Inspecting a home could be the single-most important process in buying a new home, as it ensures that the house is safe, secure, and problem free. Knowing this about the home you are about to move into can put your mind at ease, or if problems do arise in the inspection, the inspection gives you the power to ask the seller to make repairs, renegotiate the price, or pull out of the purchase deal altogether.
The two main inspections performed on a property are The Whole House Inspection and the Pest Inspection, or also commonly known as the Termite Inspection. This page will teach you about these inspections, what they include, plus identify other popular inspections that may be common when purchasing a home in your area.
The Whole House Inspection
The Whole House Inspection is by far the most important inspection for a Buyer. Unless you are an expert, it is highly unlikely that you will catch a home's minor, or sometimes even major, problems during a typical house viewing. This is why it is important to obtain a professional, unbiased second opinion before making such an important decision. Therefore, as a home buyer, if you find yourself asking the question "do I need a home inspection?" The simple answer is, "yes."
A good home inspector will give you an unbiased assessment of the structural and mechanical soundness of the home. He or she will identify any existing or potential problem areas, and give an overview of the condition of the foundation, basement, roof, windows, doors, walls, ceilings, floors, plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems. The best home inspectors will also make suggestions on how to solve any problems they discover and give a general estimate of possible costs.
A question you may now be asking is "how do I find a good home inspector?" When hiring a home inspector, make sure that they are well established and have the required experience and credentials. Be sure they are independent and unbiased - they have no affiliation with any firms that might create a conflict of interest. Confirm that they will provide a thorough home inspection written report of their findings. Last, but not least, make sure they are members of a professional association, such as ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors), NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) or ICBO (International Conference of Building Officials). Your Realtor will usually have some good referrals for home inspectors if you do not know one personally yourself. Some local El Dorado Hills, Folsom, El Dorado County and Sacramento County inspector resources can be found on this website's local resource page.
What a Whole House Inspection Should Cover
Home inspections will vary depending on the type of property you are purchasing. A large historic home, for example, will require a more specialized home inspection than a small condominium. However, the following are the basic elements that a home inspector will check:
Structure: A home’s skeleton impacts how the property stands up to weather, gravity, and the earth. Structural components, including the foundation and the framing, should be inspected.
Exterior: The home inspector should look at sidewalks, driveways, steps, windows, and doors. A home’s siding, trim, and surface drainage also are part of an exterior inspection.
Roofing: A well-maintained roof protects you from rain, snow, and other forces of nature. Take note of the roof’s age, conditions of flashing, roof draining systems (pooling water), buckled shingles, loose gutters and downspouts, skylight, and chimneys.
Plumbing: Thoroughly examine the water supply and drainage systems, water heating equipment, and fuel storage systems. Drainage pumps and sump pumps also fall under this category. Poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots, or corrosion can indicate problems.
Electrical: Safe electrical wiring is essential. Look for the condition of service entrance wires, service panels, breakers and fuses, and disconnects. Also take note of the number of outlets in each room.
Heating: The home’s heating system, vent system, flues, and chimneys should be inspected. Look for age of water heater, whether the size is adequate for the house, speed of recovery, and energy rating.
Air Conditioning: Your home inspector should describe your home cooling system, its energy source, and inspect the central and through-wall cooling equipment. Consider the age and energy rating of the system.
Interiors: An inspection of the inside of the home can reveal plumbing leaks, construction defects, and other issues. An inspector should take a close look at walls, ceilings, floors, steps, stairways, railings, counter tops and cabinets, garage doors and garage door systems.
Ventilation/insulation: To prevent energy loss, check for adequate insulation and ventilation in the attic and in unfinished areas such as crawlspaces. Also look for proper, secured insulation in walls. Insulation should be appropriate for the climate. Excess moisture in the home can lead to mold and water damage.
What a whole house inspection does not generally and actively inspect is wood destroying organisms like termites and dry rot. Certainly a whole house inspector does look out for those items if they are obvious, and the whole house inspector will surely call them out, but they may say something like “see pest inspection report for further evaluation.” So, what is a pest inspection? What does a pest inspection cover?
The Pest Inspection
A pest inspection involves a full inspection of your home for any evidence of termite activity and/or evidence of dry rot damage, or moisture conditions that could lead to an atmosphere for wood destroying organisms or termites. This means that a pest inspector would inspect the exterior of your home including all the trim, home siding, under roof eaves, ect. Pest Inspectors do a full inspection of the interior as well, especially checking for water leaks in the bathrooms, kitchen and laundry areas, windows, and inspecting the attic where applicable.
Home Buyers and Sellers are always surprised to find out that a pest inspection does not inspect for ants, spiders, ect. That is not its purpose. It is an inspection that inspects wood. Helping make sure the structure is in tact and will remain in tact.
If any issues are found, a pest inspection will identify those items as a “Section ONE” item, or a “Section TWO” item. Section ONE items are issues “currently” active and in need of immediate repair – like an active roof leak that has caused dry rot. Section TWO items are not as urgent. Section TWO issues are items that may possibly cause Section ONE issues in the future – like if dirt was up against the house above the foundation line. Once all the Section One issues are repaired, the pest inspector comes out to the property to re-inspect to confirm repairs are completed. Once confirmed, the pest inspector provides a "Pest Clearance" or a "Cleared Pest" or a "Termite Clearance." Any of those terms would apply.
In a standard purchase transaction, it is common place for a Seller to pay for a pest inspection report, provide the report to the Buyers, and to also repair all Section ONE issues on the pest inspection report. Section TWO issues are commonly left for the Buyer to manage as the new home owner after close of escrow. Now-a-days, however, with short sales and REO/bank owned properties becoming common place, Sellers do not provide a pest inspection report, nor make any pest repairs, on those particular transaction. Short Sales and REOs are normally sold “as is.” So, a Buyer has to make a decision on whether they want to purchase a pest inspection on their own, along with purchasing their whole house inspection, and any other inspection they choose.
Other Common Home Buyer Inspections
By far the Whole House Inspection and the Pest Inspection are the two most common inspections to perform in a real estate transaction. However, there are a few more common inspections that may occur as well:
Roof Inspection: A roof inspection is a walk-on roof inspection of the entire roof. If they can get inside the house, they will look in the attic as well. However, most roof companies who offer a two year roof certification can do that with just an exterior inspection.
Fireplace Inspection: The Whole House Inspector should at a minimum initially examine the system to see if it is operational, and visually check the back panel and any visual safety hazards like a cracked back panel. A home inspector normally does not do a full inspection on a fireplace. That should be to be left to a chimney sweep professional.
HVAC Inspection: An inspection of the entire heating and air system by an HVAC professional.
Other Home Buyer Inspections – Not So Common
The following is a list of the many inspections that may be performed on a property if a Buyer chooses to do so. Sometimes the property itself dictates whether any of these kinds of inspections need to be performed, or if the Whole House Inspection “red flagged” something that would cause a Buyer to inspect further:
- Mold Inspection
- Lead Paint
- Square Footage
- Lot Size
- Septic System
- Soil Stability
- Water Systems and Components
- Radon Gas
- Methane Gas
- Public Records
- Government Requirements