A Simplified Guide to Your Home Inspection
A Simplified Guide to Your Home Inspection
If you are under contract to purchase a home, congratulations! Of course, you are excited and a little nervous, too. Your physical inspection can be especially nerve-wracking. In a short amount of time, you will receive more information than you can process, and it will all seem very serious. And confusing. And potentially expensive. In order to calm your nerves, here is a breakdown of the inspection’s most important home components and priorities. (Homes and condos are constructed differently across the U.S.; this will deal with structures that are mostly wood and not brick, and homes that are not new.)
Your home’s most important elements are its roof, foundation, plumbing, and electrical system.
First, here’s the story on your roof. Your inspector may say that the roof “is at the end of its useful life.” It is not unusual for a roof to need some repairs and maintenance, but it is unusual to need a whole new roof. With continuing maintenance and proper repairs, your dying roof can last several more years. Repairs are pretty easy and most roofers are cost-competitive. Condo purchasers will want to check with the condo board to see what repairs have been done or are anticipated.
Your foundation will either be raised above the ground on piers and posts, or it will be a slab. If you have a basement, it is raised; if you have a newer home, it is likely on a slab. If your raised foundation has some cracks, those can be easily repaired with special epoxy products. If it is completely cracked, and off its posts, run away.
Electrical problems that your inspector finds can be difficult to understand. Amps, breakers, sub panels, drops – what does that all mean? Older homes may not have enough power to run today’s modern appliances, toys, and systems. Wiring may be older, too. The good news here is that electrical work, even replacing wires and panels, is very routine for an electrician. It does not take very long to complete and is usually cheaper than you think it would be.
Your plumbing has many components and some are more serious/expensive to fix than others. Leaky faucet? No big deal to repair. Septic tank pumping? Routine. Roots in your sewer? Common. Unfortunately, many other problems can be progressively more serious and expensive to fix, especially if walls need to be opened. You will want to get estimates from at least two plumbers – hopefully only a portion of your plumbing needs repair. It is usually not necessary to re-pipe a whole house.
Your inspector may recommend new windows. If you are happy with your old windows, they function well, and the casings are in good shape, that is great. But installing new windows is a great way to make your home more energy efficient. New windows are not inexpensive, though. Your window installer may need to repair the window casing (see the termite section, below). If you would like to maintain a vintage look, know that custom windows are really expensive. Also, you will likely have to paint inside or outside once installed. There is one more issue with windows – if the exterior is not sealed properly, they can leak during rains. This is more common than you think, even with condominiums. However, new windows can save you energy dollars and really freshen the look of your home.
Depending on what part of the country you live in, you may have visions of all new landscape including hardscape (created mounds, decorative or retaining walls, etc.). Nothing makes a house look more like eye-candy than refreshed landscape. Or, you may want a simple grassy yard, which might require sprinklers. Be warned – all of this is can be really pricey. Hopefully, you and your gang will want to plant, weed and replant yourselves, which is very time-consuming but can be a lot of fun. And once it stops being fun, you can always hire a gardener.
The other landscape item that your inspector may point out are your home’s trees and their roots. You will need to trim branches regularly to keep them off your roof. The big thing, however, are tree roots as they can lift or crack a foundation and invade sewer lines. If this occurs with a big tree that you wish to keep, you may want to hire a tree surgeon to cut the right roots and leave the other roots alone.
Finally, your inspector will check your outside drains and sump pumps, if you have them. These need to function perfectly so you do not have standing water close to (or in!) your house after heavy rains.
Depending on where you live, you may have a separate termite and wood-destroying organism inspection. Just about every house has termites. Termites are often even present in brand new lumber for brand new houses! In addition to eradicating the little pests, you may need some wood replaced. This is common with window sills and casings, wood overhangs and wood posts. The termites will come back, as well. It is a good idea to have your home inspected every two years or so, top to bottom, and eradication done then.
Hopefully, this has taken some of the mystery out of your inspection. Remember that everything can be repaired or replaced – at a price, of course.