Why to Inspect Before You Buy
Don't be blind sided by surface appeal, homebuyers. Get a home
inspector to tell you what's beneath the surface.
Buying a home is the experience of a lifetime, especially the first time
around. Remember that your anticipation of moving in and anxiety over the
contract negotiations can sometimes keep you from paying attention to very
important details. What exactly is the home's true condition? Don't be
blinded by surface appeal-- those multiple showerheads and granite
countertops aren't as important as the home's plumbing, HVAC systems or
structural soundness. You need a professional home inspector to give the
home a good once over, before you go to closing.
The Northern Illinois Chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors is
part of the national industry association devoted to promoting
professionalism and strong standards in the home inspection field. Many of
the ailments found by inspectors in Illinois are representative of problems
found nationwide. This list by NICASHI gives every potential homebuyer a
basic lesson on what kinds of systems can fail.
Problems with roofing, due to aging, wear, or improper installation, are
likely to be found in the majority of homes. The good news is roof problems
are frequently cured with a repair job, not replacement. Roof problems can
be accompanied by ceiling stains but it's hard to know if they're caused by
current or old roof leaks. If you have the opportunity to inspect or do your
walkthrough on a rainy day, do it.
Water or moisture problems in basements or crawlspaces due to ground water
conditions or faulty drainage can be pervasive. Don't take this problem
lightly. Although the solution can be as straightforward as regrading the
exterior grounds or adding roof gutters, the damage if not corrected can be
extensive. As a homebuyer or seller, your worst scenario will be major
drainage improvements such as installing french drains.
Electrical safety hazards frequently pop up in home inspections due to
ungrounded outlets, lack of ground fault interrupters (shock protection
devices), and faulty wiring conditions in electrical panels or elsewhere in a
building. The cost and work involved depend on the extent of the problems.
Structural damage from rotted wood at building exteriors and at plumbing
fixtures can happen in areas where wood remains wet for long periods, e.g.
roof eaves, exterior trim, decks, around tubs and showers, or below loose
toilets. Again, a pound of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If the
former owner let the problem fester, there could be major damage from fungus
infection commonly known as dry rot.
Unsafe fireplace and chimney conditions, faulty installation of water
heaters, and hazardous conditions involving gas heaters all create serious
health and safety problems. Make sure your inspector or chimney sweep gives
the chimney and heating systems a thorough look. Firewall violations occur
in garages where fire-resistant construction is missing from walls and doors
that separate a garage from a dwelling.
Before you hire someone, ask to see a sample copy of the inspection report.
Look for a narrative description that fully explains each problem-- a
check-off box with Good, Fair and Poor isn't good enough! Every inspection
should cover all the major systems, including plumbing, electrical, heating,
and cooling; the structural condition, including the roof; and the electrical
The next critical step is making sure you know what's covered by the home
inspection. When you receive the report, make sure you actually read it. If
you don't understand something, get your inspector to explain it. Don't let
unanswered questions come back to haunt you on move-in day.
Sources used to create this article include the Chicago Tribune and Northern
Illinois Chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors.