Home Buyers Guide

Your First Home Inspection

what you need to know before your first home inspection.

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Surprises of Moving Into your New Home

You've just moved into a home that, if not everything you've dreamed, is at least just right. The first thing you do is paint the kitchen. You even put off unpacking boxes, except for what you obviously need. When it's done, you love it. You love the whole house. You prepare your first home cooked meal. A few days later you're doing you're first load of laundry and notice a pool of water near the downspout drain.
You see water damage at the ceiling. You check the walls on the first and second floor, you call in a plumber to find the problem. "There's a crack in the waste pipe from the second floor bathroom," the plumber says. "I'll probably have to knock a hole in the kitchen wall to get a new one in." Not the kitchen wall you think. This story is hardly unusual. Sometimes the responsibilities of maintaining the home will hit you like a ton of bricks soon after you move in.
You probably will get some surprises when you move in to your new house. The trick is to avoid the Big, expensive ones. The old adage buyer beware still holds strong, though things are getting better. Most States have seller disclosure laws, which require the seller to fill out a standard form or otherwise reveal in writing all the known defects in the property. Both you and the seller will sign the document.

Your First Home Inspection

A standard inspection contingency clause in purchase contracts today is that the house being sold must pass a professional home inspection. Of course, it's the buyer's responsibility to arrange and pay for the home inspection. A detailed house inspection will generally cost you $300 to $400 and last about 2 to 4 hours. Because buyers have the protection of the contingency clause, most inspections take place after you and the sellers have agreed on a price and signed a purchase agreement.
That way you won't waste money until you're sure you and the sellers can come to an agreement. The purpose of the home inspection is to identify major problems as well as minor repairs you will need to take care of. Some minor work is to be expected when you buy a home. If the inspector uncovers major problems, you will reopen negotiations with the sellers. You may require that the sellers make repairs or reduce their price to compensate for your repair expenses. You also have the right to back out of the agreement.
You'll want to do your own, less formal, inspection of houses as you shop around. It's better if you can identify problems on your own, before you make an offer. Typically, you'll look at houses for weeks, or maybe months before you're ready to put an offer in. When you see a home you like, you'll return, possibly more than once. We'll give you some ideas on what to look for in these subsequent eagle-eye visits. Under no circumstances should you forgo a professional home inspection. The only exception might be if you're a construction expert yourself. Even then, a second opinion is worth considering before making such a substantial investment.

Exterior - Structural Problems

You may be able to identify structural problems from the exterior of the house. Check that there are no large gaps between the house and an attached garage (if equipped), addition or porch. Make sure masonry chimneys don't lean. Balconies can be quite susceptible to wood rotting and the roof should not dip or sag.
The lines of the house should be straight. Look for any bulging or leaning at the sides. Stair-step cracks on the inside or outside of the foundation indicates that the home has settled unevenly. You may also see these cracks in brick exteriors.

Exterior - Drainage Problems

 Water wreaks havoc on house building materials. Look for signs of water damage around the house. Gutters perform the key function of directing water away from the house. Check that the ground around the home is graded so that water moves away.

Interior Drainage Problems

Inspect the basement walls thoroughly; that is where a water problem on the outside will show itself. Brick walls will show a white substance called effervescence. Look for other signs of water penetration such as mold, mildew or water stains. Be suspicious of a fresh coat of paint, it may be there to hide a problem so ask questions. Moisture in a basement or crawl space will evaporate, working its way through the house and possibly causing problems in the roof or attic.

Interior Mechanical Systems

Check that doors and windows are adequately weather stripped to keep out the elements. Look for signs of moisture damage around windows. This is an indication that too much cold air is getting to the inside surface of the window, causing condensation. Look for brown spots, peeling paint or other signs of water damage on ceilings. Look at the condition of the walls all around the home including the kitchen, living room, all bedrooms, dining rooms, den, basement and attic. Structural problems also will show on the inside. Some cracking of plaster is normal, but drywall should not crack. Floors should be reasonably level, without sagging.
Look carefully in the bathroom and kitchen. There should be a ventilation fan in the bathroom to keep indoor humidity down. Kitchen ventilation fans also are important for removing odors and moisture. Look for signs of leaking pipes. Feel the floor for soft spots around shower stalls, sinks, and toilets. Check the attic for insulation and good ventilation. Bad insulation lets in the cold and also could cause moist attic air to condense, resulting in water damage. If the attic is not properly vented, moisture cannot leave the house. Ideally, there should be vents both high and low on the roof. Look for rusty nails or truss plate, mildew, rotted wood and other signs of moisture damage.

This edition made possible in part by: ©CENTURY 21 Real Estate - Agents of change™

Useful Resources for Home Buyers
  • Home Inspection Checklist
  • an important step in protecting yourself from buying a home with hidden faults that will require costly repairs.
  • Choosing a Home Inspector
  • Many new home buyers have the impression that all home inspectors are the same, in fact, many Canadian provinces and American States have no regulations for home inspectors so the experience level of inspectors vary.
  • Toxic Substance Inspection
  • You've already asked for the right to have a professional home inspector inspect your house. And you've asked for the right to have your home inspected for pests. Have you thought about having an inspector test for toxic substances?
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Home Inspection Checklist
Home Inspection Checklist
A proper home inspection from a professional home inspector is always highly recommended but that doesn't excuse you from looking carefully over the home before you get to the inspection stage. By keeping a sharp eye out, you may be able to spot some major problems and eliminate a potential property before paying for an inspector...