Home inspections are one of the first steps when purchasing a previously occupied home. To have a professional examine the home you are hoping to buy is extremely important. However, even these professionals can miss things, so it’s important you understand potential problem areas.
Otherwise, you are at risk for falling into a trap. To their dismay, thousands of homebuyers learn about problems only after the deal is done. Then, they are left with the choice of either abandoning the house, or trying to fix it up.
Below, we have compiled a list of common issues. Bear in mind that you should strive to hire a reputable company to perform the inspection.
Check the Foundation: Make sure it is not cracked, moldy, or uneven. If trees are growing underneath the house, they can undermine the foundation.
Check for DIY projects: Current or former homeowners frequently try their own home improvements. Depending on what they did, and how they did it, these can actually have damaged the house, or diminished its value. Also, in jurisdictions that require building permits, many homeowners undertook them without having bothered to apply for one. This does not necessarily mean that you will need to either tear down any DIY or unpermitted improvement, or bring it up to the building code. But you might want to look into the cost of these alternatives—and even more, whether the improvement is structurally unsound or hazardous.
The Outside Appearance: If it of the house has not been taken care of, take it as a cue that the inside has been neglected as well. In addition, check to make sure that water drains away from the house, not toward it.
Roof: Check to make sure that it is in good condition, and whether any trees are encroaching upon it. Make sure that it not leaking. When the home inspector climbs up on it, consider inviting yourself along, if he doesn’t invite you first.
Plumbing, electrical, air conditioning and heating: Try switches and outlets, flush the toilets, check the insulation, and ensure that the switches are grounded. (OK, but what should you look for, in the insulation, and how do you determine whether the switches are grounded? I think you should add the answers to these questions.)
Appliances: If the sellers will be leaving washer, dryer, oven, stove, water heater, and/or refrigerator behind, make sure that they work, and take note of their age. The last thing you need, after you close on a house, is an expected bill for a new water heater!
Exterior and attic: Make sure that the siding is in good condition: that the panels are not rotting, the bricks are not crumbling, and the paint job is good. Check the gutters. Look for dangling wires and leaks in the attic.
The Interior: Check to make sure that the molding is in good condition, the walls have no holes or discoloration from water, and that the doors close snug.
You have not said anything about the basement. Not sure where you live, but in the US Midwest, at least, many/most older homes have basements. How about checking drains and for standing water in the basement? You also said nothing about termites, which are a serious problem in some parts of the country. Also, radon. Anything else?
The worst problems can endanger you, but a home inspection can help head them off . You may feel that the price of the inspection is high, and that the liability releases that are included in his contract let him too much off the hook. But remember: you are considering one of the largest purchases (and probably taking out of the largest loans) of your entire life. Unless you are knowledgeable everything an inspector should be, it’s probably worth your money.
If a home inspection turns up problems that you (and perhaps even the seller) didn’t know about, your choice is either to bargain to change the terms of your offer, or walk away from the deal.