What Home Inspectors Wish You Knew

by Maribeth Lynch

photo of a home inspectors checklist

Home Inspection Tips

Maribeth Lynch, Owner/Broker
Thrive Real Estate Specialists

Lately, a strong sellers’ market has meant that available homes are selling fast! But if you’re a prospective homebuyer, you should make sure that you’re balancing your expectations about your dream home’s apparent perfection with the reality of its behind-the-scenes condition. From the floorboards to the chimney and everything in between, an inspection can reveal the pitfalls of rushing to make an offer on a home that you haven’t examined closely during your showing.
In recent months, home inspectors have noticed a disparity between buyers’ expectations of a home’s soundness and the property’s true condition. Part of this is due to poor preparation on the part of sellers because houses are selling so fast; in fact, some contracts are falling through once inspection reveals expensive repairs or upkeep because sellers are so eager to get their houses on the market.
But as a prospective buyer, it is equally important to temper the emotional expectations of the home on which you are bidding with a healthy dose of consideration about the home’s true state. One inspector I spoke to recently encouraged buyers to use a showing not just to fall in love with a home’s aesthetics, but to also take an “unsexy” tour of the property to make sure that there are no noticeable flaws.

Here are a few suggestions for getting a true feel for a home’s potential defects:

  • Head to the basement and take a deep whiff of the air. Notice a dank or moldy smell? This could indicate water intrusion and/or the presence of mold. Also check out the furnace, especially if it is older. A dusty furnace is a telltale sign of a poorly-maintained heating system.

  • Bathrooms are another place to look for the presence of mold. Examine the bathtub and shower, the windows, and even corners between the walls and ceiling or floor for evidence of mold.

  • Go outside and walk the perimeter of the home. Look under the deck for rotten wood or sagging supports. Check all the joints between different building materials for signs of cracks, holes, or other damage. Also note whether there are a lot of branches or shrubs touching the roof or siding, as these can serve as access points for pests.

  • Survey the yard. Is the central air conditioning unit buried under branches and shrubbery? If it is, it’s a good bet that it hasn’t seen much recent maintenance.

In addition to heeding this sound advice, it’s wise to do a little research into the most common problems that are uncovered in a home inspection. Inform yourself as much as possible about these prevalent issues:

  • Water intrusion. Whether the basement floods, the roof leaks, or windows are poorly sealed, nothing spells doom for the structural integrity of a house quite like water damage. Seeping water or water vapor can also lead to the presence of mold – which can be bad for your health and a headache to remediate.

  • Furnace issues. Replacing a furnace can be an enormous financial burden for a new homeowner. Proper maintenance is key to the longevity and effectiveness of a furnace, so a thorough heating system examination during inspection is vital.

  • Plumbing defects. Even something as seemingly mundane as a leaky faucet can lead to greater utility costs, and replacing pipes can be a large-scale project depending on their location.

  • A compromised foundation. Cracked foundations are immensely expensive to fix and should be a point of concern if turned up during an inspection.

  • Faulty or inadequate wiring. Historic homes are particularly susceptible to this problem, but another contributing factor can be modifications made by a previous owner. It’s best to ensure that electrical wiring is both sound and sufficient.

  • Roof wear and tear. Even a home that shows no exterior evidence of roof damage may turn up deterioration on the inside. An inspection of the attic is crucial, as replacing or repairing a roof is an expensive undertaking.

  • Pests. The presence of pests in a home varies in severity. Mice can be dealt with through traps, but termites are another issue altogether, as they must be eradicated and the damage they have caused must be remediated.

So … someone will have to fix any of these problems if they turn up in an inspection. The buyer, the seller, or both must agree on who will be responsible for repairs. The bottom line is that inspectors advise that a home inspection be taken seriously by any buyer. Attend the inspection! Ask plenty of questions! The more informed you are about the condition of the home you plan to buy, the more money you will save once you become its owner.

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