Prospective home buyers must be extremely wary. Despite the best intentions of your real estate agent, the seller’s agent, and the seller, there’s no getting around the fact that all of these people want you buy a property. That’s how all of these people get paid. It’s not that they don’t have your best interests at heart, it’s just that they may be a little biased towards convincing you to buy. As a result, potential problems with your new home could be undisclosed and/or glossed over.
The solution to this problem? Hire a professional home inspector who can look over your home and help you make a good decision about the merits of the specific property. Unfortunately, not all home inspectors are the same. Some are good, and some are merely adequate.
Here are five things that every good home inspector should do:
1. Test Everything. It really should go without saying, but a big part of a home inspector’s job is to test everything. He or she should check every outlet with a circuit tester, every appliance for proper function, flush every toilet, open every faucet, etc. All windows and doors should be opened and closed too – if the inspector finds a problem with a malfunctioning toilet, for example, that could uncover a major plumbing issue…which is why it’s so important to test everything. Some inspectors skip this step to save time – make sure that they don’t.
2. Examine the Neighborhood. Even a casual inspection of homes in the surrounding neighborhood can reveal any problems that may plague your home. For example, smart Denver area home inspectors check for concrete settlement on nearby homes as that can often indicate ground movement problems in the entire neighborhood (a common problem in Denver). Newly installed roofing or siding in your neighborhood can indicate a recent damaging hail storm; signs of yard excavation can indicate problems with rotting sewer pipe in the area, and so on.
The point is, your home inspector should spend a little time looking at surrounding homes for clues. Make sure that is part of their process before you hire them.
3. Carefully Inspect for Physical Damage. Even the most basic home inspection can find physical damage in plain sight. However, what separates a good home inspector from the rest of the pack is their willingness to crawl under a home, climb up into the attic, stick their head under sinks and behind washers and dryers, etc. Anyone can spot the obvious – you pay an inspector to find the not-so-obvious. If he or she isn’t willing to get their hands dirty, or you don’t see them venturing into attics or crawl spaces, then they’re probably not doing a good job.
4. Check the Electrical System. Every home inspector should examine the main breaker box or main fuse box in your home. Some models of breaker or fuse box are known safety hazards, and your inspector should know what these models are and make sure you don’t have a potential hazard. Also, if you’re planning on remodeling your new home, the inspector should be able to tell you whether or not you will need to update the electrical system first (some city authorities require electrical updates as part of any structural enhancements).
5. Check the Furnace, Water Heater, and A/C Very Carefully. Each of these items are so potentially expensive that they deserve a subheading of their own. The inspector should spend a few minutes looking over these major appliances, because if they miss something and you have to buy a new furnace (or water heater or air conditioner) later, you’re going to be out thousands of dollars. They should be able to give you a rough estimate of the age and condition of each appliance, as well as an idea of the last time it was serviced, etc.
The best way to make sure your inspector does all of these things is to discuss them prior to hiring them, and then be present during the entirety of their inspection. Finally, remember that brand new homes need an inspection just as badly as older homes. Just because a home is new doesn’t mean the builder didn’t make a mistake.
Author Jason Lancaster recently purchased an older home in Denver. He hired Home Inspection Engineers, Inc. and they did an excellent job.