12 Tips for Getting the Most Out of a Home Inspection
A proper home inspection is your best defense against buying a property that will be a home improvement nightmare. Use these tips to get the most out of your home inspection.
Make sure you are present for the home inspection and be prepared to ask questions and point out specific problems you'd like to check out further. This will be the first time your home inspector has been at the property, so your knowledge of potential issues is invaluable.
Use someone you trust
Doing your homework to find your own home inspector can really give you peace of mind. While your realtor probably has a few inspectors that he or she can recommend, you should really find your own. An impartial, third-party home inspector won't have any loyalty to your realtor and will be able to talk freely and frankly about potential issues. You may have to pay a little bit extra for a quality home inspector, but compared to the purchase price of a house, it's well worth it.
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Don't be afraid to ask questions
The reason you hired a home inspector is because this person has the necessary knowledge to evaluate whether or not this potential property has any issues that would make purchasing the home a bad decision. And you should respect your home inspector's knowledge and time. However, if something doesn't look right or you don't understand what a home inspector is referring to, speak up. It's better to ask a question now than have an issue arise after you've purchased the property.
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Get pictures for proof
Any home inspector worth using will bring a camera along on the inspection. The inspector will also be heading into places that you won't want to go if you don't have to (the roof, crawl space, under decks, the attic, etc.). Ask your inspector to photograph any potential issues that arise so you can see the issue for yourself and make sure you fully understand the problem.
Infrared and thermal cameras can give you and your inspector a look behind walls and floors that you otherwise wouldn't be able to get without ripping out drywall or flooring. Because this technology is so accessible, your home inspector should use these pieces of equipment throughout the inspection (though some home inspectors may charge an additional fee for this service).
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Do your own pre-inspection
You can really learn a lot about a house just by looking at it. Make sure you do your own home inspection and note any possible issues. Look at walls and ceilings for any evidence of water damage (discolouration, stains, etc.). Try all the light switches and outlets you can to make sure the electrical layout makes sense. Peek at the electrical panel to see if there are any potential wiring issues (look for new wire, old wiring that isn't hooked up, etc.). On the outside of the house, look for drainage issues, areas with peeling paint, around decks and porches, inspect the siding, etc. Going into your official inspection, you should have a good idea of things you'd like your inspector to pay extra attention to.
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Pay attention to the roof
A home's roof plays a huge role in keeping the interior in good shape. It's also one of the most expensive and labour-intensive parts of a house to replace. Try to find out when the roof was last replaced, the age of the shingles and weather or not any warranty exists. Unless it's physically unsafe to do so, make sure your home inspector actually goes up on the roof during the inspection—there's only so much you can see while standing on the ground! Keep eyes peeled for curling or missing shingles and pay special attention to anywhere there's a chimney, vent or skylight to look for signs of water intrusion. You can also see signs of water issues in the attic if it's accessible.
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Look for cosmetic fixes
Freshly-painted walls and new floors are often signs a homeowner cares about the home they're selling. But sometimes these things can also be cosmetic cover-ups of underlying problems. Pay attention to any suspicious fixes—only part of a floor patched or repaired or only part of a wall is freshly painted. Ask your inspector to take a closer look.
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GFCI outlets are part of the building code in rooms where moisture is present (kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, etc.). Your inspector will know how to test these outlets properly, and malfunctioning or non-working GFCI outlets could hint at bigger electrical problems.
Look in the attic
A well-functioning attic is crucial to protecting a home. If your home inspector can get into the attic without trampling insulation, you can often learn a lot about the home and any renovations or repairs. One very common inspection red flag is improper venting of bathroom fans into the attic (and not extending the vent all the way through the roof). If your bathroom fan is venting directly into the attic, all it's doing is sending moisture and humid air into the attic where it causes mould, rot, or worse. It's also not up to code. If possible, have your inspector check for attic air leaks. While you can fix these attic air leaks, an attic with air leaks could have potential issues with insulation, moisture, mold or worse.
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Give the plumbing a try
Losing water pressure or dealing with a slow drain can be indicators of larger plumbing issues. Make sure bathtubs and shower pans are leak-tested. And have the home inspector inspect the water main and shutoff points (very useful knowledge if/when you take ownership of the property).
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Furnace and water heater
Beyond making sure the furnace and water heater work properly, you should find out how old each one is and the last time each received service. Replacing a furnace or water heater can be pricy, so if either one is in need of replacing soon, you need to keep that in mind while putting together your offer on the property. You can also get a feel for how the furnace is cared for by checking the furnace filter. A filter that's in obvious need of changing can hint at other postponed or ignored maintenance.
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Don't forget the basement
An unfinished basement will give a lot of clues to the condition of the house and foundation. Look for cracks, signs of repairs, and water issues. A crack in the slab or wall is not always a dealbreaker, but understanding why a crack appeared is important. Your home inspector will be able to tell you if anything needs further inspection from a structural engineer.
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