Monday, October 13, 2014

Your Journey Home – Getting a Home Inspection.

Home buyers are often clueless about home construction and its components, and getting a Home Inspection is the first step to understanding how your new home works. 

It’s very important that Home Buyers get a home inspection – this is not the place to try and save money.  Sometimes Buyers begin to think with their eyes – and not their heads.  Don’t let a shiny clean home lure you into believing that there are no issues.  Remember it’s the job of the home inspector to report on the condition of the home, and as I like to say “it’s their job to find issues.”  That does not mean that the issues that an inspector will find are what we like to call “deal breakers.”   A home inspection is just that a means for a buyer to have a neutral 3rd party look at the condition of a home. Home inspections are not just for existing homes either; Builders' make mistakes, too.  So even with new or newer homes having the unbiased eye of a home inspector is very important. 

All home inspections are different and can vary dramatically from state to state, as well as across counties and cities. Much depends on the home inspector and which association, if any, to which the home inspector belongs.  In my marketplace the most prominent home inspection association is ASHI (American Association of Home Inspectors.  For a while the State of Kansas was requiring that all Home Inspectors become licensed and registered by the state and that licensing requirement followed the ASHI standards.

What does a home inspection report disclose? Inspection reports can be pretty intimidating.

General Home Inspection Checklist Items
Structural Elements including Garage-
This portion of an inspection covers the construction of all walls, ceilings, floors, roof and the foundation. It also covers the fascia, trim, doors, windows, lights and exterior receptacles.   The inspector might also comment on wall coverings (typically cosmetic, but can become an issue with a lender). Also included are landscaping, grading, elevation, drainage, driveways, fences, sidewalks, garage firewall, garage door, garage door openers and exterior windows.
Roof and Attic -
This portion will covers the framing, ventilation, type of roof construction and materials, flashing and gutters.  This part of the inspection is not a guarantee of roof condition nor is this a roof certification.  If an inspector feels that the roof is getting towards it’s useful life they may call for an inspection by a roofer.
Plumbing -
This portion will try to identify the type of pipe materials used for potable, drain, waste and vent pipes. It will also include the condition of toilets, showers, sinks, faucets and traps. It does not include a sewer inspection.  Understand however the inspector will not open up the walls to see what’s behind the sheetrock.
Systems and Components (Mechanical Items)-
This portion focuses on water heaters, furnaces, air conditioning and duct work.  Often it does not include chimney, fireplace and sprinklers (either lawn or fire suppression).
This portion will include the main panel, circuit breakers, types of wiring used, grounding, exhaust fans, receptacles, ceiling fans and light fixtures.
Appliances -
This portion covers the dishwasher, range and oven, built-in microwaves, garbage disposal and, yes, even smoke detectors. Typically however it will not cover washing machines, dryers, refrigerators or freezers.

However, a home inspector's standard practice typically does not include the following, for which a specific license to inspect and identify may be required:

Items typically not covered in a General Home Inspection
Radon, Methane, Radiation and Formaldehyde
Wood-Destroying Organisms & Rodents/Pests
Mold, Mildew and Fungi

I have rarely seen a perfectly clean inspection report, so don’t be surprised to see a 30+ page report.

Home Inspection Checklist Items Sellers Should Fix
So while Home Inspection Reports do not describe the condition of every component if it's in excellent shape, these reports should note items that are defective, needing service, or not operating in the manor that they were intended to operate. 

The serious problems are to look for are those that affect
 -Health and safety issues
 -Roofs with a short life expectancy
 -Furnace / A/C malfunctions
 -Foundation deficiencies
 -Moisture / drainage issues
Typically these are major components and are expensive to correct. So these are the items that you want to consider asking to be repaired or replaced.
Most contracts allow for a renegotiation time frame and use this time to discuss which items are minor, and which items are serious.  Every home will have issues noted or flagged in a home inspection, even in new and newer homes.  A repair issue that will be a deal breaker for a first-time home buyer, causing the buyer to cancel the contract, will not faze a home buyer versed in home repair. Talk to your agent, family and friends about the inspection report. 

Before issuing a formal request to repair, consider the seller's incentive to hire the cheapest contractor and to replace appliances with the least expensive brands.   So, if you have a choice, it might be smarter to hire your own contractors and supervise repairs.  In my marketplace this is typically done by asking the seller to pay some closing costs (as long as the amount you are asking for is not more than the amount allowed by the lender – this may not be an option if you have already asked for the maximum amount allowed in the original negotiations).  If you have already asked for the max closing costs to be paid for, your next option is to ask the seller to reduce the sales price.  If your only option is to have the Seller make repairs, such as repair requirement for some government loans like FHA or VA, ask that the Seller provide you with paid receipts for work done and the names of the individual who did the work.  Sometimes if the repairs are minor it can be acceptable for the seller to make the repairs - perhaps a simple solution is available such as replacing a $1.99 receptacle, which can resolve many outlet problems, and can be done by a seller.

So pat yourself on the back, for getting a home inspection. Once your inspection is done, and you and the Seller have agreed to repairs you all you need to do is to gather boxes and start packing …. Well maybe??

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