If you’re going to purchase a home, it’s very important that you conduct a home inspection before the sales process is complete. The one exception would be when you purchase something from a family member, and you know intimately.
Every other home that you purchase should be inspected by a professional home inspector or someone that understands construction and common problems involved with residential property.
You should also become knowledgeable about common problems that can be uncovered with residential property, so that you can conduct your own search of a home before ever involving a home inspector.
Having a professional inspect your home is not cheap. The service ranges from $300 to $700 and up depending on the size of the home. Therefore, you should look for common warning signs in a home that indicate that you should continue your search at another property.
The more that you understand about the home inspection process, the easier it will be to eliminate properties. It’s a waste of resources inspecting a home that you won’t actually want to purchase.
Here are some red flags when it comes to inspecting homes:
Cracks in the exterior foundation
If you see cracks in the basement or exterior foundation, that can signal that the home isn’t settling properly. This occurs when a home is built on an improperly graded area, such as a hill or landfill. It could also hint that there is earthquake activity in the area, or that the earth moves under the property during heavy rains.
Mold leaves a bad smell that is hard to miss. If the home you are considering smells a bit funny, it could be because there’s mold in the ductwork, or behind the vinyl wallpaper. Although this can be controlled with bleach and water, it means taking apart the ductwork or removing the wallpaper to access, which could send toxicants into the air.
If the ductwork in the home doesn’t look like it was properly installed, that could lead to heating and cooling problems in the home at a later time. Make sure that the ductwork fits together tightly, without any problems.
Discoloration on the walls or ceiling
A new coat of paint might be covering up discoloration that is caused by a water leak in the home. If you notice discoloration, the walls, pipes, or roof might be to blame. This is a warning sign that other areas of the home might also have water damage and need repair.
If there is any sort of visible damage around a skylight, it’s possible that the skylight was improperly installed. This often leads to water damage, so check for paint chipping, discoloration around the skylight, or other signs that the skylight is misaligned from the ceiling.
Excess attic moisture
If the attic feels a bit damp, there could be excess moisture rotting the foundation or causing condensation. Also, check the roof to see if it’s wet, as that indicates that the roof needs to be replaced.
When you check a home, check that there’s insulation that’s facing the right way and find out what the R number of the insulation is. Inadequate insulation traps heat or cold in the home and makes it difficult to properly cool down or heat up the space without paying a fortune.
Poor masonry work
If you notice sloppy masonry work, it could be that the owner is trying to cover up a larger issue. Check for patchwork in the masonry and holes in the mortar to ensure that there’s no problem with the home construction.
Poor electrical wiring
Check the electrical box and make sure that everything is neat and tidy. You could be saving yourself from potential safety hazards if the electric box isn’t well organized and installed. It’s an expensive fix that you don’t want to have to pay while purchasing a new home.
Landscape grading issues
Landscape slopes away or towards the home means that there is probable water damage. If the landscaping slopes into the house or pitched toward the home, then there could be a potential leak to the basement. Water can cause lots of damage to your property, so it’s important to check for this issue.
Condensation filled windows
If the home you’re looking through has double-paned or thermal-paned windows that are collecting moisture, then this signals that the seal is broken and it’s not keeping out water vapor. These windows will have to be replaced in order to do its proper job, which can cost quite a bit of money.
These are just a few of the problems that could be wrong with a home, which is why it’s so important to have a professional home inspection.
You want to time your home inspection within the allotted time decided by your inspection contingency in the contract. Although you know a few things to look for, you never know a home or the shape that it’s in without first having a professional look at it. Something might look correct to you but signal a red flag to a home inspector.
Even new homes should undergo a home inspection, since there are no guarantees that the property has been built to code. The same things that go wrong with old houses can go wrong with new homes.
Believe me, it’s better to be safe than sorry when purchasing a home, even a new one at that.
You might even want to be a little diligent when you purchase a new home. It’s suggested that you have four home inspections for new properties, inspecting the completion of the foundation, the framing of the home, the wiring and plumbing, and the whole home after everything has been completed.
Certain home inspectors focus only on new construction, so make sure that they have completed lots of new home inspections before yours.
How can I find a good home inspector?
Finding a great home inspector isn’t necessary a difficult process, but there are a lot of people claiming to know how to inspect homes that might not have adequate training on the field.
Your search for a home inspector begins once you have the right to have your home inspected that is given to you in the inspection clause attached to your contract.
You should either find a home inspector or a team of home inspectors that specialize in different things such as pests, toxic substances, and the overall home condition.
During your search for a good home inspection team, you should locate people who are members of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). ASHI is a nonprofit professional association for qualified home inspectors who have conducted over 750 home inspections, following ASHI Standards of Practice.
They also have to pass an exam, conduct inspection reports, and perform a successful home inspection before a peer review committee. These are some of the best home inspectors that follow industry standards and ethical practices.
You can find them by searching on the Internet, or by asking your agent if they have any recommendations.
Make sure to interview home inspectors before you choose one, comparing fees, discussing how long it will take to conduct the inspection, and judging how courteous and knowledgeable each one is. You want to find a home inspector who is bonded, licensed, and insured.
Also, ask for references and call the home owners that they have worked for to ensure professionalism. Only select ones that will be inspecting the whole home, inside and out, without skipping anything because they don’t want to get their hands dirty.
Your home inspector should also be able to produce a written report that summarizes all the work completed and detailing any issues with the property. Some inspectors are able to print this out on site in their vehicle, while others will submit this document to you within 24 hours of your home inspection. Ask what kind of report you’ll receive and learn when it will be sent to you during the interview process, so that you know how much time to schedule the home inspector for in advance, before the inspection clause runs out of time.
When you have picked the right home inspector, make sure that you have them come out to the house as soon as they can, during a day that isn’t raining in the morning or afternoon.
If you wait too long to schedule a home inspection and something comes up, you can’t afford to postpone the inspection if you waited to the last minute because your right-to-inspection clause only allows an inspection within about 5 days of signing the contract.
Now, if you are available, you should also participate in the home inspection. It will allow you to receive an answer on any questions you have about the property. You’ll know what to look out for in future home homes that you are considering purchasing. The inspector should be happy to have the company and won’t mind answering any questions that you have.
If any major problems come up with your home and it requires a significant investment in order to fix, then you have some things to think about. Is the cost of the house still worth the price that you offered and the cost that it takes to repair the home? If it isn’t, then you should continue your search for another home (if you have an inspection contingency.)
Now what should you look for in a home inspector? You want to find one who will be honest with you about the condition of the home you are considering purchasing, but one that won’t scare you without reason. All old homes have problems, it’s just about figuring how much the repair cost of those problems is going to be. Qualified home inspectors should also stand by their work, offering an errors and omissions (E&O) policy if they make mistakes during the inspection of your home and miss something.
Whenever you are searching for a home inspector, whether it’s a ASHI-certified inspector or not, look at their qualifications and their certification. If they don’t at least meet ASHI certified standards, then it’s time to find another professional to conduct the home inspection of your home.