Home Inspectors: When Do You Need One?
Home inspectors are one of the critical real estate team members you need when buying or selling a house. Maybe you thought you only need a home inspector when buying a house? That used to be the custom but today home inspections provide a service to buyers, sellers and homeowners who want to get caught up on neglected home maintenance, and an inspection can help identify and prioritize what's needed.
Few home buyers are knowledgeable enough about home construction to perform a realistic assessment of a house before you buy it. You're also emotionally invested in the house after negotiating a purchase agreement. You'll want to invest in a home inspection to confirm the house you're buying has been well maintained, to avoid surprises that could cost tens of thousands which you might not have during the first few years of home ownership.
Sellers can also benefit from getting a home inspection before putting their home on the market. This extra step means you can fix problems before prospective buyers find them, which is ideal because the largest number of prospective buyers will view your home during the first few weeks it's on the market. There's a lot of validity to the HGTV message that today's home buyers want a house that's move-in ready.
With people staying in their homes longer than the average 5 to 7 years before the housing bubble. Different home inspections can help homeowners reduce energy usage and plan for major upgrades which are common every 15 to 30 years, like a new roof, siding, deck, hot water heater and more (learn the value of investing in home inspections and try to walk along with your home inspector to see your house through their eyes).
What Home Inspections Include and What's Extra
A home inspection covers most exterior and interior systems in a house,although they vary by state and even local customs, as well as the training and practices of your home inspectors professional association. There are also things that home inspectors can't see like the wiring, plumbing and insulation inside the walls.
- Exterior inspection checklist used by home inspectors includes – the roof and chimney, vents, skylights, flashing and trim at the edge of the roof; gutters, downspouts, grading away from house and drainage; siding, windows, doors and exterior trim; basement, crawlspace, foundation and water penetration problems; decks, porches, railings and walkways.
- Interior systems that home inspectors review include heating and cooling systems plus insulation and ventilation; interior plumbing fixtures, faucets, hot water heater and water pressure; electrical service from the main service box, the electrical panels, breakers and fuses with appropriate grounding throughout the house, i.e. GFIs and AFCIs.
- Home inspectors will review optional items like sump pumps, fireplace operations, garage doors and more.
There are more and more specialty inspections which don't apply to every home. This list identifies those you'll have to arrange for after your initial inspection, or if you're nervous, you might schedule them in parallel in order to meet the cutoff date set in your purchase agreement for inspections to be completed.
- Water and septic systems need testing if your house isn't on city water and sewer.
- Indoor air quality is affected by air borne gases. As we build more air-tight houses to lower heating and cooling costs, it's important to monitor air quality (test for radon, methane, radiation and formaldehyde) and you may need an air exchanger.
- Water damage and wood rot should be identified by home inspectors but further testing may be required to determine the extent of the problem, and the type of remediation needed to remove mold, mildew, carpenter ants, etc.
- Lead-based paints were commonly used in homes built before 1978. If you're buying an older home you'll want to know if there's lead as it will increase home maintenance and remodeling costs. You need to take lead paint seriously as it can harm children and is dangerous for pregnant women (learn more about lead paint).
- Asbestos is a mineral fiber that can cause problems when it's disturbed. It's found in older homes where building materials used asbestos for it's fiber strength and ability to resist heat — roofing shingles, siding, insulation wrapped around duct work, and ceiling and floor tiles.
How to Find Home Inspectors
There are 3 professional organizations that you can use to find home inspectors who have the right training, and adhere to standard practices set by these organizations. They are the American Society of Home Inspectors, the National Association of Home Inspectors and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
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