If you are in the market for a new home, the most crucial step is finding out what is wrong with the house. One of the most frustrating parts of buying or selling a home is waiting on the home inspection. When someone comes to do a home inspection, it could derail your dreams of a new home.
What are some of the things to expect when having a home inspection? During a home inspection, the inspector will check critically essential areas for defects that could cause severe injury or death.
The cyclone of things that must be done before you can buy or sell your home could have you lost in the sauce, but that is ok. Continue reading to learn the essential requirements of any home inspection.
What to Expect When You Are Inspecting
The purpose of the examination is to determine the faults in the home and how they will be fixed.
The areas that are investigated during a home inspection are:
- Ceilings and Walls
- Doors and Door frames
- Heating and Cooling
When checking your attic, you should look for water stains around where the roof and attic meet. Black mold or any fungus growing inside the attic of your home could be a traumatic experience that your wallet will never recover from. Another thing to look for is adequate ventilation. An attic is exposed to the elements year-round; in some instances, a nice vented window would do wonders for your cooling needs in the summer. Finally, make sure there are no exposed wires or vents that could be a source of leakage.
An excellent idea is to have your basement clear of junk and accessible to maneuver. A leading cause of problems in the basement is our old friend water. As it rains, the water will seep beneath the ground and attempt to penetrate the basement wall. If the walls and floor appear wet, there could be a flooding or leaking issue.
Try using your nose to sniff the air as well. A damp smell could be hiding something unseen. Now is also an excellent time to see if there is adequate ventilation and structural damage. The damage to a foundation is most usually seen via cracks in the basement floor or walls.
Ceilings and Walls
When you are looking at walls and ceiling, make sure they are level. Check the seams or moldings at the top of each wall, and if there are gaps, there could be issues. Sagging ceilings and walls are a surefire sign of decay. The larger the hole, the more it will cost to fix.
Like the basement and attic, the walls are going to have to be free of water and mold stains. The inspection doesn’t cover anything behind the walls, but if mold is visible on the outside, you can guarantee it is growing in the dark space between the walls. Water and mold stains will be brown with wavy edges.
Doors and Doorframes
Doors that won’t swing freely and won’t latch could be showing the signs of fatigue on the door’s frame. If the door frame sags or won’t allow the doors to close, it could be a sign that there is structural damage inside the walls. Replacing a door frame inside an older home could open a can of worms that could lead to the total renovation of rooms or the entire house.
The main entryway to your home is crucial for aesthetics and curb appeal if you have an uneven door that is halting or gets completely stuck while opening; it can be a nightmare. Ensure that all doors open and close easily and that the locking mechanisms are free from scuffs and wear.
If the floors feel uneasy under your feet, check each corner and see if there is any decline in the pitch of the flooring. This could mean that a support beam under the house has become rotten and has a possibility of falling in.
If there are tile floors, search for indentions and rises that could mean damage beneath. When the floor begins to settle, the hard tile will remain rigid and in place. This settling means that some tiles will feel loose or like they are stacked on top of something. To take it a step further, if there are cracked and broken tiles, you should take the time and find the source of the fault. This inspection is the kicking-tires phase of buying the home, and you should take every chance to save yourself heartache at a later date.
This one piggybacks on the basement but has a few other locations worth checking as well. A cracked foundation could be a dealbreaker when it comes to the homebuying process. Cracking could mean that the land below the house is beginning to settle, and you can expect other parts of the home to need adjusting. When the area around a house starts to settle, a solid foundation keeps it upright and level so that each load-bearing beam can do its job.
When you are looking at the house, it shouldn’t be leaning in any direction. It should be level. If the house cants in any direction, that is a sign that the foundation is weakening and could need repair. The dimensions of a house on a firm foundation are all square and level. A home cannot be built on a shaky foundation.
Heating and Cooling
A home with central heat and air is just scratching the surface when it comes to this part of the inspection. Also, you should check all pilot lights for fireplaces etc, so that they can be cranked up, even in the summer.
The backside of heating and cooling a house is ventilation. Being able to vent the heat from inside your home means that the power bills are cheaper year-round. In the in-between months, where the heat and air aren’t needed, being able to open the windows and breathe in the fresh air is priceless.
The wiring inside a home is also going to be inspected. Once the breaker box is checked and determined up to code, you can begin to search around for broken switches and outlets. If the hardware is broken, those small fixes should be negotiated into the homebuyer’s contract to be fixed before closing.
Older homes could have even older wiring that will require an electrician to determine their safety. When inspecting a home, you should make sure that the fuse box is labeled correctly and that it is free from loose wires and refuse.
When the inspection is taking place, all the water faucets and other water appliances will be checked for clean flow and drainage. The washing machine, if applicable, and dishwasher, will be tested as well. Simple clogs and tiny leaks are of no significant consequence, but when the leaking has been steady and untreated for an extended period, there will be water damage around pipes and drains.
When it comes to these areas, it should be noted that checking the pipes leading back behind the wall or under the floor should be scrutinized. They should be examined not only for color and shape but durability as well. A firm poking around the drain area will produce enough force to determine if it is structurally sound.
The shingles and easements on a roof can tell you lots about how well the roof is holding up. Any shingles that are worn or missing should be noted and placed on the repairs list. If other shingles have begun to deteriorate or have holes that show throw to the wood, you need these fixed as soon as possible.
A newer fad is to have a tin roof added to your home. These large pieces of metal siding are screwed down onto padding that mimics what you would have with shingles. If the home you are buying has a metal roof, the best place to begin searching is the seams. If these seams have uneven edges or dips in the pitch, they could be masking more profound problems.
Another double-check of everything is to inspect the main load bearing beams and walls to see if the house is structurally capable. Level and even walls and ceilings are a great sign to look for.
The house is built from the bottom up, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t essential pieces throughout. Load-bearing beams run across each room in your home and should be inspected to see if they are strong enough for continued usage.
A window can tell you lots of things about your home. Like the walls and structure, the windows are a vital piece to inspect for flaws. Older windows made of aluminum can support unseen amounts of weight and should be tested to see if they work. A jammed window because of pinched structure means more work for the contractor.
A window can also tell you if there are efficiency issues with the home. If you have newer windows, there is a chance that they could be double-paned and energy-efficient if the house was built anytime before 2005, those options probably aren’t available.
How Each Section Is Rated
As the inspector moves from place to place around the home, he will be rating things on a scale that could vary from state to state but is generally accepted grading criteria for faults in the house. It should be noted that the homes are not graded on a pass/fail. If there are deficiencies in the home when the inspection is done, that only means there’s more work and negotiation to take place.
Each section will be studied and rated on a unique scale that assesses the repair or disrepair of each. This scale labels the area in five different conditions. They are:
- SER – Appears serviceable
- MM – Marginal Maintenance
- RR – Repair or Replace
- SAF – Safety Concern
- NI – Not Inspected
SER – Appears Serviceable
The SER indication means that the item inspected appears to be in working order. Once an inspector goes over an area that looks like it doesn’t need any work, it will get the SER box checked. SER is as good as a response, as you can expect in a report. They will usually add a tiny blurb that contains any extra information.
MM – Marginal Maintenance
An item labeled MM needs to have maintenance or will need to be replaced. Depending on the area, you could need the help of a professional to fix it. A MM is a standard indicator for older fix-er-uppers, but if you have a newer home that has serious wear so soon after construction, be on the lookout for more faults.
RR – Repair or Replace
RR is the first negative listing on the chart. It means that the item needs to be repaired or replaced. Without a doubt, this is a downer to see in your report.
An area that doesn’t have a clean story might feel like the end of your home buying dreams, but that isn’t so. An RR means that repairs must be made. That is all. The price and time can be negotiated into the final cost of the home. Every home is in need of some repair. An inspection is just a deeper scrub of the degree to which things need to be repaired.
SAF – Safety Concern
SAF is a bad one. If a part has some safety issues, then you must have them addressed before moving any further. The home you have chosen could be your dream home, but if it isn’t safe, you don’t need it. A safety concern is more important than any other area. This place should be fixed and moved to SER before moving anything into the home.
NI – Not Inspected
This lettering could mean a few different things, but it usually means that the area did not undergo inspection. There are always areas in the home that don’t get inspected. For instance, if you are moving into a townhome with vinyl siding maintained by the renter’s association or HOA, it will not be checked.
Though not listed in the report, some areas will not undergo inspection at all. If there are any buildings not attached to the home, they will not be inspected. The other areas that aren’t on the list are:
- Wall spaces
- Septic system
- Water testing
- Well pump
One of the beautiful things about having a home inspection is that all the available public information will be listed in the report. This report will have a general information area that will list things like:
- Site Information
- Building Characteristics
- Climate Conditions
- Utility Services
- Payment Information
This section labels the time and date of the inspection as well as the property. It is important because this information will go to the lender and, if incorrect, could derail your entire buying/selling process. It will even list mundane information like who attended the inspection and if the house is occupied.
The building characteristics section is one of the most interesting parts. It will tell you what style of house you have as well as when it was made. Info like that can give you a heads up about what kind of repairs could need to be made. Having a time frame also is essential information for insurance. Older homes could have a higher premium, be warned.
You wouldn’t think of it at first, but the weather outside the home on inspection day can mean everything. If a home has leaks and it is raining that works in the buyer’s favor. Climate can have some pretty intense effects on houses, and knowing what to expect at all times isn’t a bad idea.
One of the nice things to know when you move into a new neighborhood is if the house is on a sewer or septic system. A sewer system requires little to no extra labor, while a backed-up septic system could mean a bad day for the homeowner. There will also be a section to describe if the other utilities are in service. It would be hard to diagnose plumbing with the water shut off.
The payment information usually pertains to who paid for the home inspection. Who pays is an important question because the area on who should pay for a home inspection is pretty grey. If you are the seller, it will help your buying stock to have a home inspection and any other paperwork showing the upkeep placed into the home. As a buyer, if you aren’t sure about some areas in the house, it never hurts to have them checked by a professional. Having the person object to an inspection could raise red flags, as well.