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.
The Main Types of Home Inspections
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.
Tips on a Thorough Home Inspection and Home Testing
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.
Home Inspection Misconceptions
What To Expect: Home buyers sometimes buy their home in on impulse. Home inspectors can help home buyers avoid buyers remorse by reporting on home defects and problems before the home buyer finds them after closing. Professional home inspectors assist home buying clients with the tools they need to make an educated choice regarding the quality and condition of their potential new home. Home buyers must take care to hire the most experienced home inspector they can afford and make sure the person they hire has their best interest solely in mind. Inspectors who rely on realtors for referrals sometimes have moral dilemmas.
Buyers Benefits: A professional home inspection is the best way for potential home buyers to effectively evaluate the risks of a property purchase. A major concern of home buyers is being suddenly confronted with major and costly problems after they take possession of a property. A professional pre-purchase home inspection can reduce anxiety by screening for problems and itemizing them in a comprehensive report. This report may include approximations of repair costs and recommendations of useful upgrades to the property systems. The general result of a professional home inspection is that property buyers make significantly more informed purchases.
Screening for Problems: All homes have strong and weak points, they are not always what they seem. Gain the perspective and sound information you need to make better decisions with a home inspection performed by an experienced professional home inspector. A good home inspector works through a very long checklist of potential concerns to identify the major and minor deficiencies in the home. A good report will clearly describe the problems and illustrate them along with the what-to and how-to of repairs.
Provide Owners Benefits: Home owners who are planning to make improvements to their homes in order to increase its market value would be well advised to have it inspected first. A home inspectors can help prioritize home improvements and offer advice on the best ways to approach repairs. More importantly, an inspectors can help the seller identify potential or undiscovered problems before those problems become material for contract contingencies. By taking a pro-active approach one can avoid the frustrations many owners encounter when they are asked to renegotiate their contracts because of unanticipated problem areas.
Credentials: Like any other professional, home inspectors (even those with licenses) have varied degrees of expertise. All home inspectors should be carefully screened. Inspectors learn from experience. It takes a few thousand inspections and a more than a few complaints for a home inspectors to LEARN what it takes to satisfy clients.Recently passed legislation allows New Jersey home inspectors to be licensed with as little as three weeks of class room training and just one week in actual homes. Licensing is a minimum qualification. Make sure you ask for resume! Belive it or not the standards in many states are LOWER!
Many people without specific home inspection credentials offer home inspection services. Likewise, credentials are not always what they seem. Engineering and architectural credentials alone do not prepare anyone to competently inspect homes and communicate the findings. A helping attitude, good communication skills, and mature judgment must supplement technical competence. Make sure you work with a company employing a contract which specifies both what is inspected and what limitations apply.
Additional services like the ones listed below are usually NOT included in the standard home inspection are available for an additional fee.
Code compliance: to determine what changes and upgrades are necessary for the home to comply with modern (or when built) building, fire, plumbing, zoning, mechanical and electrical code and to determine if the required permits and inspection were obtained when changes were made to the home.
Engineering analysis: structural, heating, cooling, soils, electrical, geological, site, investigate for latent structural defects or problems, evaluate the condition of playground equipment, determine if private waste disposal systems are functional, determine if cantilevers are safe, evaluate traffic density and noise, evaluate insulation efficiency, perform flood plain review and issue flood hazard certification, evaluate easements and encroachments, determine the quantity and cost of wood replacement made necessary by rot, age, water infiltration and insect damage.
Hazardous materials: to determine the presence or absence of: asbestos, lead paint, lead in water, formaldehyde, radon gas, lead paint, fungus, mold, mildew, water and air quality, toxic or allergenic substances, flammable materials, underground oil or fuel tanks and other environmental hazards.
Pest evaluation: to determine the presence of animal, rodent, termite, pest or insect infestation and to provide an opinion as to the cost of repairing damage caused from these infestations.
Pool and spa: to evaluate the necessary changes and upgrades to pools, pool equipment, gates and fences.
Plumbing: to determine the condition and necessary upgrades and repairs to the waste piping, main sewer pipe, supply piping, venting, shower pans and tub walls, lawn and fire sprinklers, water wells (water quality and quantity) condition of underground and under slab piping.
Electrical: to determine the condition and necessary upgrades and repairs to the electrical system, telephone system wiring, intercom system, security systems, heat detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors, provide circuit mapping, determine the electrical system capacity, adequacy of ground bonding, perform voltage testing, to evaluate electro magnetic fields, check voltage drops and circuit impedance.
Chimney sweep: check condition of flue, safety of wood burning stoves and perform level II chimney flue inspections as recommended by National Fire Protection Association.
Appraisal: determine the value of building and suitability for intended use, check zoning ordinances and provide an opinion on the advisability of purchase.
Mechanical contractor: determine the adequacy of the heating and cooling system size and provide efficiency measurement, provide an underground storage tank evaluation, perform heat exchanger leakage test, check the condition of evaporator coils, determine air flow velocity and balance system.
Appliance service person: test and calibrate oven and range temperature, test for microwave leakage, check to determine if appliances secured to floor as required.
Roofing contractor: more detailed evaluation of the roofing, flashing, chimney, provide tall ladder roof inspection and a detailed evaluation of the life expectancy of the roofing, feasibility of repair vs. replacement.
Home buyers are advised to make sure they check all of the following items carefully. If any of these problems after the purchase of the home the problems come with the home and they are now the YOURS (without costly litigation).
Were all your questions answered by the home inspector?
Were all your questions for the home owner answered in writing?
Have the previously agreed to repairs been professionally completed?
Have warranties and guarantees been provided for agreed upon repairs?
Were the home inspectors recommendations to have all recommended additional inspections and invasive inspections performed? If not open ended risks may be more than most buyers budgets can bare?
Check the operation of the windows and screens?
Has water been stopped from accumulating near the building?
Check doors, decks, siding, windows & fences for damage / deterioration?
Are there any signs of water infiltration from the roof, siding or windows?
Are there any signs of gutter or downspout problems?
Are the downspouts discharging water away from the foundation?
Has the soil around the home been pitched away from the foundation?
Have all the areas listed in the home inspection report as inaccessible or not traversed been accessed & professionally inspected to determine if defects exist?
Do the garage doors and their openers function?
Was the reversing devices for the garage door openers tested?
Did you find out why any stains or cracks on any of the walls or ceilings that have become larger or have appeared since the time of the home inspection?
Have all cracked windows or mirrors been repaired?
Have all the clouded double pane windows been replaced?
Are all the permanently installed fixtures or appliances been in place and in good condition?
Are there any signs of birds, rodents or animals?
Has any damage to damage to the walls, floor or ceilings been repaired?
Do the plumbing fixture faucets leak or drip?
Are the plumbing fixtures chipped or damaged?
Was water for a time through all plumbing fixtures and check for leakage?
Was water for a time through all plumbing fixtures and check for stoppage?
Are all the light fixtures are all in place?
Do the light fixtures, switches and receptacles all function?
Does the door bell work?
HEATING AND COOLING
Do the thermostat, heating and cooling systems function?
Is there adequate air flow through the heating and cooling registers?
Did all the radiators or convectors get warm in a reasonable amount of time?
Do all the appliances function properly?
Are the counter tops or cabinets damaged?
Do the cabinets and drawers operate?
Complete this check list during the walk through and go over it with your attorney prior to closing on the property Most inspection companies accept no liability for changes and problems that occur after the home inspection takes place. Please take the time to carefully and completely perform your pre-settlement walk though. Contact the home inspection company if there are any questions.