Want to avoid having your dream house turn into your ultimate nightmare? Before you get the keys to your new home, it’s essential to learn as much as you can about it. A home inspection by a qualified professional will take a little scare out of the home buying process and leave you better informed and prepared during escrow.
What is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is a survey of the physical condition of a house to identify issues in a home that require repair. No home is perfect, not even your dream home, and during escrow, you should learn as much about your prospective new home as you can. The State of California does not currently mandate home inspections for all home purchases, but they are a worthwhile investment during the home-buying process. Ideally, the inspection is conducted by a certified professional and should always result in a written report of their findings. A detailed home inspection means that you will have a solid understanding of what is in store for you once you finally get your keys. Having an inspection report is incredibly valuable for negotiations during the final stages of escrow. There are several types of home inspections. Which one is best? Read on to find out.
The General Inspection
A general inspection is where you should start. This inspection includes the following: (1) heating and air conditioning systems, (2) interior plumbing and electrical, (3) the roof, attic, and visible insulation, (4) walls, ceilings, floors, windows, and doors, and (5) the visible foundation, basement, and structural components. While you may be drooling over those granite countertops, an inspector will be on the lookout for those less-visible things like signs of wood rot, cracks in walls, uneven flooring, water damage, and leaks. From this inspection, you can find out what else needs further investigation.
The Plumbing Inspection
Speaking of leaks, if one comes up in your general inspection, a certified plumbing inspector can help you dig a little deeper to identify the root of the problem. You may see a gorgeous backyard tree that will house the ultimate treehouse for your little ones. On the other hand, your plumbing inspector might find that that very tree has the potential to wreak havoc on the pipes in your home. They can use a sewer pipe camera to make sure that the roots of that perfect treehouse tree are not invading your pipes. Beyond the tree problems, you may find that your pipes are old, have cracks, or are hooked up to all of the wrong places. So, listen to your general inspector—if there is a sign of an issue, go with a specialist to dive even deeper.
The Termite Inspection
In California especially, termites are just another part of the buying process. Be sure to check your property for any form of droppings or hollow wood. If you think there may be termites snacking on your home, a termite inspector can take a closer look. They will search for open access points in the foundation, exterior moisture deposits near the base of your home, and other signs of termite damage. Sometimes termites love your home even more than you do, and for all of the wrong reasons.
The Foundation Inspection
Your general inspection may note problems with your foundation. If you are planning to buy the home and knock it down to start from scratch, then skip to the next inspection. If you do want to keep the existing structure, a detailed foundation inspection is critical to help you fully understand the extent of the problem and what it will cost to fix it.
The Electrical Inspection
Did you fall in love with that 1930’s Craftsman home? You may want to have an electrical inspection to make you aware of any electrical hazards that may exist. Exposed wires, outdated wiring, and DIY electrical are all red flags for an electrical inspector.
The Landscaping Inspection
Most Southern Californians spend a lot of time outside, so backyards can be a big deal when purchasing a home. A landscape inspector will evaluate not only the health of the trees on your property but will also assess your irrigation system for leaks and drainage problems. Also, if you are purchasing a home in an area affected by wildfires, a landscape inspector can let you know what fire hazards you should consider.
The “Other” Inspections
Depending on the home you choose, other inspections may be necessary. Older homes tend to be drafty. A home energy audit will let you know where your home is losing energy and help you prioritize problem areas. In love with that fireplace? Chimney inspectors will let you know if you need a chimney sweep or if there is damage to your chimney that could result in costly repairs down the road. A pool inspector can alert you to safety issues related to diving boards and child gates, and will also inspect the filter and electrical system to make sure that everything is working correctly. If your yard has a retaining wall, it may be a good idea for a structural engineer to inspect it for stability as well.
These scenarios may sound scary, but purchasing a house without knowing everything you can about it is the real terror since you will be responsible for exorcising those demons once you own it. Savvy buyers start with a general inspection and follow up with specialists as necessary. Having that extra knowledge during escrow will lay your fears to rest. And, if you find something a little too spooky in the first few days, you will be able to back out of the deal. So, spending a few hundred dollars could save you from a several hundred thousand dollar money pit.
When in doubt, do every inspection that you can.