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You've found your dream home and your heart's set on it, but your broker recommends an inspection before you make an offer. What should you be on the lookout for? Which items on the inspection are a relatively quick fix, and which are a dangerous red flag? Here are five of the most common issues that can come up on an inspector's report, and whether they make your potential new home a money pit instead of a dream house.
Various Problems with the Home's Roof
Do not assume that a few faulty shingles or some puckering here and there are simply cosmetic damages that can be easily fixed. While different styles and material of shingles can certainly enhance a home's appearance, the shingles are there for far more than just looks. Shingles protect water, debris and dust from getting into your home, as well as provide insulation. Even the smallest damage in shingles can mean big problems.
Shingles can become damaged or broken, and age and weather can cause them to contract or curl. This may allow water to reach and damage the roof membrane itself, a situation that will require either an expensive repair or even an entirely new roof. Be sure to read the inspection notes about the roof carefully. The inspector will estimate the age of the roof, which is important. Most asphalt residential roofing materials have a life expectancy of 24-30 years at most.
Drainage and Gradient Reports
In general, consider water to be the enemy of your potential new home. Another thing the inspector should report on is property gradient and drainage. Over time, property elevations can shift and cause water to run back towards the structure instead of away from it. This can cause water damage and seepage in the foundation and basement of the home and lead to expensive repairs in the future. If a negative gradient (one that leads water back towards the home) is noted, speak with the inspector about the extent of the gradient, the expected cost to remedy the situation, and any potential damage that may have already occurred.
Wiring, Outlets, and Switches
Most modern homes are built according to strict codes and guidelines, but older homes, the classic "fixer upper", for instance, may have older wiring infrastructure that can be insufficient for modern power requirements. The home inspector will generally check switches and outlets as well as the crawl spaces and under the floors to determine the safety and rating capacity of the wiring. He or she can also determine if circuit breakers are properly installed and capable of handling the voltage load you and your family are likely to need.
Various Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Issues
This should especially be an area of concern to you as a potential homeowner. The inspector will check the operation of the temperature control systems for the house, but he or she will be especially concerned with items like the duct work and furnace. The inspector will be looking for corrosion, improper installation, and most importantly issues regarding any carbon monoxide leaks in the system. Any problems in this area may require immediate attention before the inspector will clear the home for occupancy.
The inspection of your home should also note any issues observed with the plumbing. An inspector will typically observe the behavior of this system by flushing toilets and running water, and also physically examining drainage pipes beneath or leading from the structure.
Many plumbing faults can be fixed fairly easily with a simple call to a plumber. Problems like leaky faucets, older pipes, or stubborn clogged drains can be remedied in a few hours and should not set off alarm bells. However, if the inspector finds problems with the main sewer lines it could lead to a situation where the entire system must be replaced at great expense.
It's important for you as a potential buyer to be aware of everything about the home you may move into, warts and all. Take any issues discovered in the inspection seriously, and get as much information from the inspector as possible. Talk to your broker and consult a contractor about the costs of repairing any faults found by the inspector. You may also consider asking to see if the current homeowner can provide any documentation of prior repairs on the house.