What to Know About Home Inspections
A home inspection examines the parts and systems that make up a home, from the roof to the foundation. Inspections are often requested by buyers interested in a property, sellers who opt to do a pre-sale home inspection and homeowners who want some peace of mind. Inspections are not mandatory but recommended for buyers to ensure they’re not purchasing a home with major, costly issues.
Inspections help homeowners recognize potential problems but can’t predict future events such as roof leaks and heating and cooling failures. They are not appraisals, nor do they determine market value or verify local code compliance.
If you’re buying a home and an inspector is willing to let you follow along, it’s valuable to attend the home inspection to learn about the home’s systems and any potential problems. While an inspector doesn’t give a home a passing or failing grade, the inspection will turn up anything that requires major repair. What appears on the report could drastically impact a buyer’s decision to go through with a purchase.
Here are some common problems that will likely kill a home sale.
Exterior Grading That Causes Water to Pool Around the House
Poor grading and drainage are common, and both are expensive to fix. Improper grading could require re-grading the entire front and back of a property, says Daniel Tsirlin, owner and lead inspector of Denver Home Inspection.
“Positive graded property moves water away from the foundation so that the home stays dry,” he says. “Negative graded property slopes towards the house and causes water to pool around the foundation rather than drain away.” Negative grading leads to soft soil around the home, which could jeopardize the integrity of the structure.
Faulty Electrical Wiring and Outdated Systems
As long as the electricity works, everything is fine, right? Wrong, though that’s why electrical problems often go unnoticed.
Inspectors will flag worn out wires, dated knob-and-tube wiring in old homes, overloaded circuits and exposed wiring, all of which are fire hazards. Outdated systems need to be updated to meet current standards, which can cost thousands of dollars. Missing or faulty GFCI outlets will also need to be addressed because they are required by law in all bathrooms, garages, kitchens, laundry rooms and areas where a water source is present.
Major Roofing Problems
Problems with a roof often go unnoticed. Aged and faulty roofs with cracked shingles, leaks and water damage are in need of full replacement. That can run homeowners upwards of $20,000, depending on the size and pitch of the roof. Additional damage to sheathing, rafters and ceilings will add to the bill.
Says Tsirlin: “A weak roof exposed to heavy snow buildup can jeopardize a home’s structure because the added weight of snow increases the load put on the structural components of the house.”
Evidence of Termites and Other Wood-Destroying Insects
“Consistent humidity and damp environments can lead to infestation,” he says. “Entry points for termites and wood destroying insects can come from cracks in your foundation and anywhere there is wood-to-ground contact.”
Signs of infestation include mud tubes, visible mazes in walls, wood shavings and swollen ceilings and floors. Remediation is costly. Each year, termites cause about $5 billion worth of damage to homes. Learn how to get rid of termites fast.
Moisture Problems in the Basement
This turns up often in home inspection reports. Moisture and water intrusion in the basement compromises the structure of the home and the safety and health of homeowners. Water penetrating through cracks in basement walls can cause spalling in concrete, brick or stone, which weakens the foundation over time.
Defects in Masonry
Cracks in masonry are common as homes settle. Inspectors pay particular attention to major masonry problems including horizontal and thick cracking in chimneys, foundations, outdoor steps, slabs and retaining walls because of the danger cracks pose to a home’s structure.
Vertical cracks are common and less of an issue than horizontal cracks, says Tsirlin. “Vertical hairline cracks in the mortar between bricks is okay, but once the cracks start separating at the mortar or cracks go through the bricks, there is a major structural problem,” he says. If major structural repairs are needed, the cost can run ten of thousands of dollars.
Water Damage of Any Kind
An inspector will flag any evidence of water damage because it may lead to more serious issues, like mold. Water damage can come from roofing problems, plumbing leaks, a flooded basement or poor exterior drainage like clogged gutters. Such damage can be expensive to repair.
Fortunately, water penetration issues are often straightforward. Once the source is found, it’s possible to stop and fix the problem.
Elevated Radon Levels
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. Radon typically moves up through the ground and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Radon is found in homes all over the country but concentrations are typically low enough to not to be a health concern. To be certain, an inspector will test the radon level.
If radon tests do come back high — four picocuries or higher — buyers may request the seller install a radon reduction system. Costs vary depending on the size and layout of the home.
Septic System Problems or Failure
A properly functioning septic system is vital because it treats and expels all the household’s waste. Because the septic system is underground, problems often go unnoticed until it is too late. Repairs or replacements can be extremely costly.
Even smaller-scale problems, like a cracked tank or faulty distribution box, may be flagged because small problems can lead to bigger ones. Home inspectors typically don’t inspect septic tanks, so you should hire a septic inspector to check it out.