Home Inspection - What is the truth?

Home Inspection - What is the truth?

 Home Inspection is one of the most misunderstood and misguided activities in the sale or purchase of a home. It's critical to know what to expect and which Home Inspectors are qualified to do the job right. If you aren't aware of these things, it could negatively affect the value of your home.

Taking time to read the information on my website will help you gain a
comprehensive understanding about a Home Inspection and the selection process of a professional Home Inspector. Utilize this information as a foundation for making the right choices!

Why is it critical to have a Home Inspection?

 Answer:

Buying a Home is an emotional event. This makes it difficult for home buyers to remain completely objective about the property they desire, which may lead to a poor assessment. Even the most experienced home buyer lacks the knowledge of all components and systems of a building. Real estate is the largest financial investment in your life; you want to make sure it's a solid one. Home inspections are important and necessary for your own protection and future security. Essentially, they are visual (non-invasive) examinations of the physical structure and numerous systems in a home or building, followed by a comprehensive report.

Expectations during a home inspection must be kept in proper perspective by [website deleted by Zillow  moderator.  Please see our Good Neighbor Policy]

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February 21 2012 - New York
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Replies (19)

Non invasive?  You better be invasively inspecting the roof system, the foundation and the plumbing and electrical.  If you don't , you are opening yourself as a home inspector to a lawsuit.

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February 21 2012
If a home inspector uses invasive inspection techniques without permission from the homeowner, not only are they opening themselves up to a potential lawsuit but they are effectively voiding the buyers purchase agreement if there is language within the purchase agreement that states both parties agree that non invasive inspection techniques will be used by the home inspector.
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February 21 2012
Profile picture for DebJacobs
Do these inspections usually include searching for the presence of mold?  We were looking at getting a mold inspection in our home, but we are not really sure if this is a typical inspection, or is it something special?
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February 21 2012
I hate to simplify something so important but when it comes to mold/ mildew the nose knows. Mold and mildew for the most part comes with a very noticeable odor.
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February 22 2012
I always explain it to my customers like this.

A home inspection is limited to what can be checked without tearing into walls or disecting anything, it's what the inspector can see.  However these guys have a lot of experience looking and the value of the inspection is when they find something that concerns you enough that you would have not bought the house, or you would get permission for a detailed more invasive inspections.

example, a home inspection that points out a big scary problem that you don't want to take on, is $200-300 well spent.  A home inspection that finds only little things wrong with the house tells you that you're reasonably in good shape with this purchase- it's not a guarantee but it serves as an indicator.  (and then i follow with...you can do the inspection yourself or you can hire a trained, licensed pro that should know a lot about what to look for).
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February 22 2012
What is the "truth"?  Simply that all home inspections have "disclaimers" stating the inspector is not liable for anything, and that the inspector didn't check anything in any "inaccessible" areas.

If you have any non-accessible attic spaces, crawl spaces, wall cavities, foundations... you may want an infrared scan.  If you see signs of damage or termites or water leakage, or mold anywhere near inaccessible walls or attic spaces, you may want to pay extra to make such areas accessible (such as small holes for micro cameras or moisture probes) and restore them afterward.  If sewer lines are older and possibly near tree roots, you may want to have a camera scan and tracer run down the sewer line.

"Extra services" inspections are not included in the inspection unless one specifically contracts for them.

Don't get fooled!  What you don't know can hurt you, and an "average" inspector is not going to find the majority of potential issues.
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February 22 2012
Profile picture for sunnyview
Buyers should avoid the the "average" inspector altogether. You need someone who knows enough about construction to be able to see things that are not quite right. They may not have the expertise to give you an estimate on the fix or to repair it, but the inspector is your eye and ears for problems that you may have missed on your own. Always ask about your inspectors background and what they actually feel comfortable with making the call on.

I walk along with my inspectors and make notes about what I see. At the end of inspection, I ask the inspector to go over those items with me. I also am a fan of being there for the pest inspections. I have found out a lot about houses by crawling them with the inspector. You can check pipe connections, insulation, ask about issues that the inspector may not see etc. Good inspections are important.
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February 22 2012
And we didn't even discuss potential radioactivity (Radon, Radioactive Granite, Strontium in drywall), nor sulfur content in drywall.

And one might want scans of storm drain systems for roof drains and basement drains too.

And possibly heat scans of circuit breakers.

And what about site drainage and property slope?  How many inspectors check that?

Or how about concrete foundation concrete strength?  Or rebar placement?

And if you have wood to earth (dirt) contact anywhere, you "need" to do more in-depth study of those potential problem areas.

How many inspectors are going to not only check that outlets are wired properly, but that the spring tension on the blades is not worn out?

How many inspectors are going to remove receptacle covers to look for signs of damaged wire insulation at places where they may have overheated?

If a house was "freshly painted", what was hidden behind the paint?  Did they just caulk potential problems and paint over it?  If so, the caulking will fall out, and the problem is still there.  You can see "through" those "cover-ups" with an infrared camera.

Did they "skimp" on the insulation in wall or ceiling sections?  The infrared camera will let you know.

Does one have air leaks at door or window edges?  The infrared camera will let you know.

Does your inspector know enough about "hazardous materials" to recognize asbestos and lead?  Will the inspector point those potential issues out to you?

What about house settling issues?  What tolerance range is acceptable?
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February 22 2012
I've been selling homes for 20 years and have inspectors I recommend who are thorough and professional. No complaints yet!  A good inspector referral goes a long way!
Some inspectors do not check appliances, and therefore recommend that my buyers  arrive a little early to check them.
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February 22 2012
O M G! Your house will kill you!

Please. I don't know where you live and what kind of rat traps you inhabit, but here in Seattle, when you take houses apart for a living as many of my clients do, you don't find big hidden massive problems that make the homeowner feel cheated and swindled. End of story.
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February 22 2012
"when you take houses apart for a living as many of my clients do, you don't find big hidden massive problems that make the homeowner feel cheated and swindled" -

Of course not!  If you take houses apart for a living, you already knew what to expect when you purchased it, and already factored those things in!

And if you bought it to "take it apart", you already were planning on "fixing" those "issues" in the first place.

But a new home buyer that buys a house with a cracked sewer line that fills with roots every year is not expecting to have to put out over $5k to replace the damaged sewer section.

Nor is someone that buys a house with Chinese Drywall that is corroding all the copper piping expecting to have to re-drywall and repaint the entire house as well as replace all the plumbing and HVAC equipment.

Sure, only about 1% of the houses that were dry-walled during the years of shipping of high sulfur content drywall from China before it was "stopped" have the defective Chinese Drywall, but one is more likely to accidentally get one of those then they are to win the lottery.
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February 22 2012
Actually, I was referring to home remodelers, who typically get into a house several years after purchase to update kitchens and baths or construct an addition. 

Sewer scopes are routine here, I'm sorry that you're living back in the 20th-century. Even "average" real estate agents can identify asbestos and signs of lead paint; for home inspectors, it's as easy and routine as opening a door.

Sorry to get in the way of your scare-fest.
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February 22 2012
Ok, just a "few" examples that were found by inspectors I hired:
1) All the roofing shingles on the entire house were cut 5" short by the owner, to make it look better from the ground.  The roof was completely shot, no life left.  The seller didn't want to replace the roof, nor lower the price by the cost of the roof, thus the sale fell through escrow.

2) The floor heater was "replaced" by the seller, but instead of a new one mounted to the floor, a hole was dug under the house undermining the footings, and the new unit was just placed in the dirt; no concrete pad, and no shoring nor any other provisions for the compromise of the foundation.  (Fell through escrow).

3) Roofing done over original shake, and nails placed into the shake rather than the nailing strips, so roofing regularly blew off in heavy winds.

4) Garage walls built on the dirt with no foundation, and the concrete slab only went up to the walls, not under the walls.

5) Property slope and wall placement causes water collection at a foundation sill plate, caused substantial dryrot as well as being fully eaten by termites.

6) Concrete powdering/crumbling for foundation footing.

7) brick foundation with lose bricks and loose mortar.

8) mortar on chimney washed away, thus if fireplace was used, smoke and soot would enter the house and could catch the house on fire.
(By the way, a neighbor just recently had such a chimney fire).

And that doesn't even begin to address earthquake damage I've seen, nor the hundreds of code violations and contractor corners I see cut every month.

A "sales" person is always going to tell you that the dump they are selling is "perfect".  That is their "job".
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February 22 2012
And let me tell you about a neighbor's recent experience.  He purchased the house for over $2 million.  Had a full inspection.  And is a licensed contractor, so should be aware of most building issues to begin with.

He intended to do a building addition, but also was somewhat concerned about an existing closed in screen porch.  When doing the excavation around the "family room" (porch), he found there was no footings, and major soils issues.

He has put in well over $1.5 million into additional construction and mediation of existing problems.  He stated to me that if he had known about the foundation issues at that back porch, he would have never purchased the property.

And the neighborhood values in the area are only $1.7 million.

And in the meantime, we have to put up with all the construction noise and construction dust.
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February 22 2012
You know, AO, I think you're just a poor judge of character and real estate. You have and know of more problems than any fifty people I know. You're like a repository of horror stories.

However, it's good of you to share this with us - because, frankly, you help make the real estate profession look good. Keep it up, will ya?
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February 22 2012
"I think you're just a poor judge of character and real estate. You have and know of more problems than any fifty people I know..." -

I just know more people that you do, see more property than you do, know the building codes better than you do, and have the ability to "see" things that most people are not able to see.  Likely it has something to do with my "experience" and "professional license".
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February 22 2012
"You're like a repository of horror stories." -

That is a different issue entirely.  Yes, I read about "horror stories" on a regular basis in the trade magazines I receive each month.  One went into detail about why Bulding-7 at the World Trade Center collapsed, and the nature of the "plastic" temperature range of steel.

My favorite was why a big-box store had burned to the ground.  A simple matter of having the wrong products placed in the wrong locations in the store...  boy would terrorist organizations love to get their hands on that "secret".

Another discussed how modular home buildings that were not bolted down jumped off their supports during an earthquake and the supports went right through the floor, and the building landed crooked.

Then there were the parking structures where the levels came off the column supports and cascaded down on top of one another.

And at least 4 "freeway" bridges that I have seen after they collapsed during an earthquake.

And of course I have seen power-supplies for equipment fry from loose wires, and know people that have had transformers or switchboards blow up in front of them.

And I've known people that cut off their fingers with a table saw, and people that have had their necks broken from being rear ended by another vehicle when driving, and another person that had his neck broken from stepping off a curb and being hit by a car.  And I've been hit by moving vehicles at least twice too.

Several articles I've read went into the details of the Chinese Drywall problem, and how to properly diagnose it and correct for it.

Then there was the fire started by a local Fire Marshal at local building supply store in my area.  The newspapers had given the "false" cause reported by the Fire Marshal that started the fire.  6 people died in that fire. Of course, I knew from the start that the "cause" given was "false" due to my knowledge of the store, the systems blamed, and the nature of fire propagation.  Eventually the Fire Marshal published a "fiction book", that had the details of that exact fire.  It became obvious how the fire really started, and he was convicted.

So many different issues, I couldn't even begin to scratch the surface.
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February 22 2012

An interesting Denver case could get more interesting. A buyer tendered an offer and then gained access to the home to inspect. The buyer put holes in the walls and floors in an apparent search for asbestos. Obviously, they disturbed the asbestos probably insuring that they were exposed The upshot is the buyer withdrew their offer and the seller was thinking he should sue for breach. 



Buyers routinely ask to inspect. 



Talk to several inspectors and ask them ...



1) what they inspect



2) what they will not inspect



3) if you might need a specific inspector to look for other specific problems



Homes built between 1930 and 1950 probably have asbestos insulation. Asbestos was used in vinyl floors. There is also something called vermiculite that is also harmful. You should hire a professional who inspects for exposed asbestos. In any case, this is not something you should do yourself - unless you are a qualified inspector.



4) ask if they have omission and errors insurance



5) ask for a written report



6) ask if they are certified



This is a larger discussion. Longtime consumer reporter Tom Martino has a web site on the subject. http://www.homespeck.com/ 



7) ask if you will be allowed to tag along - red flag, if they don't



8) ask about discounts / what the inspection will cost



Considering all the problems that can crop up, an inspection can be worth the expense. Inspectors do not find everything. You should discuss this, too. What will they guarantee? 

If you don't hire an inspector, at the very least you want to check with the city to learn whether any work done on the house after its construction was permitted. Draw your own conclusions if there is un-permitted work. I always ask if they skipped that kind of detail, what else should I be concerned about. 

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February 22 2012
I just . . . have the ability to "see" things that most people are not able to see. 

Uh huh.
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February 22 2012
 
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