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After months of hunting, touring and haggling, you’ve finally found your perfect house. Like most buyers, you’ll have it inspected. The home inspection is your chance to find out what’s really going on under the hood before you commit to the purchase. Over the course of a few hours, the home inspector will probe every nook and cranny of the property’s exterior and interior, as well as review critical home systems.
“The intention during that inspection is to educate the buyer on the condition of the home that they’re about to purchase,” says Charles Furlough, vice president of Pillar to Post, a professional home inspection company serving the U.S. and Canada. “The bottom line is that you need to know what you’re buying.”
Most home purchase contracts include an inspection contingency, which gives the buyer the right to back out of the deal if the inspection uncovers major flaws. Alternatively, the buyer can ask the seller to take care of necessary repairs. If your inspection turns up any of the following conditions, it’s time to return to the negotiating table.
Termites and other live-in pests
The home you’ve fallen in love with may also be a favorite for the local termite population. The sooner termites are detected, the better. The same goes for other wood-devouring pests like powder-post beetles. Keep in mind that getting rid of the intruders is just the first step. Once the problem has been addressed, make sure a pest control expert advises you on what needs to be done in order to prevent their return.
Poor drainage can lead to a host of pricey problems, including wood rot, damp or wet basements, perennially wet crawlspaces and major mold growth. It all starts on the roof of a home, where rainwater is directed into a system of gutters and downspouts that should carry water well away from the structure. Proper grading at the property’s ground level completes the drainage scheme. Correcting grading and replacing gutters is a lot less costly than undoing damage caused by the accumulation of moisture.
Where moisture collects, so grows mold, a threat to human health as well as to a home’s structure. Improper ventilation can be the culprit in smaller, more contained spaces, such as bathrooms. But think twice about buying a property where mold is pervasive — that’s a sign of long-term moisture issues. Says Furlough, “When mold is in a specific location, it’s relatively easy to clean and get rid of. But when it’s just all over, that can be very difficult to deal with.”
A cracked or crumbling foundation will call for attention and repair, with costs ranging from moderate to astronomically expensive. The topper of foundation expenses is the foundation that needs to be replaced altogether–a possibility if you insist on shopping “historic” properties. Be aware that their beautiful details and old-fashioned charms may come with epic underlying expenses.
The roof soon to be over your head likely will have its own set of care requirements, so enter any sale agreement with an awareness of your own cost tolerance for roof repair versus replacement. The age and type of roofing material will figure into your home inspector’s findings, as well as the price tag of repair or replacement. An older home still sheltered by asbestos roofing material, for example, requires costly disposal processes to prevent release of and exposure to its dangerous contents.
Asbestos may be elsewhere in a home’s finishes, calling for your consideration of containment and replacement costs. Other expensive finish issues include lead paint and, more recently, Chinese drywall, which found its way into homes built during the boom years of 2004 and 2005. This product’s sulfur off-gassing leads to illness as well as damage to home systems, so you’ll need to have it completely removed and replaced if it’s found in the home that you’re hoping to buy.
Your home inspection results will also cover everything that’s right with a property, so be ready to weigh the pros and cons and negotiate for correction of larger issues if it makes sense for the sale price and overall investment.
“Generally speaking, I think the thing for homebuyers to keep in mind and even sellers, for that matter is that issues that are found in a home inspection really should all be converted to dollars,” advises Furlough. “Because there are very few, if any, problems with a home that cannot be repaired.”
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