Home Inspection 101
- “A standard home inspector will confirm that a home’s heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system (HVAC) is functional at the time of inspection, but will make no guarantee that it will keep working once you purchase the home,” says Lynnette Bruno, Trulia’s vice president of communications. They should, however, be able to tell you how long your home air conditioning condenser (the unit outside) should last, simply by checking the serial number. Most condensers will last 12 to 15 years before requiring replacement.
- 2. Roof problems are responsible for 39 percent of homeowners insurance claims, according to Trulia. “Find out how old the roof is and if there are any issues,” says Bruno, adding that if there are any problems, you will likely have to bring it up to code.
Water drainage and disbursement
- “The biggest issue of any home is always going to be water disbursement,” Turner says. “There’s the potential for damage to the foundation. If water is found to be in the vicinity of the house, you want the water to flow away from the house, not towards it.” “While external water damage is pretty easy to spot with a visual inspection, potential damage hidden inside a home’s walls can bet harder to detect,” Bruno says. “To ensure that your home is safe from water damage that can lead to moldy walls, make sure your inspector takes the extra precautions of wielding an infrared camera to find water damage that exists beneath the surface of a home.” That includes checking your gutters and spouts, because if they aren’t functioning properly, it can damage the foundation. “Water is the biggest enemy of your home,” adds Turner.
- Turner says there are a couple of specific techniques and systems to look out for. One is something called knob and tube wiring, also known as K&T, usually found in homes from about 1880 to the 1930s. The strange system is usually ungrounded, which leads to potential for electric shock. “Any home inspector with their salt would recommend that knob and tube wiring gets replaced.” Another thing to look out for is a Federal Pacific Electric panel. When circuit breakers are tripped on those systems, it often leads to overheating and fire.
- You want to make sure the house’s foundation is stable. Like the roof, it’s possible you’ll have to bring it up to code as the new owner. “Foundation issues can be extremely costly,” Bruno says.
Quality of the flooring
- “Beyond the standard inspection of flooring that is in plain sight, sub floors that are covered up with carpet, tile, or laminate can cause additional issues if not carefully examined,” says Bruno. “Prospective homeowners can use their feet to detect soft spots in sub floors where wood is weak, or user their sense of smell to look out for a moldy, musty odor that could be a clear indication of wood rot.
- Radon is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, but it is radioactive and carcinogenic. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends all homes be tested for the presence of radon. Before a home inspection, a potential home buyer can ask the seller if they have already tested for radon,” Bruno says. “Sellers often test their homes before placing them up for sale, so recent test results may be available during the closing process. If not, radon tests are reasonably priced, around $125, and the test results can be processed in a matter of days.”
- “For home buyers considering a home built before 1980, it’s worth asking a home inspector if they have frequently worked with asbestos and can make a reasonable judgment about whether disturbed asbestos fibers are present based on a visual inspection,” Bruno says. Asbestos was used as insulation in construction for a long time, but it turned out it was hazardous to human health. If undisturbed, it might be safe, but abating it before it becomes a problem is often wise. Turner says you can find it everywhere from interior heating pipes to exterior shingles.
- Turner says to make sure they’re venting to the outside. Even up to 15 years ago, people were building townhouses with systems that vented into the attic. That can cause mold.
- Lead paint is mostly an issue with older houses, particularly when you replace old windows. “So, with old metal windows, there’s the potential for lead,” Turner says. “If we get the feeling that there could be the potential for lead paint, in certain areas, we would recommend a lead paint testing company.”
- “There is a potential, if it’s an older house, that [there] could have been a septic system,” Turner says. “There have been instances where a septic system has been abandoned and, over time, it created a cave-in.” He says he saw one example where the system collapsed, swallowing a child’s play set. So, you need to find out if there was a septic system. Along with that, even sewer pipes can be damaged by tree roots. They should be checked out, too, and that can be done with a snake. While having a professional home inspector is great, Turner recommends you also do your own home inspection. Just see if things are working the way you think they should and do basic things like going outside and checking the gutters when it’s raining.