Gases, Growths and Grit: The Bad News You

Sep 30, 2014 by

You’ve been house hunting for what seems like years, and finally you come across the house of your dreams. You just love it. And you love it so much, you’re about to take out your pen and sign all the purchase documents right there on the spot. Stop, put that pen down slowly, and back away. Here’s why.

Victorian house
Image: flickr.com/photos/jdickert

The process of buying a home is often stressful and drawn out. Buyers have to shop around to find a home that fits their needs and their budget. Then, they have to work with the bank to secure a loan before sitting down with a realtor to make an offer. The back and forth between the buyer and the seller can be uncertain and tumultuous with offers and counteroffers for days or even weeks. By the time an accepted offer is on the table, everyone is ready to move ahead.

However, the process does not end there. After all, when buying a house, it is important to make sure the structure is safe and up to code. This is why most buyers have a home inspection completed by a trained professional before the deal is made official. When having an inspection completed, here are the main areas being assessed.

1. Electrical.
Electrical systems are important in a home inspection since an electrical problem can be a real danger to homeowners. To look at the electrical, the inspector will check the switches, sockets, fixtures and fuse box in addition to any exposed wires that may be around. While many electrical problems can be exposed during an inspection, it is worth noting that not all issues will be caught. Electrical systems are largely behind drywall, which means that the inspector will have limited access to the entirety of the system. If there are specific concerns regarding the condition of the electrical system, a more thorough investigation may be in order.

2. Plumbing.
Like electrical systems, plumbing runs throughout the entire house. To look at the plumbing, the inspector will run the faucets and check the drains. This will not only reveal the condition of the pipes but will highlight any particular areas of concern. An inspection can reveal some leaks, but not all problems may be readily visible to an inspector. Again, if a buyer suspects something may be wrong with the plumbing, a more specific inspection should be completed.

3. Structure.
An inspection will also look at the overall structure of the home to ensure that it is uncompromised. While some structural issues are easily spotted by the naked eye, others may be harder to detect. Moreover, an inspector will be able to tell if a crack is actual structural damage or superficial. Structural issues can also relate to water damage, pest infestation and more. Termites can cause structural issues, but it is important to remember that termite inspection is often an additional service that may not be included during a normal inspection.

4. Heating and cooling.
The inspector will look carefully at the condition of the furnace, air conditioner and water heater. After making sure these units are in good working order, the inspector will examine the ducts and vents to make sure that air is circulating properly. Some home buyers also ask for thermal scans to better assess how air is moving behind the walls, and it is usually recommended to ask for a radon test as well. Radon is an odorless, tasteless, invisible gas that is prevalent in some areas of the country. While there is no short term risk associated with radon, it can have long term health complications. It usually enters the home through vents or sump pumps, which is why it is often considered in association with HVAC systems.

5. And more…
A home inspection will also look at other areas of interest, such as appliances, the garage, the attic, the yard and more. In general, an inspection provides a strong overview of the condition of the property in regards to all applicable standards. Appliances are checked, and all buildings on the property are assessed. An inspection will look for molds and other growths in addition to evidence of water damage and other potentially damaging issues.

In this manner, an inspection should be able to alert buyers to potential problems on the property, some of which may not be fully known prior to this time. However, an inspection can only assess visible parts of the property, so it is not intended to be exhaustive. Even so, an inspection can essentially empower buyers with critical information before closing on their new home.

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