Kimberly Van Hal, REALTOR
Is the Home You Love Worth It? Here’s Some Pre-Inspection Tips.
Sometimes homebuyers fall in love with a home only to pay for an inspection which makes them realize there will be a lot more improvements needed they didn’t know beforehand. Use these tips before hiring your inspector to find out if the home you love is worth it.
To hear professional home inspectors tell it, Americans take better care of their automobiles than their homes. Consequently, every homebuyer should plan to spend the $400 to $600 necessary to have the house they like best thoroughly examined by an independent, professional home inspector.
Before you make your final home choice, you should do some preliminary investigating of your own. That way, you can protect yourself from picking the wrong house and allowing a better maintained property to slip away.
Here are some suggestions from professional inspectors to help you decide if the homes you’re considering are inspection-worthy:
Look at Small Details
For example, a clean furnace filter can be taken a sign that the house has been well cared for. But who’s to say the seller didn’t just replace a filter that hadn’t been changed in years? If the filter hasn’t been changed regularly, the furnace hasn’t been working efficiently and it may not live up to its expected life span.
So how do you now? You don’t for sure. But if you spy a pile of spare filters tucked away in a storage closet, it’s a fairly good sign that the owner is on the ball. Someone in the process of selling isn’t buying extra filters (s)he won’t use.
Another clue that the furnace is in good shape is to look for a service log showing that the machine has been serviced at least once a year. Of course, you shouldn’t substitute this kind of rudimentary investigation for a complete and exhaustive inspection by a trained professional. Even if the furnace has been serviced consistently, it could be on its last legs; only a pro will be able to figure that out.
Inspect the Basement
If the house has a basement, follow your nose. A damp, musty smell is a sign there could be an issue.
Look for stains or rot on stairway stringers, wall studs, or sheetrock. If there is a water problem, the moisture will wick into the items.
Nothing sitting on the basement floor could be a sign of water problems. Inspectors love to see stacks of old magazines in the corner with spider webs. That means they’ve been there a long time and there probably isn’t a water problem.
Scrutinize the Bathrooms
Some owners will try to hide water damage in their bathrooms by re-caulking and grouting tiles. But you can beat them at their own game by tapping on the tile where it hits the tub or shower floor. The tile should sound and feel solid. If it sounds hollow, give it a nudge to see if there is any give to the wall. If there is, something’s going on behind there that isn’t good.
Observe the Electrical Wiring
After water issues, improper electrical wiring is the second most common defect found by home inspectors. It’s difficult for an amateur to decide that the electrical system is adequate, but there are clues. If you see a lot of fuses lying around, especially burnt-out ones, it’s a dead giveaway that the wiring is probably undersized. Another sure-fire sign that the wiring is insufficient is a bunch of extension cords snaking around.
Check the Roof
Roofing problems are also common. Cupping at the corner of the shingles is a sign they may have to be replaced. If the roof appears to be sagging between the joists, the entire thing may have to be removed.
If there are two layers of shingles on the roof, repair costs could be 20% higher or more. The owner of a well-maintained house will know how many layers are on the roof, the age of the top layer, and if new sheathing was put down between the two layers.
Go Through the Motions as an Owner
Don’t be afraid to act like you’re already living there. You have every right to open closets, flush toilets, run the dishwasher through a full cycle, turn on all the stove-top burners, check the refrigerator, and open the in the windows. The owner shouldn’t object – not if (s)he really wants to sell.
Turn on Faucets
Turn on the bathroom sink and tub faucets and flush the toilet, all at the same time. If there’s an appreciable drop in water flow, there could be a serious pressure problem, possibly caused by mineral buildup in old pipes.
Keep in Mind…
Maybe one in 20 houses examined by the pros qualifies as well maintained. But if the seller keeps a maintenance log backed by files of receipts, warranties, instruction manuals and color swatches, it’s probably a safe bet that the house has been a labor of love. Neatness counts, too. There should be access to all space, and nothing should be blocking the furnace or electrical panel.
It would be counterproductive to put every house under this kind of microscope. Once you narrow your choices down to two or three homes, it’s time to take a harder look. Then, after you make your final decision, call in the experts.