You’ve finally found a buyer for your beloved home and signed a deal. Phew, what a relief! But then comes the reality check, aka the “home inspection.” Such simple words, yet so fraught with stress and fear! Many contracts include a contingency that allows the buyer to back out if serious problems are found during inspection. So, bring on the fear.
Of course, you know your home and you think it’s just fine, but maybe a professional with a less sentimental eye might see it differently?
It’s more than just a horror film cliché. Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors, says the most common problem he finds is basement seepage, which could lead to full-fledged flooding. Groundwater infiltrates your home through small cracks or over a foundation wall. A basement waterproofing contractor can give you a bid on quickly repairing any minor problems before they become (to quote a certain presidential candidate) “yuge.”
The next most common issue is electrical, which can be anything from a receptacle that doesn’t function to wiring that is overfused and dangerous. Inspector Reggie Marston routinely discovers “ungrounded fixtures, spliced wires not terminated in a proper electric box, receptacles wired backward, and improper breakers in the electric service panel.” Any electrical issue requires immediate attention, since it could lead to a fire.
Next up are potential headaches that are a direct result of when a homeowner “decides that they can do major work around the house without paying a contractor,” says Marston. “With plumbing, the owners will install the toilet but don’t tighten it securely to the floor. I’ll find a toilet’s so loose that I counsel my client it should have a seat belt installed so nobody falls off!” If you’ve done home improvement work yourself, consider having a professional double-check the project.
Roof leaks left unattended can become major problems, says Lesh, “especially when mold starts to form. Small leaks can easily be overlooked because they’re not noticeable until something serious happens. That’s why it’s a good idea to have an ASHI-certified inspector come out and check your house periodically.” Lesh points out that homes don’t have a “check engine light. You need someone who does not have a vested interest in finding problems to inspect it.”
Marston says many homes suffer from an overall lack of upkeep. He recently inspected a house where “the dryer vent hadn’t been cleaned in years. There was such a lint buildup inside the vent pipe that it had actually caused the exterior wall where the vent exited to bulge out.”
Also maintain kitchen appliances. Marston once turned on a garbage disposal “and something started clanking. Someone had dropped their class ring in and it had been there for a while. That ring was never to be worn again!”
Bonus: Don’t forget about re-inspections
Marston often does re-inspections of properties after issues have supposedly been fixed. Yet 95% of the time, he estimates, “the requested repairs haven’t been done or they’ve been done wrong.”
On a recent re-inspection, Marston should have found a repaired dryer vent, fixed sewer pipe, working sump pump, and a regrade away from the foundation. Instead, Marston discovered the entire dryer vent now needed replacing, the new sewer pipe connection still leaked, a new sump pump wouldn’t turn on, and the regrading was “a couple shovels full of dirt. Obviously now my client is upset, doesn’t trust the seller and, I believe, was thinking of backing out of the contract.”