Some Home Inspection Tips for Buyers

Homebuyers want home inspection tips as they consider making a large financial investment. Tips about home inspection are especially valuable for those who have not purchased a house before. This article is intended to provide such readers the most important pointers to follow so that the real estate buying process is not so overwhelming.

The home inspection tips contained herein address three primary concerns, namely, how to select a home inspector, how to ensure you get the inspection you want and need, and how to get the most benefit out of the inspection report. These pointers apply whether or not you are working with a real estate agent. In fact, if you are working with an agent, these tips will help you get more involved so that the agent doesn’t make all or even some decisions unilaterally.

Our first tip is to consider why you should have the house you plan to buy inspected. There are various motives or reasons for doing so, the most common of which is to avoid buying a money pit. Sometimes the lender requires an inspection, and in general it’s a good idea to discover what may need to be remedied prior to closing. Also, though at one time a home warranty policy was commonly incorporated into the purchase agreement (perhaps seller and buyer sharing the cost), today the home inspection is in essence the only step taken to protect one’s investment.

But this makes it all the more important to get a report that covers all the bases and serves as a kind of owner’s manual to help you get acquainted to your new residence. Unfortunately, too often the inspection is somewhat rushed or even cursory. Minor problems might get glossed over and occasionally a serious major defect is missed. In such a case, if damages occur down the road, the buyer has some recourse by filing a claim, assuming the inspector is bonded. But the liability may be limited to the price of the inspection.

So our second tip is to find a home inspector who is thorough and who writes a complete report that puts everything he finds in proper perspective. If something is wrong, it is important to know what the implications are, just how serious the problem is, and how necessary it is to fix it.

To accomplish this, your inspector should not be too beholden to the real estate agent. If his primary goal is to please the agent (so he can continue to get referrals), he may take shortcuts. (Agents in general prefer quick inspections and summarized findings of major issues only.)

Don’t ignore or discount an inspector referral from your agent, but ask for more than one name and research them. (Most inspectors have a website with sample reports, and you may find there or elsewhere reviews or client testimonials appraising their work.) Be sure you are going to get the kind of home inspection you want before choosing the inspector.

Our third tip builds on the first two and is similar to them. The first tip was the why, whereas the second advises care in determining who inspects the house and how it is inspected. This next tip advises taking care to establish what is inspected.

A number of things can cause an inspector to exclude items from the inspection. Examples are Standards of Practice, his contract, the utilities not being on, inaccessibility due to blocking objects or locked doors, and dangerous situations. Some of these things are under the inspector’s control, some are not, but he is not liable for unintended exclusions and will charge the same fee despite them.

Thus, we recommend reviewing the contract carefully, identifying normally excluded items you want included and possibly normally included items you don’t care about. Also, be sure that lender requirements and constraints will be accommodated. Discuss changes to the list of exclusions and inclusions with the inspector, potentially negotiating a reduced inspection fee.

Then, we advise leaving as little to chance as possible. Ask the inspector what his expectations are to ensure that all inclusions are actually inspected. Relay this information to your real estate agent, who is responsible for seeing that the expectations are met by making arrangements with the owner via the owner’s listing agent. Now, any unintended exclusions that arise would suggest a deliberately uncooperative seller.

Our fourth tip is to get maximum leverage out of the inspection report. Study all findings in the body, not just the major items listed in the summary. If you followed our second tip faithfully, there should be nothing unclear, vague, or out of context. Even so, don’t hesitate to ask the inspector for explanations or elaborations, who should be more than willing to comply.

Some findings may be purely informational and not defects. Some defects may be more or less trivial and not worth pursuing. Serious problems can be addressed in three different ways: as deal breakers, causing you to withdraw your offer; as things you want the seller to remedy prior to closing at his expense; or as conditions you will accept possibly with some form of compensation such as reduced sales price.

We advise against sharing the inspection report with the seller or listing agent. You have paid for it and it belongs to you. The lender may require a copy, but you may request him to keep it confidential. Simply work up a brief contract addendum with your agent covering items falling into the last two categories mentioned in the previous paragraph.

By following these home inspection tips, you stand the best chance of minimizing if not eliminating home-buying surprises.

5 Home Inspection Tips For Open House Visits

Fortunately, prospective homebuyers do not have to be professional home inspectors to be able to identify certain problems in a home.

Regardless of whether you are the “handy” type or more of the “book” type, you will be able to spot certain problematic areas with a little bit of guidance. Thus, if you are going through the home purchasing process and you are viewing different homes, keep yours eyes open for some of the following.

NOTE: to better prepare you before heading to your next open house, go on the Internet to look up images regarding some of the problems noted below (e.g. water damaged ceiling, termite damage, flooded basement, mold, cracked foundation).

1) Discolored Walls and/or Ceilings

Discoloration on walls and/or ceilings is usually indicative of water damage or mold. Neither one is good for the home. If you see this, make a note of it.

Water damage could result from leaky pipes, broken pipes, improperly installed window flashing, or even a leaky roof. Each of these can be quite expensive to repair. Where there is excessive moisture, there is a chance that mold will grow. This is especially concerning since mold exposure is linked to certain health concerns. Mold can also cause structural damage to any property it inhabits.

2) Wood Damage

If there are hardwood floors in the house be sure to look for any signs of damage. More specifically, look for lines that resemble trails of some sort. This can be indicative of damage caused by termites or other wood-destroying insects.

In addition, if you can observe wooden beams in the basement, be sure to have a close look for any impairments. Damaged wooden beams can also be attributed to a wood-destroying insect.

3) Dampness in Basement

If the home you are viewing has a basement, look for any signs of excessive moisture while you are down there. Such dampness can mean that the basement floods or that there is water seepage during rainstorms. It can also lead to the growth of mold, which thrives in dark and moist environments.

4) Drafty Windows

While you are in the house, run your hands across some of the windows to feel for any air getting through. On a hot summer day this will be more difficult, not impossible to do, but try it anyway.

Windows can become a much bigger headache than most people think. Repairing windows can be rather expensive, depending on the type and quality you’re seeking. This does not necessarily mean you will have to repair the windows; there are some inexpensive remedies that work well. But, having this knowledge prior to making your purchase permits you to take it into consideration when deciding whether or not to place a bid.

5) Cracked Foundation

At some point before you leave the house, be sure to look around the exterior of the property for signs of damage to the outer structure or foundation. Sometimes there will literally be a large crack going across a section of the home’s foundation. Although this doesn’t always indicate a serious problem with the house, it is worth knowing about and looking into.

Closing

These are just a handful of home inspection tips that you should keep in mind when you are viewing different prospective houses. The benefit is that you can identify some problems on your own and possibly eliminate certain houses from your list that you weren’t too sure of in the first place.

Once you have found a home that you feel comfortable with, have a professional home inspector conduct a thorough inspection. This will ensure that you have all of the information you need regarding the actual condition of the home to make your final purchasing decision.

Best of luck!

Home Inspection Tip – Move Your Clutter!

When any self respecting housewife invites company for dinner, she cleans the house to impress her guests. If you’re selling your home and are having it inspected, as you should, you’ll need to do some house cleaning, too. That’s not so you can impress your home inspector, but so he can do his job.

Many times home inspectors can’t fully do what they’re supposed to do because certain areas of the home are inaccessible, due to clutter. When it’s time for your home inspection, you want to get your money’s worth. You don’t want the report to say, “Inspection limited due to the excess possessions blocking access and view.”

This isn’t about being a neat freak. The American Society of Home Inspectors ASHI®, Standards of Professional Practice, says inspectors are not to report on components or systems which are not observed. Your inspector isn’t required to disturb insulation or move personal items out of the way. If you’ve got furniture or plants in places your inspector needs to see, like the doorway to a utility closet, you’ll have to move that stuff. Clear off any snow and ice if necessary as well.

What if the water heater, electrical panels, or attic are places your home inspector can’t get to? Those are areas he must check if your home is to be inspected properly, and if you’re going to get the report you need. The bottom line: Don’t let junk ruin your home inspection.

In some homes water heaters are found in utility closets or garages. If the water heater is surrounded by clutter, your inspector can’t tell if there are possible problems, such as a fire hazard. If an electrical panel has been improperly installed, but is hidden from view, your inspector won’t know that, and neither will you. What if that panel causes a fire for the next home owner?

Walk through your home before your home inspection is to take place and make sure all doors and passageways are accessible. Move stored items out of the way or elsewhere altogether. If the home being sold is vacant make sure that the power, water and gas remain on so that all systems are operable and can be inspected. If items on the report can’t be inspected, you as the seller may be asked to have the home inspected again after areas in question have been cleared out. Similarly, if you’re the buyer, you can ask for another inspection. Another option is to request that the seller pay for a warranty if a certain component is not inspected.

Granted, if a home to be inspected is being lived in, there will be personal possessions throughout the house. Some areas will be less accessible as a result. If you’re the seller, make sure things can be moved out of your inspector’s way.

Show some common courtesy and make sure key areas around your property can be seen by your home inspector. You may not be trying to impress him at a dinner party, but you’ll make his job easier, and you’ll get a more complete report. That, after all, is what you’re paying for.