It’s beautiful, close to work, great schools; it’s the neighborhood you wanted…You’ve found “IT”… Your dream home! With the open kitchen and that beautiful tile in the bathroom, and the price…well, it is what it is and you’re okay with that. A few decorating touches and its perfect.
You’re excited about this one. You’re completely captivated with your new abode. Most houses sell on looks. The open kitchen and fresh new paint do wonders for sales appeal and you’re already placing furniture in your mind. You know you should get a home inspection just in case, so you talk to your friends about who they used, search the web, check qualifications, affiliations, testimonials, and fees for the various inspectors, call up a few and go with the one you feel most comfortable with.
It’s the day of the inspection. You’ve met the inspector, signed the contract and they’re ready to go. The inspector starts his procedure and you’re following him around the house step by step with a nervous and joyous anxiety. Then it happens, that first comment…”The roof appears to be at the end of its life and you should anticipate replacing it in the near future.” You think, hmmm… I didn’t notice that but I can deal with it. He checks some areas around the window trim with a screwdriver and finds that some moisture damaged wood had been painted over and several sills will need eventual replacing. It’s only been a few minutes. You start to wonder what else he’ll find.
He’s making notes on his laptop as he checks various items on the outside of the house. Curiosity is getting the better of you and you realize this is not going to be a day at the beach, this is serious business and everything he is saying is translating into dollars and cents. He explains that there are no perfect houses, they all have problems, and that you should try to take things in one step at a time. You’re grateful you choose this inspector and calm down, even if just a tiny bit.
You were wondering if there was something structurally wrong with the house. The inspector says you have some typical cracks in the foundation and they are not a structural concern, but they should be sealed up to prevent moisture entry and termite entry and recommends getting it addressed by a professional. You feel a little better though because you remember seeing those cracks and you had a major concern about them. The cracks were the reason you thought you should have an inspection in the first place.
The inspector points out a few other concerns on the exterior, namely a set of stairs with no railing and some offsets in the concrete walkway that he calls a trip hazard. He says both conditions are unsafe and should be corrected and you’re thinking this guy is too much of a perfectionist. He goes on to talk about trips and falls being the number one health and safety hazard in a home. You realize again that he appears to really know what he’s talking about and you’re happy about that.
You’re now moving on to the garage, then the basement. You noticed as he tests an exterior outlet. He does this again at the garage outlet and states that the GFCI receptacle is inoperative, a safety hazard, and needs repair by an electrician. He explains that a GFCI is a safety device that can actually save your life in certain instances, and should be present at all areas where electricity and water are in close contact, such as exteriors, garage outlets, kitchen counters, bathrooms, and unfinished basements. Since you have an older house, he is expecting that you have some in a few places. He says he may also recommend additional GFCI outlets be added as a safety upgrade. He also tests the garage door and states that the auto-reverse mechanism is inoperative and needs to be adjusted or repaired.
On to the basement. He checks the framing at the perimeter of the house with a three foot long probe and states everything seems OK, looks at the rest of the basement framing, makes a few checks, and its on to plumbing. He checks the main line, the supply lines, the gas lines, the drain lines. Everything is going much better now. At the new water heater he pauses, checks the label and states the water heater may be at the end of its service life. You’re thinking, “but it looks brand new…” He explains that the tank appears to be about 10 years old as indicated by the serial number on the nameplate, which is beyond the normal life expectancy of a water heater and you should plan on replacing it before it becomes a problem. Okay – deep breath, that’s just a trip to Home Depot.
On to electrical. The inspector unscrews the service panel door, looks inside for a while and states that there are a few double tapped circuits that should be separated by using “skinny” breakers and that labeling could be improved. Not so bad. He also notes a few uncovered junction boxes that need covers and an open splice, where two wires are connected with tape, important fire safety hazards that need correction. It all sounds like Greek at first, but he does a fantastic job of explaining what is there and what needs to be done and why.
He checks the gas heater and gives it a clean bill of health. It’s a ten year old cast iron boiler that he says should last a long time. Whew…
He says the worst is over now and you follow him upstairs. The upstairs inspection seems to move much faster. The inspector checks the kitchen, no real problems except some dings in the vinyl floor. The toilet in the bathroom needs a new wax seal, a sink needs a new faucet, small stuff in comparison. He moves through the dining room, living room, and bedrooms, checking electrical outlets and windows, looking at the ceiling, walls, and what he can see of the floor. He also checks the heat in each room with a cool little laser thermometer as he cruises from room to room. A few things come up, nothing major. He has been shutting all the windows in the house as he goes for the radon test.
Last place he goes is the attic. He gets up in the scuttle hole and disappears from view, but you hear him walking around above you. He says that the framing is okay but you could use more insulation for energy savings and you will also need some extra attic ventilation as well. The bathroom ventilator terminates in the attic and can cause condensation problems, he says. He recommends rerouting it to the outside. You’re nearly done!
He places radon canisters in the basement and you discuss the protocol of the test and when to pick up the test canisters.
He completes his final notes and asks if you have any questions. Reminding you that you’ll get your fainl report via email, he notes a few remaining things on this laptop. He reminds you to read it carefully and to call if you have any concerns or questions. You pay the man and he’s on his way.
And that’s it. You’re adding up estimates in your head of the items he’s mentioned during the inspection. Quick math and then considering the current price of the house – Its up to you to decide if it’s worth the current price or if you’d like to negotiate. You’re impressed with the inspector’s Non-Alarming approach and his way explaining that this is not a Pass or Fail scenario. This is an education of what condition your dream home is and what you need to anticipate in the immediate and not so immediate future. The point is that almost all homes need repairs and some of these may be major. You must decide whether the house is worth it, whether you’d like to negotiate a lower price, or whether you’ll walk away due to unanticipated major repairs.
Your not exactly overjoyed, there is a lot to consider and you have a little more homework than you bargained for, but you’re glad you hired that home inspector!