The home buying process can be confusing and stressful. Not only do you need to consider things such as price and location, you also have to worry about whether the house itself has any hidden problems that could become costly surprises down the road. As professional Home Inspectors, it’s our job to look for those hidden problems for you. The home inspection is an unbiased, professional assessment of the condition of the house. It provides you an expert opinion and professional report on the condition of the physical structure and various systems within a house, giving you peace of mind on what is likely the largest purchase you’ll ever make.
Before the inspector arrives, there are a few things you should know. There are no federal regulations governing inspectors. The laws are going to differ state by state. Therefore it’s important to interview your inspector or inspection company prior to hiring them. Since each state is going to have its own standards of certification for inspectors – and some don’t even have any – credibility is a big issue in choosing the right inspector. Ask what certifications your inspector holds and what associations he or she belongs to. Most associations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), and National Association of Home Inspectors, Inc. (NAHI) have membership requirements that include minimum levels of experience and training as well as codes of ethics. There are also several state-level associations that your inspector may be a member of. Ask your inspector and then visit the association’s website.
Roofing materials are the single most common defect we find. Usually, it doesn’t mean the roof needs replaced, but simply that it is in need of maintenance or repair. This can result in ceiling stains, as well as other issues.
Most common in older homes, but often found in newer homes as well. Electrical hazards come in many forms, from ungrounded outlets to wiring done incorrectly by the homeowner.
Caused by being wet for extended periods of time, most commonly found around tubs, showers, and toilets inside, or roof eaves and trim outside.
Water Heaters, Gas Furnaces, and Plumbing Defects
Many water heaters are not installed in compliance with the plumbing code. Most gas furnaces seem to be in need of routine maintenance. Plumbing issues commonly found include dripping faucets, leaking fixtures, slow drains, etc. Even in brand new homes, it is common to identify minor plumbing defects.
Have your furnace system serviced to ensure it’s working efficiently and not emitting carbon monoxide. Clean permanent furnace filters and replace paper or disposable filters.
Replace the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
If you have a wood stove or fireplace, have your chimney swept thoroughly. It should be cleaned before the soot build-up reaches one-fourth-inch thickness inside the chimney flue.
Check your hot water heater for leaks and maintain a proper temperature setting (120 degrees recommended by the Department of Energy). On older water heaters with less insulation, for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit you lower the temperature, you save 6 percent of your water heating energy.
Check the attic to see if insulation needs to be added or replaced. This is the most significant area of heat loss in many homes, so it is also important to see that it has proper ventilation. Inadequate ventilation could lead to premature deterioration of the insulation materials. You may also need to check insulation in exterior walls, crawl spaces, and along foundation walls.
Check all windows and doors for air leaks. Install storm windows and putty, caulk, or add weather stripping as needed. Check basement and cellars for seal cracks or leaks in walls and floor. Make sure all vents are clean and operating properly.
Clean and vacuum baseboard heaters, heating ducts, and vents. Remove or winterize air conditioning units.
Store or cover outdoor furniture, toys, and grill.
Purchase rock salt for melting snow and a shovel or snow blower if you don’t already have one.
Make sure you have the right kind of gas and oil on hand for your snow blower in the case of an unexpected snowstorm.
Caulk joints and minor cracks on exterior walls and siding.
Look for deteriorating finishes. Minor problems can be patched to preserve the wood. Put bigger jobs, such as scraping and refinishing painted or stained areas, on the calendar for next spring or early summer.
Drain and shut off sprinkler systems and other exterior water lines to avoid frozen and broken pipes. Leave all taps slightly open.
Insulate exterior spigots and other pipes that are subject to freezing but can’t be drained or shut off.
Rake and compost leaves and garden debris, or put out for yard-waste pickup. Clean storm drains, gutters, and other drain pipes.
Check the foundation for proper drainage. To do this, spray the yard with a hose to see if water runs away from the house. A little shoveling to reshape the earth next to the house may make the water run away from the foundation.
“Flipping” a property
Often, people and companies that sell rehabilitated real estate buy a dilapidated property, put a lot of money and sweat equity into it to make it attractive to a buyer, and then reap the reward when the property is sold for a lot more than the original buyer paid for it. There’s nothing wrong with this. Quite the contrary, it makes more housing available at a time when it’s in demand. And as noted, it’s often a good investment choice for the eventual buyer.
Inspect before “flipping”!
But before you invest in a rehabilitated property, you should obtain a professional inspection, from an inspector with your interests in mind. Too often lately, homes are “flipped” for considerably more than they were recently paid for without any substantial improvements to justify the higher price. Let alone having those improvements tested to confirm their operability. You’d be the one left holding the bag. Shouldn’t you have someone on your side making sure that the property you’re buying is indeed in good condition?
It’s easy to protect yourself. Hire a professional inspector to ensure the property and its improvements are up to your standards. If you’re buying more than one property at a time from the same buyer, it’s even more important to have them inspected by a professional working for you, instead of another party to the transaction. There are cost-effective ways to protect yourself when investing in many properties. With the expertise of a licensed home inspector, you should be able to buy with the confidence that everything is as represented by the seller.
Benefits of an Inspection
It’s smart to always have an inspection done before closing on a property. An inspector will tell you if everything that is present in the structure is functioning properly, what repairs may need to still be done, and whether there are any safety or soundness issues with the property. We will work as your advocate in the transaction, with your interests in mind.
As an investor, you need and deserve to know the property you are purchasing. Protect your interests with the help of a professional inspector.
A common environmental concern with the home is radon. Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural decay of uranium in the soil. Almost all homes have some radon present, and tests can determine if the level present is higher than what is considered safe. If the level is too high, a radon-reduction system will need to be installed.
Know the Risk
If you’re buying or selling a home, radon can be a significant issue. Buyers should be aware of the radon risk in their area and determine whether a radon test is desirable. When in doubt, the EPA always recommends testing. The cost of the test can be built into the house price. If test results already exist, make sure they are recent or that the home has not been significantly renovated since the test was performed. If in doubt, get a new test done. If you’re selling a home, having a recent radon test is a great idea. By being proactive, you can assure potential buyers that there is no risk and avoid the issue from the start.
So whether you have an old home or a new one, live in an old mining town, or in the middle of the Great Plains, radon is a reality. But it is a reality that we can live with. Proper testing and mitigation can eliminate radon as a health threat. For more information, visit the EPA website on radon.
rior to 1978, paints and other products containing lead were widely used in homes and offices. Chipping and peeling paint can expose occupants to this hazardous material. In addition, many older plumbing systems utilized lead-based solder to join pipes. This lead can leach into the water, especially when running hot water. In certain areas, high concentrations of lead can even be found in the ground soil.
Know Before Selling or Buying
Before you buy or sell an older home, you need to know what hazards may exist. If selling, federal law stipulates that you must disclose any lead-based paint in the home. If you’re buying, you want to know what hazards may be lurking in the walls, as well as in the pipes, before you put up your earnest money. If you suspect that a house contains high levels of lead, you should contact a qualified professional to do an inspection. These tradesmen use a range of tools from the well-trained eye to complex, specialized equipment to detect lead levels and recommend appropriate solutions. The National Lead Information Center can help you find a resource.
Plumbing problems usually revolve around one of three things: clogs, leaks, or drips. It pays to be familiar with your plumbing system so you can minimize the damage caused by plumbing problems as well as fix minor problems on your own.
Know the Water Shutoff!
The most important thing you can do is find out where the main water shutoff valve is and how to turn it off. This is usually either outside your home or in your basement or crawlspace. If you cannot find it or don’t know how to turn it off, contact your utility company and have them show you. If any tools are necessary to turn off your water, keep them handy. Being able to shut your water off at the main valve can be vital to reducing damage to your home if a pipe were to burst.
Don’t Forget the Appliances!
You should also check each plumbing appliance (sinks, toilets, etc.) for their own shutoff valves and verify they work. If the valves fail to turn off the water to the appliance, you should have them fixed by a professional plumber. These valves come in handy when the need arises to repair individual appliances. If an appliance has no valves, you will need to shut off your water at the main valve to repair it.
When it comes to clogs and slow drains, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the tub or shower, invest in an inexpensive hair trap or screen to prevent the majority of hair and soap scum from going down the drain. In the kitchen, don’t pour cooking grease down your drain. It will harden and coat your pipes with a sticky scum that will catch other particles and eventually clog the pipe. Instead, keep it in a coffee can or milk container and dispose of it with your garbage once it’s cooled. You should also avoid dumping coffee grounds down the drain. They’re notorious for causing clogs.
DIY – Taking Care of Problems
Maintaining your drains on a weekly basis is also a good idea to keep your pipes clear. One way to do this is to pour a half-cup of salt, a half-cup of baking soda, and a half-cup of vinegar down the drain and follow with two quarts of boiling water.
If you do encounter a clog, don’t panic. Clogs and slow drains most commonly occur in areas that can be easily cleared on your own without the help of a pro (if more than one drain or toilet is affected, you will need to contact a plumber). First, try a plunger. Repair-Home has easy-to-follow instructions for the use of a pipe snake. There is also the option of using chemical clog removers. Be sure to follow the package instructions when using them.
The first thing to understand about mold is that there is a little mold everywhere – indoors and outdoors. It’s in the air and can be found on plants, foods, dry leaves, and other organic materials.
It’s very common to find molds in homes and buildings. After all, molds grow naturally indoors. Mold spores enter the home through doorways, windows, and heating and air conditioning systems. Spores also enter the home on animals, clothing, shoes, bags, and people.
Know Before Selling
For homeowners, a mold inspection will either put your mind at rest or make you aware of any problems that could otherwise cause delays or deal-breakers once you’ve entered negotiations with a buyer. A professional mold inspection will give you a signed report from an expert before you put the home up for sale. Imagine being able to show a “clean bill of health” to potential buyers that express concerns – they’ll be impressed by your thoroughness and commitment to your home.
Know Before Buying
For buyers, getting a mold inspection will ensure that you’re not surprised by costly cleanup and the potential health hazards of mold. If any mold is found to be present and active in the home, the mold inspection will allow you to ask the seller to do the clean-up prior to buying the home.
Should I be concerned about mold in my home?
Yes. If indoor mold is extensive, those in your home can be exposed to very high and persistent airborne mold spores. It is possible to become sensitized to these mold spores and develop allergies or other health concerns, even if one is not normally sensitive to mold.
Left unchecked, mold growth can cause structural damage to your home as well as permanent damage to furnishings and carpet.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “It is not necessary, however, to determine what type of mold you may have. All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.”
Can my home be tested for mold?
Yes. We offer thorough mold inspections that involve visual examinations of the most likely areas to harbor mold. We also take air samples indoors and out to determine whether the number of spores inside your home is significantly higher. If the indoor level is higher, it could mean that mold is growing inside your home.