Why do a home inspection? I have heard that question from clients many times. The first time I heard it was from myself, before I became an agent. Yes, I made the mistake of buying brand new construction without doing a home inspection. "It's new, what could go wrong!" Live and learn. The home had an issue whereby outside water got into the home, under the flooring and created a mold issue. Fortunately, we caught it in time.
So, what does a home inspector cover during the inspection? A home inspector is a certified & qualified professional who visually inspects the property and components of a home. They look for any current or potential problems. As such, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) on their Standards of Practice webpage outline the minimum and uniform standards that you should expect from an inspection, which include: structure, exterior and land abutting the house, roof, attic, interior plumbing & electrical, heating & air conditioning, interior, visible Insulation, ventilation, appliances and fireplaces. It is equally important for you to know what they do not inspect: anything that is not visible, pests, swimming pools, asbestos, radon gas, lead paint & toxic mold.
If you are buying a new home, a pre-drywall inspection is highly recommended to ensure that the exterior, walls, plumbing pipes and electrical wiring are properly done. When you attend this home inspection, you will learn where all these are located, so you will avoid causing damage when placing items on the walls.
If you were not aware, water is biggest enemy of a property. Water can cause the foundation walls to collapse, homes to sink, which cause damage to the entire structure. Also, deteriorated or improperly built roofs and walls can cause rot, mold and lead to structural issues. So here are a few things to look out for before you even make an offer on a property:
- Grading - besides the grade of the ground cover, which could cause rain water to go towards the house, it is important to review the base clay that is under the ground cover. Water that seeps below the ground cover will go down to the clay and follow its grade. Either could cause a damp or wet basement, crawlspaces, foundation issues, cracking or settlement. Water either building up under the foundation, or passing thru the exterior walls, could lead to rot in the walls, framing members and mold. These might be detected by seeing doors and windows that are out of square, or have large gaps at the top when the door is closed, or, unlevel floors. If the foundation is not working as built, the remediation needed to correct these issues are typically very expensive.
- Stucco - although homes with stucco exterior surfaces account for less than 5% of area homes, it is important to realize that when properly applied, it will last a lifetime. However, if improperly installed, water can penetrate at any point where the stucco meets another surface. Also, water can enter stucco through cracks, around unsealed light fixtures, outlets, electrical-gas-phone-cable entries to the home. Just like all other forms of exterior construction, the walls have ‘weep holes’ to let water and humidity that has made it beyond the wall be able to escape to the exterior and not cause problems inside the house. However, if decks, patios, or stoops are too high and the weep hole is covered, the system cannot work and water may enter the walls and living space.
- Roofing materials - have limited life depending on the materials used. The roof keeps us and the inside of the house dry, and protects against the elements. As the roofing material ages, it lends itself to water intrusion and can lead to expensive repairs or even replacement. If roofing improperly installed, it can deteriorate sooner than anticipated.
Per the law in Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia, all home inspectors need to be certified and have taken class to enhance their knowledge and the law. So you should get recommendations and research the inspectors to make sure you select one that will do what you want done.
Hope you have realized by now that doing a home inspection is in your best interest to ensure you buy a good home that can serve you for many years to come. Remember though, a home requires maintenance to stay in that condition. Your home inspector will probably go over common maintenance items which you should schedule to make sure your home continues to serve you well.