Why You Need a Home Inspection

by Karina Gafford

why you need a home inspection

A hot seller’s market and a dream kitchen easily combine to make a recipe for a quick home offer with no contingencies. Do not, however, waive your right to a home inspection unless you’re purchasing a home for a rock bottom price that’ll afford you sufficient capital reserves to at least replace all of the electric, plumbing, and roofing systems and still come in under budget. Home offers should be placed contingent on the inspection because beneath that façade of elegant, contemporary wallpaper may lurk deep cracks signifying a foundational issue. That little "water spot" your real estate agent breezily dismissed? That’s likely a plumbing issue, but it could also signify a mold issue that may require you to completely strip the room and replace all of the dry wall. Still want to skip the approximately $300 inspection fee and the extra day or two it may take for closing? I didn’t think so!
This article will give you an introduction to home inspections, but make sure to check back with our blog to learn more about this more topic. You may be surprised to learn things such as how military-heavy states such as California and Virginia do not require home inspectors to have a license; whereas, states that otherwise have fewer regulations, such as South Carolina, have far more stringent licensing and credentialing requirements! 
What is a home inspection?
A home inspection is neither an insurance policy nor a comprehensive analysis of every flawed feature in a home. Unlike a car, prospective homebuyers cannot request a CarFax history report; instead, they must rely on personal inspection, the seller’s disclosure, and a home inspection. A home inspection only provides buyers with a report on a visual inspection of the home and its accessible features. This means that if rot or black mold exists beneath the drywall, then your home inspection report will not address these matters; you don’t want your home inspector pulling out all of your drywall now, do you? If the putrid smell of black mold did exist, though, then a home inspector would customarily make a note to mention its possibility to you based entirely on circumspection. However, he is neither required to mention this nor is he necessarily certified to discuss the possible presence of black mold.
There are a number of key home issues that most home inspectors do not address because they do not have the requisite certifications to do so. These include:
  •  Asbestos
  •  Lead Paint 
  •  Pest Control
  •  Radon Gas 
  •  Toxic Mold 

There are, however, a few key items that every home inspector should check for, so make sure to ask about the following 5 items because a failure to do so could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in repairs not covered by home insurance. 

1.  Plumbing
– Most home shoppers know the simple plumbing check tricks, such as turning on the shower and then flushing the toilet to see if it causes any change in water temperature or pressure. Unfortunately, as with most of the key items on this list, the real plumbing issues are concealed behind the bathroom tile work, making it challenging to identify problems. A home inspector should check for even minute leaks or any evidence of seepage. If a crawl space exists, then request that the inspector go beneath the property to check the subflooring for signs of damage. Take it from this military spouse: After leaving a home in the hands of tenants for two years, a tiny and seemingly inconsequential, but consistent, leak in one bathroom required the gutting and replacing of both that bathroom and the adjacent bathroom. This is definitely one issue that you don’t want to have to deal with during PCS season (only second to during a deployment, all big housing issues obviously wait to happen during a PCS!).

2.  Electricity – If you’re buying a distressed property, then the damage to the electric wiring systems may be quite visible, particularly if the property was a foreclosure with a forced eviction. Homes throughout the country had their poor little wires cut by vacating homeowners, their disgruntled and displaced tenants, or vandals taking advantage of the opportunity to have a little fun in an empty house. If you’re not purchasing a distressed property, then know that just because the lights turn on, it does not mean that fire hazards do not exist. Look for dangling wires in electrical closets, garages, or even outside the home that reflect obvious signs of DIY electrical work. If the previous homeowners have lived in the property for at least a couple of decades, then make sure to mention this point to your inspector so that he knows the electrical wiring may no longer be up to current building codes. This key fact may help him better identify problem areas that could cost you thousands of dollars to rewire. Who wants to spend thousands on electrical wiring when the Exchange has so many more exciting electrical products to purchase with that money instead?  
3.  Roofing – This is yet another a big ticket item, so you want to make sure that you’re prepared for when you’ll need to replace the roof. If it’s a 25-year roof on a 23-year-old house, then a home inspection report will suggest that the roof has not been replaced since the home was built. It should also give you the current condition of the roof. Home inspectors are not required to get up on the roof to inspect it, but the close-up inspection makes a difference, so inquire as to whether the home inspector you’re considering working with will do this for you. If the roof has five or more years left on it, then you can request a replacement estimate and budget for its replacement; you’ll have very little chance of reselling the home after a three year duty station tour without replacing the roof. If the roof is in a considerable state of disrepair, then you may have wiggle room to negotiate either a roof replacement or partial roof credit from the seller at closing.
4.  Foundation – One young service member who left the military to move with his family to Washington was excited to purchase a quaint, historic bungalow in a downtown district for approximately $200,000. As he was purchasing in a highly competitive buyer’s market where houses sold almost the minute they hit the market, he chose to forego the inspection contingency. Many online resources suggest that this action is smart because it makes a buyer’s offer look more attractive, but let the buyer beware, as nothing in the seller’s disclosure hinted at the $100,000 repair bill that this young man would have to pay within a year of moving into his new home. When he went to create a Man Cave in his unfinished basement, a local contractor informed him that his foundation was in such poor condition that it was literally unsafe to not only be in the basement, but also to be in the house itself. Given that he had this information from a contractor, the former service member would now be legally bound to provide this information in his seller’s disclosure when he went to sell the house. Stuck in this situation that no homeowner’s insurance would cover, he borrowed money to make the repairs. When the time came to sell his home about five years later, he sold it for just a little more than what he paid for it initially, meaning that he learned a $100,000 lesson, costing him far more than just about any public college education. Unfortunately, this is merely one of about 10 stories of family, friends, and acquaintances who’ve experienced significant loss as a result of foundational issues. Therefore, make sure your inspector thoroughly inspects the cause of any cracks that are visible in walls, the roof, the exterior, and especially in the basement. If his report does not address the cracks, make sure to ask about the cause. Do not accept "house settling" as a sufficient response for large cracks.  
5.  Drainage – One thing you don’t want in your new home or yard is run-off water. Don’t wear your cute shoes to walk through your new home; make sure you trample through the entire yard to test for large squelchy spots that may indicate poor drainage. Drainage is related to land gradations, which a builder’s report may contain for a newer home, but the best way to inspect for this is to visit the home on a rainy day. Again, this is not necessarily realistic in a seller’s market, but given the foundational issues that drainage and standing water can cause, if you have any reason to doubt the quality of drainage on a property, then check back on our house listings to find another option for your family. Your home inspector will not likely inspect a home during the rain as it will impede his ability to check the exterior of the property and the roof, but he should be able to tell you if there are indications of regular standing water in any area of the property. Hopefully you found this article helpful as an introduction to home inspections. There is plenty more to learn about this important step in the home buying process though, so make sure to look for upcoming blogs relating to this topic beginning July 2014. Through these blogs you’ll learn a little more about the regulations that govern home inspections, how home inspections vary by state (important for military families!), what to inspect in a home before paying for a licensed home inspector, what you may expect to pay extra for in a home inspection, and what key things home buyers should ask a home inspector about in a new home versus an older home. If you don’t already receive our blogs by email, make sure to sign up on our home page. Our blogs are updated weekly with current real estate news and tips that are relevant for military families on the move!