You’ve been looking around for the perfect house to buy for several weeks now, and the entire process is starting to get old. Finally, you’ve found it. Your dream home! But wait a minute – not so fast – no matter the type of home you’re thinking of buying, you need to ensure that your prospective purchase first undergoes a thorough home evaluation and inspection. It’s always a good thing to err on the side of safety.
But why do you need a home inspection? Even if you have a general understanding of what to look out for, we recommend you hire yourself a qualified home inspector and qualified roofer to help you better evaluate your potential purchase and help you identify possible costly and hazardous conditions or other issues.
1. Home Style vs. Building Materials. One important thing you must always consider when assessing the home of your dreams is the consistency between the home’s architectural style and building materials. If there seems to be additions that seem out of place when compared with the look of the original structure, check for unauthorized modifications and substandard workmanship. This is important to recognize and correct as quickly as possible as such modifications can cost a good deal of money to set to rights.
2. Faulty Electrical Wiring. Faulty electrical wiring is one of the most common causes of house fires. Anything that’s related to safety should be given immediate attention.
Because older homes often don’t have an ample supply of power and electrical outlets, or have worn or outdated systems, extension cords are typically run from room to room, placing a burden on the electrical system. Exposed electrical wires are also common.
3. Roof problems. Home inspectors are not legally required to perform a physical inspection of the roof, so their limited visual inspection of your roofing could leave out substantial issues. It thus comes as no surprise that, according to the National Roof Certification and Inspection Association (NRCIA), roof problems are responsible for 39% of homeowners insurance claims.
Over time, your roof will age and start to show signs of issues. So, it’s important that your roof is properly installed and that it hasn’t started to deteriorate, which can lead to water issues. Have your roof evaluated by a competent roofer.
4. Poor Drainage Around the Structure. Water infiltration is both damaging and costly. Damp crawl spaces, foundation movement, cracking, rot in the walls, mold, swelling doors and windows, and floors visibly out of level – these all point to one thing: improper drainage of water. Water should drain away from the structure at its perimeter to prevent water intrusion. Have the problem corrected as costs for repair could add up quickly.
5. HVAC Problems. Problems with a home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC), brought about by Improper installations, inadequate maintenance and aged components are commonly overlooked during a home inspection. Have an HVAC specialist inspect your system and certify the findings of their inspection. Related to this, you must also check for inadequate insulation and ventilation in the attic, which can boost utility costs and be the main culprit behind the lack of occupant comfort.
6. Plumbing Issues and Water Damage. The most common defects are leaking, outdated or problematic systems. External water damage is easily spotted, but hidden damage within the walls can be difficult to detect. Seek out a home inspector with an Infrared (IR) camera – hidden problems, when caught early, can potentially save you thousands. Water damage issues can cause health complications and also be expensive to remediate.
7. Drainage Issues. Drainage issues can sometimes be related to foundation problems. If there’s evidence of foundation cracks caused by faulty drainage, you need to call in a structural engineer immediately to shore up your foundation or otherwise ensure your foundation is not compromised. Alternatively, post purchase, consider having a sewer scope inspection done to determine the condition of your property’s sewer line and whether the system is functioning as designed.
8.Structural Damage. Cut and broken trusses in attic cavities? Structural components missing? While not an imminent safety hazard, repairs are needed. Damaged flooring covered up with carpet, tile or laminate, however, could be a costly problem stemming from a serious moisture issue. You should be concerned if you walk across soft spots that give way where the wood is weak. Also use your sense of smell: a weak subfloor will have a moldy, musty smell – a clear indication of wood rot.
9. Disturbed Asbestos. Any known presence of asbestos must be properly disclosed by the sellers. If you’re considering a home built before 1980, ask home inspector if they can make a reasonable judgment about whether disturbed asbestos fibers are present, and make sure the sellers have the problem fixed before you close.
10. Mold Growth and Noxious Gases. Signs of mold growth and the presence of noxious gases represent the latest environmental scare. A naturally occurring radioactive gas you cannot see, smell or taste, radon causes cancer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends all homes be tested for its presence; in fact, homebuyers should consider a complete environmental evaluation of the property before buying it.
Moisture and drainage problems are the most overlooked issues when getting a home inspection. We’ve already pointed out that these are issues that can lead to concerns, such as dry rot, major structural damage and toxic mold. Grading should slope away from the home. We also highly recommend that the roof be inspected to ensure that it is watertight and that plumbing throughout the home is leak free. Always keep an eye out for the following indicators:
- Moisture stains around the ceiling, walls or windows
- Worn roofing
- Water pooling under or by the foundation
To properly inspect for moisture conditions, you may need to include air quality testing to help detect if there are any mold spores in the air. Toxic molds can be extremely hazardous to a person’s health, and tis problem is costly to correct, so ensure you do your due diligence before signing on the dotted line.
Bob Carp is the owner of Nuss Construction, which has served Southern New Jersey homeowners for more than 49 years. With decades of experience in the industry, Bob is passionate about helping homeowners find the best home improvement solutions for their needs, aiding them with kitchen and bathroom remodels, roof and siding replacement, and everything in between. When he’s not working, Bob spends his time with his family, enjoying nature and doing volunteer work for various causes.