What To Expect When You're Inspecting
So you’ve found a house you love, you’ve put an offer in, and the seller has accepted your offer––but before you finalize the deal, you should go through the process of inspecting your home.
Home inspections can seem daunting, but the more information you know about inspections, the less scary they’ll be when you near the end of the home buying process. Home inspections work to protect you, the buyer, from investing in a structurally unsound home, or a home with termites, or a house with any other costly problems. Because they serve to protect you, naturally the buyer pays for the home inspection. Home inspections can cost from $400-475 depending on the size of the home, or how much ground an inspector has to cover.
There are 3 types of inspections your home can go through:
Regular home inspection
Wood-Destroying (Termite) Inspection
A home inspection covers everything the home inspector can see. Inspectors are mostly searching for material defects and safety hazards. This includes but is not limited to:
Old electrical systems that have “knob and tube wiring” (old wiring that’s both expensive to replace and dangerous if not replaced)
Circuit breakers that can get overloaded
Old, unsound roofs that can cause a myriad of problems, including future water damage
If a home inspector finds one or more things that need to be updated or repaired now or in the near future, the buyer’s agent can negotiate repairs or a replacement into the pending deal. If, for example, a roof is in failure and needs to be replaced within a year, this allows the buyer some room to negotiate the total cost of the house down or to secure a credit toward closing costs for a portion of the pending roof replacement. A roof is an expensive repair, costing anywhere from $8,000-10,000, depending on the size, so some negotiation would most likely come out of a failing roof.
You can also ask your home inspector to use an infrared camera that detects moisture. This is a good idea if the house has had moisture issues in the past, the home is located in a particularly humid or wet environment, or you just want to be extremely thorough. Requesting use of an infrared camera will typically cost more.
I recommend that home buyers are present for the entirety of the home inspection--about 2-3 hours--in order to learn about the house directly from the home inspector.
A termite inspection doesn’t just look for termites. It detects all wood destroying insects, such as wood boring beetles, carpenter ants, carpenter bees, and yes, termites. When termite inspectors look for insects that eat wood, they’re really inspecting the structure of the home to ensure that it’s sound and sturdy. Termites and other wood destroying insects can be extremely hard to get rid of and can leave behind thousands of dollars of damage spread throughout the home, so it’s important to verify that these critters haven’t taken over your new home before you complete the transaction.
Wood-destroying insects can infiltrate any house, twin, townhouse, or other wood structure, especially if it’s connected to the ground (apartment buildings on the 20th floor of a building are at significantly less risk).
To detect wood-destroying insects and damage to wood, inspectors use a long tool that looks like a screwdriver which they use to stick into the wood. They can see and feel if the wood is either wet or if something is feasting on it.
If an inspector finds limited termite damage, you can usually easily eradicate the insects, replace the wood they ate, and treat the area for the next few years to ensure they don’t become a problem again. Termite damage isn’t always a deal breaker when buying a home, but if termite problems are extensive and would cost thousands of dollars to remedy, I would advise clients to terminate a deal and continue looking.
Radon tests are highly recommended for houses with basements and crawl spaces because radon gas comes from the soil; since basements and crawl spaces are often below ground level and located right on top of the soil, the gases come through more easily. In these cases the house isn’t sitting on a slab that will keep more of the radon out of the home.
Radon is harmful over a long period of time because it can affect your lungs and is a leading cause of lung cancer. You can still get a radon test done even if your home doesn’t have a basement or crawl space to ensure low radon levels, but it’s not always necessary.
A radon test typically costs $125 and lasts 3 days––obviously, you won’t have to be present for this one! An inspector leaves a monitor in the basement or crawl space and reads the results 3 days after placing the monitor there. If the radon readings are higher than 4.0 PCI/L, an EPA regulated threshold, then the house is recommended for radon remediation. Radon remediation involves installing a ventilation pipe that vents from your basement out to your roofline, removing the gas from your home. Radon is not harmful unless it exists in a confined space, so filtering it to the outside world is usually a quick and easy fix.
For potential home buyers, the regular home inspection test is the main concern, but the termite and radon tests are also important, and so is having an expert to interpret the results, deal with potential negative outcomes, and make recommendations throughout the overall home buying process.
If you have any questions related to home inspections, home buying, or other real estate queries, don’t hesitate to contact me.