Going through a property with a qualified professional who is trained to assess the overall condition of a house before you make a purchase is beneficial. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn about your future home and all its quirks. You’ll definitely sleep better at night knowing that the house you intend to buy is in relatively good shape. Plus, if significant defects are found, you can better game-plan if and how to proceed with the sale.
A home inspection is primarily a visual examination of the home’s accessible systems. An inspector will evaluate the performance of components to determine their safety and functionality.
A home inspection is not the be-all and end-all. A home inspector can’t check everything or discover concealed issues, as an inspection is not an invasive evaluation.
Requirements vary from state to state, but a standard home inspection report covers general information related to structural elements, safety concerns, the roof, the basement, the attic, interior plumbing and electric appliances, heating and cooling systems, appliances, garages and grounds.
That said, a home inspection is not the be-all and end-all. A home inspector can’t check everything or discover concealed issues, as an inspection is not an invasive evaluation. He or she can’t provide a warranty on a home or predict the future performance with 100 percent accuracy. There are a few areas in particular that can sometimes slip through the cracks.
1. Specifics on the Roof
As part of the overall scrutiny of a home’s exterior, your inspector may provide some anecdotal feedback on the condition of the roof. From the ground, he or she may be able to guesstimate its age and point out areas that need attention. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an inspector willing to climb up to scope out the roof in more detail. A property with a flat roofline will be even harder to assess. If you have any concerns, consider bringing in a roofer to check out the situation. A specialist should be able to give you more information on the condition and age of not only the roof, but also the chimney and gutters.
2. The Severity of Structural Issues
An inspector will make note of worrisome slants and warped floors, but don’t expect him or her to check to make sure rooms are square. As a rule of the thumb, BYOL (bring your own level). An inspector may point out concerning issues that aren’t apparent to the untrained eye, such as beam and post deterioration caused by insect damage or a rotting sill. It’s helpful to have these issues brought to your attention, but you will likely need to contact a structural engineer or contractor to wrap your head around the severity of the issues and the costs involved in remediating them.
3. The Status of Waste Lines
An inspector will scope out the interior plumbing to see if the toilets, sinks, showers and bathtubs are properly functioning and look for signs of damaged pipes and adequate water pressure/temperature. Unless your inspector spots an issue, he or she may shy away from waste lines. Can you blame them? When waste lines fail, they cause a mess. If the house has older waste lines or a history of backups, you may want to have a plumber shoot a camera down to see what’s going on. If the house has a septic tank, you may want to bring in someone with experience testing private sewer systems. Of course, you’ll have to ask the current homeowner for permission before you get started with anything invasive.
4. Swimming Pools
If you’re lucky to be buying a property with a pool, you may want to do some extra due diligence on this asset. Pools have a lot of expensive parts, including pumps, heaters, filters, electrical equipment and plumbing. While some inspectors may be able to provide a brief evaluation, few have the expertise or knowledge to evaluate the condition and longevity of all the moving parts specific to pools. It is possible to hire a separate pool inspector to perform pressure tests for leaks and provide a report on the overall findings.
5. Testing for Housing Hazards
Wouldn’t it be great if you could test for all potential hazards in one fell swoop? Some home inspection companies offer a wide variety of add-on services like mold, radon, lead paint, asbestos and water testing. However, typically these come at an additional cost. Other companies don’t offer them at all and you have to seek out another provider. You never want to assume that these extra services are included in the price of your home inspection.
Get Started Early
The most important thing to keep in mind throughout the process is that home inspectors are generalists, meaning they have a wide knowledge base related to construction, maintenance and the inner workings of a home. However, they are not specialists and may not be able to get into the nitty-gritty of certain areas that come up during the investigation of a property. It’s always best to book your home inspection as early as possible so that you have time to bring in another set of eyes, if need be.