
It’s important to know the condition of the roof when you are buying a property. Roofs can be very expensive to repair or replace, so knowing this information is critical for a buyer. Your home inspector will note the condition of the roof, the approximate age, integrity of the flashing, draining systems, and individual shingles. Your inspector will also examine skylights, downspouts, gutters, and chimneys.
Repairs to your plumbing system can also be very expensive, which is a why a thorough inspection of the property’s plumbing is a critical component of any home inspection. The inspector will look at the water supply and drainage systems, water heating equipment, and the condition of pipes. Water pressure will be tested and your inspector will look for signs of rust or corrosion on the visible plumbing. If the property is equipped with drainage pumps or sump pumps, these too, will be inspected.
An electrical system with problems is not only expensive to repair, but dangerous as well. Bad wiring can cause a multitude of problems, including a risk of fire. Home inspectors look at the condition of service panels, breaker boxes and fuses. He or she will look at outlets, connects and disconnects and assure that the wiring is safe and up to code.
Heating and Air Conditioning
Your inspector will look at both heating and cooling systems. Flues and chimneys will be inspected, as well as the furnace, and vent system. For the air conditioning system the inspector will look at the age and condition of the air conditioners, and test it to make sure it operates properly. For both furnaces and air conditioners the inspector can give you a good idea regarding age and how long the equipment will be expected to last, or whether it is nearing the end of its useful life.
The interior of the house will be inspected in a similar manner as the exterior. This will include a careful examination of surfaces like walls, floors and ceilings, as well as steps, countertops, cabinets, etc. Your inspector will look for construction defects, mold, insect damage or evidence of prior water damage. Cracks in ceilings, walls or floors will also be examined.
Insulation and Ventilation
One often overlooked element of home inspections, is the examination of insulation and ventilation of a property. It is important to know whether or not the property you are purchasing is adequately insulated, as proper insulation is critical to energy loss and heating and cooling costs. In addition to insulation, proper ventilation is critical to unfinished areas in a home, such as the crawl space or attic. Excess moisture can lead to mold and water damage which can be very costly to repair.
A careful inspection of all fireplaces is a crucial part of any home inspection. Well maintained fireplaces can add a lot of ‘coziness and charm’ to a house, but a poorly maintained fireplace can be very dangerous. Your inspector will check the fireplaces in the property, including and inspection of the vent and flue, to point out potential dangers and problems. A fireplace should be inspected yearly to ensure it is safe to use.
For a buyer, a good home inspection is priceless, though luckily, the cost to them isn’t. When you are ready to make an offer, your very next step should be to contact a good home inspector. The money you spend now for your inspection could very well save you thousands of dollars in the future, as well as heartache. To learn more about home inspections and home inspectors visit the American Society of Home Inspectors.