When you need a home inspection, you want to make sure you get a good one here in the South Alabama area. First, you need to know what a good home inspection is. Then you need to know how to find a home inspector who can, and will, give you the home inspection that serves you well. And last, you want to know how much you should pay for this quality home inspection by a good home inspector.
Quality Home Inspection: Does It Matter? What Should It Cost?
Are you buying a home? Buying a home is probably the most complicated (and important) purchase most of us will make in our lifetime. Like any major purchase there are features and specifications for all homes. On paper it may be the features that sell the home but if any of those features are in disrepair, you might be signing up for more than you bargained for and getting less than you paid for.
When you're purchasing a home, you need to know what you're getting. There are a few ways you can help protect yourself -- one of them is with a thorough home inspection. Hiring a qualified home inspection company to take a look at the home you're interested in buying is very important. At the same time, you need to understand what's involved with a home inspection so years after your purchase, you can keep up with the maintenance of your home. Here's why...
When you are buying a home it is important that you understanding what's involved with a home inspection. It can pay dividends for the rest of the time you own your house.
First, it's important to note that some things are not covered in a standard home inspection:
* Pests - Pest inspections require a licensed pest control specialist to perform inspections of building structures to determine damage or possibility of damage from pests.
* Radon -- Radon gas is an invisible, odorless gas produced by the normal breakdown of uranium in the soil.
* Lead paint - Inspecting a home for lead-based paint is not typically included in a home inspection because it takes place over several days and requires special equipment.
* Mold - Mold inspection is a separate inspection because it requires three separate air samples and surface sample analysis. Since mold inspection is beyond the scope of a traditional home inspection, be sure to specifically ask your home inspector if he or she would recommend a mold inspection.
* Asbestos - Asbestos is generally outside the scope of a home inspection because asbestos requires its own thorough review. Like with mold inspections, be sure to specifically ask your home inspector if he or she would recommend a separate asbestos inspection.
* Orangeberg Sewer Pipe -- Also known as "fiber conduit", Orangeberg Sewer Pipe is bitumenized fiber pipe made from layers of wood pulp and pitch pressed together. It was used from the 1860s through the 1970s, when it was replaced by PVC pipe for water delivery and ABS pipe for drain-waste-vent (DWV) applications.
The first thing to point out is that every home and home buyer are different which means that every home inspection is different and the importance of home inspection items are different. Below are some common things that are inspected during a home inspection. Keep in mind that some items in this checklist may not be necessary for your particular home - and that this list does not include all the item inspected by a professional home inspection service.
General Home Inspection Checklist
Lot and Neighborhood
* Does the grade slope away from the home or towards the home
* Are there any areas where the soil has settled near the foundation or driveway?
* What is the elevation of the home in relation to the street and neighbors?
* Is the peak of the roof straight and level? Or is there sagging?
* What is the condition of the roof vents? Are they visible?
* Are there gaps between flashing and chimneys, walls or other parts of the roof?
* Is there sagging anywhere else on the roof such as between the rafters or trusses?
* What kind of shingles are used? How much deterioration has set in such as curling, warping, broken shingles or wider gaps between shingles in the roof?
* Is the chimney square to the home and level? Or is it leaning?
* What is the condition of the bricks? Are any bricks flaking or missing?
* What is the condition of the mortar? Is it cracked, broken or missing entirely?
* Is the siding original to the house? If not, how old is the siding and how is it holding up?
* Are the walls square and level or bowed, bulged or leaning
* What material is the siding? Brick, wood or plastic?
* What condition is the siding in?
* Is there loose, missing, rotten or deteriorated siding or paint?
* How does the siding fit connect to the foundation?
Soffits and Fascia
* What are the soffits and fascia made of? Common materials include wood, aluminum or plastic?
* Are there any problems such as rotting or broken pieces?
* Are there any missing pieces of soffit or fascia?
Gutters and Downspouts
* Are there any leaks or gaps in gutters or downspouts?
* Does the gutter slope toward downspouts?
* Is there any rust or peeling paint?
* Are all gutters and downspouts securely fastened?
* Is there a sufficient separation of the downspouts from the foundation?
Doors and Windows
* Are there any problems with paint, caulking or rotten wood?
* Are the windows original to the home? If not, how old are they?
Decks or Porches
* What is the porch or deck made of? Check for paint problems, rotted wood and wood-earth contact.
* Is there any settlement or separation from the house?
* If possible, inspect the underside of the porch or deck.
* Are there any cracks, flaking or damaged masonry?
* Are there any water markings and powdery substances on the foundation? If so where are they located?
* Are the walls square vertically and horizontally? Or bowed, bulged or leaning?
* Is there any evidence of water penetration (stains, mildew/odors, powdery substances, loose tiles, etc.)
* Is there any deterioration of flooring or carpet?
* Are there any cracks in the tiles or mortar?
* Do you notice any water damage or stains from previous water damage?
* Is there any sagging or sloped flooring?
* Check that the majority of windows and doors work.
* Are the walls square and vertically and horizontally straight?
* Is there any cracked or loose plaster?
* Look for stains, physical damage or evidence of previous repair.
* Are there any drywall seams or nails showing?
* Review all plaster for cracks or loose or sagging areas.
* Are there any stains from water or mechanical damage or evidence of previous repair?
* Are there any seams or nails showing?
Kitchens and Bathrooms
* Check that all fixtures are secure including sinks, faucets, toilets and cabinetry
* Are there any cracks in the fixtures?
* What is the condition of the tiles and caulking surrounding sinks and tub and shower areas?
* What is the condition of the faucets? Do they work? Is there sufficient water pressure?
* Check under countertops for any water stains or rotting materials.
* Check that the majority of the cabinet doors and drawers are in working order.
Electrical and Mechanical
* Type, style and age of heating and cooling systems with service history.
* Type, age and condition of water supply piping and drains.
* Size and age of electrical service -- Are the outlets grounded? Visible wiring in good condition?
The Importance of a Home Inspection Professional
As you can see, the home inspection checklist is exhaustive (and this list doesn't even cover it all!) So if you're in the market for a new house or are in the process of purchasing a new home, make sure you have a home inspection done by a reliable home inspection company - so you can protect yourself from the unforeseen. Also periodically review the items on this home inspection checklist so you can ensure the working order of your home for years to come.
The Top Six Myths About Home Inspections
Ask a dozen Home Inspectors, or make it a bakers dozen if you will, what it is that makes a Home Inspection report a GOOD Home Inspection report, and you are just liable to get 12 or, make it 13, different answers. Well, maybe there wouldn't be that much disparity in response, but you get the general idea...there almost certainly wouldn't be any unanimous consensus. Because individual Home Inspection reports, just as with individual Home Inspectors, simply aren't created equally...one report absolutely is not (allow me to be repetitive here for emphasis)...is not just like the next...neither in content or in quality.
There are many differing opinions as to what constitutes a good Home Inspection report and this is evidenced by the large number of report formats and the myriad of various software programs that are used to create reports. Having been in the Home Inspection industry for more than 15 years, I was creating written (gulp...yes, hand-written) reports using carbon copy report forms, in triplicate (three copies...press hard, please) back when there weren't any computers involved in the process. In fact, I had to be drug, not quite actually by my hair, and not quite literally...but almost...kicking and screaming, into what I'll refer to as the modern computer age. In retrospect, it was a definitive change for the better (in most ways, anyway...I have yet to have my wrist "crash"...but I digress). As the owner of a Raleigh Home Inspection firm, I have my own professional opinion as to what goes into the production of a good Home Inspection, and as to what a good Home Inspection report should be.
There is differing opinion amongst professional Home Inspectors as to whether a checklist style of report should be used...or whether a narrative style report should be used. In the former, issues or problems (I have never have liked referring to issues as problems, even though an issue may very well be, and likely is, a problem for someone...) are conveyed to the reader using boxes that are checked off. In the latter, issues are presented using narrative, wherein each problem is identified by writing out those issues. In reality, most reports are a combination of the two. The combination style of report is the one that I prefer and recommend to other Home Inspectors; descriptive commentary e.g. materials or types of components, can be conveyed using a check box with the real issues conveyed using narrative.
So, what are the...ingredients...necessary to create and provide a good Home Inspection report?
To preface any discussion regarding this subject topic, and from a clients perspective (who is likely relying on the contents of the report to make a well-informed real estate purchasing decision), it is important that the Inspector be experienced, knowledgeable about most all related issues that might be encountered, and be entirely professional toward both the Home Inspection process as a whole and toward the client/buyer specifically. This must be, in my opinion, accepted as a given and be considered a baseline requirement. The overall philosophy of the Inspector should be to provide their client with not only a good inspection experience, but an excellent inspection experience. Of course, it should be herein acknowledged that if the home has a really large number of serious issues, then the experience may not seem like such a good one to the client at the time...but that's likely (or should be) the fault of the condition of the home itself rather than the fault of the Inspector. In the event of a less than stellar report resulting from an Inspection of a particular home, the client is able to revel in the fact that their professional Home Inspector, and their most excellent and professionally produced Home Inspection report precluded their buying the proverbial Money Pit and their having any number of unexpected or unanticipated expenses associated with their home purchase.
Obviously, any report absolutely must provide the client value...with, at the very least, a good representation of the condition of the property. If a report doesn't do that, then the report is likely not worth anything...it would be worthless even if it were free.
Among other things, a Good Home Inspection Report should:
* Be well organized and well presented; the report should layout and presentation should be logical...it should be organized so as to provide a sort of road map, if you will, around and through the home
* Be well written...and be readily understandable by anyone irregardless of whether or not they have ever been to the physical property and irrespective of their technical background. The report should, to every extent possible, be devoid of technical nomenclature that requires yet more explanation to be understood; it should be concise and clear. A report that has to be interpreted is of little overall value
* Provide enough detail, description and direction to provide not only the client, but anyone involved in the transaction e.g. real estate agents, attorneys, mortgage lenders, etc., with a clear representation of the physical condition of the property
* Contain enough, but not an excessive number, of digital photographs relating directly to significant or serious issues. It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words...this is true of a home inspection report. Photographs make it immeasurably easier to identify and understand any particular issue. On the other hand, a report loaded with photographs that lend no additional value to a report and are provided as filler content, or to provide a CYB (Cover Your Buttocks..) function for the Inspector, are best left out of a report
* Be presented using plain, but grammatically correct language. There is no place in a professional Home Inspection report for misspelled words, fragmented sentences, and general misuse of the English language (or whatever language is appropriate). A report filled with these types of deficiencies is, and again in my opinion, directly indicative of the professionalism of the Inspector
* Be presented in a straight-forward manner...if there are reportable issues present, then they should be presented in such a way as to leave no doubt that they are, indeed, issues. There should be no Soft-Shoeing...no Song and Dance...no Weasel-wording...just straight talk, accurate description, and effective commentary. Further, there should be some commentary provided to explain why an issue is an issue, and how to go about correcting that issue or otherwise obtaining other professional opinion regarding its correction
* Contain a well-designed Summary Section...a section of the report where all significant, and potentially significant, issues are clearly identified. General information, suggestion regarding routine maintenance, or recommendations regarding the upgrade of the property should not be included in the Summary section of the report. That type of information should most certainly be provided in the report for the benefit of the client...just not in the Summary section of the report
A client in search of a professional Home Inspection should inquire of any potential candidate Inspector as to what type of report they produce...nor should they be at all shy or hesitant about asking that the considered Inspector to provide a sample of their inspection report. That way, a client will have a very good representative idea of what they can expect from the Home Inspector. The nursery rhyme that goes...Patty Cake...Patty Cake, Bakers Man...Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can...may have been good for Mother Goose; but when it comes to a Home Inspection and the resulting report, you may or may not want to get it just as fast as you can... but you certainly, absolutely, and most unequivocally want it to be just as GOOD as you can get it!
If a Home Inspection report incorporates all of the previously identified components, then it is highly predictable that the result will be a Good inspection report...and maybe even an Excellent inspection report. Isn't that what a consumer should be searching for...and be entitled to receive I might add, in exchange for their hard-earned dollars... a most Excellent Home Inspection report?
Home Inspection for Buyers
This is a really good and important question. Many home buyers (and even agents) don't know exactly what a home inspector does. So let me clear the smoke right now.
There are basically 3 aspects to every home inspection:
1st - A home inspection is a visual, non-intrusive, & fair effort to discover the real material condition of the home during the time and day that the inspection takes place.
2nd - A home inspection isn't really about the home inspector telling you what's wrong with the home more than it is a discovery session for you to make sure you understand what you're buying so that you can decide if it falls within your expectations and is a good fit for your situation.
You see, my job is to make sure I align the reality of the home's condition with your expectations. If I can successfully do that, then I've done my job.
3rd - The home inspection report. The report is designed to summarize and convey the findings in a way that is clear, simple, complete, and easy-to-understand. If a home inspection is a snapshot in time of the condition of a home, then the report is the photo, itself (and a good report will have lots of photos). Without the report there is no real home inspection. It allows you to go back through the inspection as many times as you like in order to decide if the house is a good fit for you and your circumstances.
By nature, it's limited in scope to what can be seen, touched and tested, which particularly applies to vacant homes where a home inspector is forced to play detective and do the best they can during the short period of time they're at the home to find everything (good and bad) that you'll need to know in order to make an educated decision about the home.
If your schedule allows, you should also be encouraged to take advantage of the rare opportunity to follow a professional home inspector around your home who will invite your questions, concerns, and impart key information and advice that will certainly help you while you live in and maintain your home for years to come.
Some key points to remember about home inspections:
1. No house is perfect. Not even a brand new home. There will always be something worth noting in the report.
2. Not all home inspectors are created equal. Just like auto mechanics, some are better than others. Price should not be the most important consideration when comparing home inspection firms. Use word-of-mouth referrals, past client reviews, time in business, background, and expertise. This is especially true since you're making such a large and important investment.
3. A home inspection is an investment in the quality of your new home. View it as one. Personally, I always have a goal that the items I find in a home will at least cover the cost of the inspection when they are negotiated for repair. Of course, that doesn't always happens. Than again, sometimes my fee is tiny in comparison to what I find.
4. Old homes are like old people, the older they get the more attention they need (my sons laugh when I say that). Be sure to see older homes (50+) as they're supposed to be seen and try to avoid bringing the same set of expectations you had when you looked at that 10 year old home earlier in the day. It will not look or perform the same way. The 3 biggest concerns in every old home? The plumbing, electrical system, and foundation.