Having a home inspection is an integral part of buying a house. But a basic inspection can tell you only so much. When should you bring in specialists for closer scrutiny of a home’s different systems? Big money is on the line, so use this guide to help you make that decision.
What an home inspector does and does not do
A home inspector is licensed by the state to evaluate the property’s condition and issue a report to you, the buyer. Most states require sellers to complete a Seller’s Disclosure of Property Condition Report, and the inspector will use this report to target specific issues during a home inspection. The inspector, who typically has construction-industry experience, will inspect both visually and with instruments to measure home systems’ effectiveness.
The inspector is likely to find at least a few minor issues even if the house is relatively new and in good shape. Inspectors are not permitted to advise whether you should buy a house or to speculate on the home’s value.
Depending on what the inspector finds, you may need to have a specialist evaluate several aspects of a home.
Is the electrical system safe?
One of the home’s most crucial systems is the electrical system. Older homes may have electrical system components that are obsolete, don’t meet current building codes and are potentially dangerous. How can you tell if you need an electrician to perform a special inspection?
Homes today should have breaker switches, not fuses. Electric sockets should have one slot larger than the other. There should be Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) sockets around areas like the kitchen and bath where water is used. If the house was built in the 1970s or before, it may contain aluminum wiring, which can be a fire hazard and make procuring homeowners insurance difficult. If you have any doubts about these or other aspects of a home’s electrical systems, have an electrical specialist perform a home inspection.
Is the plumbing up-to-date and reliable?
Modern, plastic PVC pipe began to replace old galvanized and cast-iron metal pipes in the 1980s. Houses built earlier than that, especially vintage older homes may have old, decaying metal water and sewage disposal lines. If the home is older, have a professional plumber evaluate it, including a camera inspection of the main sewage line.
You might also have a specialist inspect the water heater. How old is it? Has hard water buildup impeded the tank and supply lines? If it is a gas heater, is the carbon monoxide venting outside of the house? Is it still in good condition?
If the house has a septic system, find out its age and ask the owner for maintenance records. These systems should be checked annually and pumped out every three to five years. If there are large trees near the system, have a camera inspection of the main line from the house.
Are there any questions about the heating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system?
If the home inspection finds signs that the HVAC system is underperforming, such as inadequate warm or cool air from the return registers, damaged condenser coils or leaky ducts, have a heating and air professional evaluate the system. If a room has been added or a basement made into living area, check to see if the system was upgraded to handle the additional space.
What’s the condition of the roof upon inspection?
If the home inspection notes aging shingles, evidence of leaks, water damage or missing or damaged flashing, have a professional roofer do a closer inspection and estimate of repair. Have skylights checked for leaks around the edges.
Does the house have a firm foundation?
Signs of foundation problems include diagonal cracks in either interior or exterior walls, sticking doors and windows, and uneven floors. If the inspector cites such symptoms, having a professional foundation inspection is essential.
Is the sprinkler system working properly?
You might want a pro to take a look at the irrigation system, especially if the inspector flags something. Run the system and watch the sprinkler heads. They should raise enough to spray their intended distances, should not sputter and should not waste water by spraying onto concrete areas. It’s not uncommon for some heads to be clogged or broken. If the spray overall seems puny, the pressure control valve could be faulty.
Are large trees stable on inspection?
Big, shady trees are a real asset to a property, but certain species with shallow roots can cause problems. Shallow-rooted trees such as willow, birch, cypress and poplar can damage patios and outdoor plumbing lines and can topple over in high winds when the soil is saturated. If you aren’t sure about a tree on the property, check it against a list or contact a local nursery.
Related – Home Inspection: A Buyer’s Perspective