Our Newsletter: March, 2014
How to Inspect homes before buying
Why you should use an inspector to inspect homes you are considering
If you're in the market for some new digs, searching to buy a house, you should always include a professional home inspection for any property. It's just that simple, and is a smart move that can and does save you money.
These professionals have the experience, tools, inspection knowledge and training, to guarantee that there aren't any hidden or expensive problems for you and your family after you move in.
There is one small problem to this whole process, the home inspection generally occurs after you have made an offer to buy the house, and it can cost you a few hundred dollars in non-refundable cash. Find a good home inspector and make a multiple home inspection deal with them.
Save yourself headaches and expenses by having the inspector check these seven problem areas first.
Make sure to take a very close look at the roof. Check for regularity in the shingles and to see any obvious sagging in the structure. A good inspector will "walk the roof" and usually will find any sagging or weak roof understructures. Replacing a roof is a very expensive procedure, so save yourself from that nightmarish scenario by having your inspector thoroughly inspect the roof first.
If you are inspecting a potential home, ask if you can turn on both the heat and air conditioning systems. Find a vent or baseboard and feel the temperature. If you turn on the heat and cold air continues to blow, or the radiator or baseboard remains cold, there's an existing problem.
Go a step further as well and inspect the whole HVAC unit itself. Is it clean, well kept? Most units have a lifespan of 10-15 years, be wary of units that are older than this. Look for the installation date and or service dates usually written on a sticker or card attached to the unit or plumbing. Replacing the entire HVAC system can cost several thousand dollars or more; even replacing a compressor can put you back over a thousand dollars itself. With these kinds of dollars on the line, it pays to make sure the HVAC is inspected and approved straight out.
Under the House
Many people cannot handle the idea of getting onto your hands and knees and crawling into the crawlspace below a house. An inspector that you hire will certainly perform this duty, but you should do it also. The crawlspace is a common problem area in most homes; it is often where you will find to water damage, foundation problems, termite damage and at times mold or fungus.
There are a few problems that exist in homes that should cause you to run, not walk, away from the deal. Many of those problems exist in the crawlspace. It's worth it to put on a pair of overalls and check for water damage, sagging floor joists, termite damage or mold.
You can save yourself a few hundred dollars by finding these big problems yourself and walking away from a possible bad deal, because if your inspector finds this damage later on because you failed to do a little due diligence, you wasted a bit of time and money in the process.
Examine the Homes Utility Bills
The best way to evaluate any home's energy efficiency is to view past utility bills. If the insulation is not adequate or the windows are drafty and need to be replaced, these bills can let you know of these problems without any advanced building knowledge of home construction. In the peak seasons, your cost of Heating and Air Conditioning can be overly expensive which would dramatically impact the maintainability of a home.
Make sure you know the monthly energy costs; as they must be paid for just the same as the mortgage, insurance, and property taxes, so consider all those expenses up front.
Examine the Tax Bill
Speaking of costs; make sure to check the property tax bill. Depending on the county, city, or neighborhood the home resides in, the tax rate may be considerably higher than another home just down the street. If the assessed value of the property is markedly different than the market value, then it is possible to request an updated value from the county or city that could reduce the tax bill.
However, this process can take time, and you could be legally bound to pay the steep tax bill before the tax assessor updates the home's value. Just make sure you know ahead of time all the expenses that you will be responsible for on a monthly basis.
Check the Attic
Like other crawlspaces in the home; the attic is a critical and often overlooked area within the home. Check the depth of insulation; there should be 6-12 inches of fiberglass insulation at minimum, with 12 inches or more in moderate climates and even more in the colder environments. The attic should be dry, free from roof leaks, mold or other external roofing problems.
There should be no visible damage to any of the support trusses. Sagging, cracking, or dry-rot are obvious warning signs that can add up to thousands of dollars in repairs so have your inspector report on these conditions.
Inspect the Plumbing
This is particularly important for older historical or existing homes as plumbing systems installed years or decades ago could have significant problems and expensive damage to repair. Check under the kitchen sink and cabinets. Check all around and under the bathroom sink, tub, and toilet. Check that the faucet's hot water works properly and ensure that the water heater isn't too old, rusted, or in disrepair.
It is also worth it to taste a swallow of water from the faucet; even in areas with high-quality treated water, the pipes in the home may be so corroded and affects the taste of the water. A quick taste test will go a long way, and it doesn't take too much time and is free.
Buying a home is a major purchase. A lot of time and money is on the line, in addition to the comfort, stability, and lifestyle of you and your family moving forward. You should always, without exception, hire a professional home inspector to provide you with a complete home inspection report before closing on your home.
But before you make any offer, you, AND a qualified Home Inspector should carefully check all the items listed above. In the best case, you'll know your new home even better, and in the worst case, you'll save yourself a few hundred or a few thousand dollars and several weeks of wasted house hunting.
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