I have a guilty habit – I love watching HGTV. It doesn’t matter if it is Kitchen Cousins or Property Virgins if I happen to come across a show on HGTV, I’m going to get stuck watching it. One of the first shows that I started to love was Holmes on Homes. It was incredibly amusing to watch a big burly guy get so upset at jobs done incorrectly, and then do everything that he could in order to make it right for the customer. I don’t always agree with his design choices, but at least you know that what he builds will last forever. Holmes then, of course, has expanded to Holmes Inspection, where the client did get a house inspection but the inspector missed major issues that caused the family grief. Even with the risk of getting a crappy inspector, when my wife and I started to house hunt we knew we would end up paying for a home inspection.
Home inspections can cost quite a bit of money. Ours cost just over $400, which isn’t something I’d like to throw around at multiple houses. However, home inspections will provide you with the knowledge of the potential issues your home could have. Looking at some of the potential downfalls from missing a major issue as portrayed on TV, I don’t think it would be a wise idea to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home that you weren’t willing to pay a couple hundred bucks to check out in advance. Of course, wait until you have an accepted offer on the home before you hire a home inspector (make the offer subject to the home inspection). You wouldn’t want to pay for a home inspection on a house you may not get a chance to purchase.
Here’s three things to bring up with your home inspector when you’re buying a home.
Go over with the home inspector as much of the home’s structure as possible. Start with the exterior walls and check for water damage or anything that looks “odd”. Check on any cracks or breaks in the walls to see if there’s something above the crack that is causing it to start to fail. On our home inspection the basement back door has too much weight of the deck on it, and it has started to crack around the frame. We’ll need to address that issue once we move into the home. Then start with the basement and go over where all the walls are in the home and whether they are supported. If you notice any bumps in the floor, ask what might have caused that, and if there is anything that needs to be done to address it.
One of the most common issues a home can have is improper venting. Starting in the attic, the house needs to have venting to the outside – the insulation should not be covering up those airways to the outside of the home. Anything that is attempting to exhaust – bathroom fan, clothes dryer, range hood, etc, needs to have a direct path outside. Make sure you can find those exits on the outside of the home for every device – you wouldn’t want your clothes dryer to start exhausting lint into the walls of your house. Ask the inspector if there is proper venting in the home, and check for signs of mold, condensation, and water, as those will give you an idea as to whether you may have an airflow issue.
Every home will eventually need updating. The house that we want to purchase appears to have been part of a time warp right back to the late 70s, so we know that there will need to be some work put into the house. Partially we want to do some work to make it more functional for how we will use the space, and the other part is that it is just plain ugly. If the home that you are looking to purchase appears to has been updated significantly since it was built, you may want to confirm that the work done was done properly. Ask your home inspector if the work that was done would have required a building permit. Painting and trim work most likely would not need one, but if layout, structure, or electrical was touched, a permit should have been pulled. One way to check for that is by asking your city to see if the work done was registered with them. It will tell you a lot about the work that was put into the house.
As you go through the home inspection, ask tons of questions about things you see, things you don’t understand, and things you want to know more about. Your home inspector will either be able to answer your question, or direct you to where you need to go in order to learn about that issue. Even if you are in a crazy market where there are multiple offers for a home, don’t give up the ability to get a home inspector to walk through the home – it may be one of the most costly mistakes of your life.