After an offer to purchase contract is signed, a thorough inspection should be done. Reserve the right to renegotiate or terminate a purchase agreement if a professional inspection reveals significant defects.
If you decide to hire a professional inspector, be there when the inspection is done. Follow him or her while they are completing the inspection. Ask questions. It is important to know what is being checked, why, and the condition of each area.
What Your Home Inspection Should Cover
- Siding:Look for dents or buckling
- Foundations: Look for cracks or water seepage
- Exterior Brick:Look for cracked bricks or mortar pulling away from bricks
- Insulation:Look for condition, adequate rating for climate
- Doors and Windows:Look for loose or tight fits, condition of locks, condition of weather-stripping
- Roof:Look for age, conditions of flashing, pooling water, buckled shingles, or loose gutters and downspouts
- Ceilings, walls, and moldings:Look for loose pieces, drywall that is pulling away
- Porch/Deck:Loose railings or step, rot
- Electrical:Look for condition of fuse box/circuit breakers, number of outlets in each room
- Plumbing:Look for poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots or corrosion that indicate leaks, sufficient insulation
- Water Heater:Look for age, size adequate for house, speed of recovery, energy rating
- Furnace/Air Conditioning:Look for age, energy rating; Furnaces are rated by annual fuel utilization efficiency; the higher the rating, the lower your fuel costs. However, other factors such as payback period and other operating costs, such as electricity to operate motors.
- Garage:Look for exterior in good repair; condition of floor—cracks, stains, etc.; condition of door mechanism
- Basement:Look for water leakage, musty smell
- Attic:Look for adequate ventilation, water leaks from roof
- Septic Tanks(if applicable): Adequate absorption field capacity for the percolation rate in your area and the size of your family.
- Driveways/Sidewalks:Look for cracks, heaving pavement, crumbling near edges, stains
Walk with the inspector, around the outside of the house. As you walk, note specific areas that you need to inspect more carefully when inside the house. Look first at the foundation, drainage, siding, check windows, gutters, and the roof.
Once the outside inspection is finished, move inside the house. Start in the crawl space or basement and work up through the house to the attic. Take plenty of time to look behind boxes, in dark areas, under cabinets, etc.
Do some appliances remain with the house? These may include a built-in oven, dishwasher, garbage disposal, free-standing range, refrigerator, washer, dryer, and window air-conditioning unit. All should be tested for efficient and safe operation. Ask the owner for any records of service and repair. The items of personal property are usually included in an “AS IS” condition. Remember, you are buying the real estate…not the personal property.
THE INDOOR ENVIRONMENT
Certain products or pollutants in the indoor environment can cause health problems. Asbestos, carbon monoxide, and radon are hazards that may be present. Lead, which can be present in water or paint, can cause health problems in children and during pregnancy. And some people are sensitive to certain products or pollutants like formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds.
You may want to test for some or all of the following contaminants. Contact your local health department or county cooperative extension center for guidance on testing.
- Formaldehyde is often found in particle and other composition board, plywood, paneling, wallpaper, and permanent-pressed fabrics.
- Asbestos fibers may be found in thermal insulation, pipe and duct insulation, vinyl flooring, textured paint, exterior siding, and appliances, stoves, and furnaces. Removal of asbestos can be expensive and should be left to a professional.
- Carbon monoxidemay be leaking from defective or improperly vented combustion appliances, such as furnaces, gas dryers, and gas heaters. These should be checked by a qualified heating system technician. Try to avoid the use of wood stoves or kerosene heaters. It is a requirement in Vermont that a carbon monoxide detector be installed in the house, by the seller, prior to the closing.
- Radon, a colorless and odorless soil gas, can travel from the soil to the foundation and then to the inside of a house. It can have long-term health effects. You may want to have a radon test completed as part of your inspection process and should the levels exceed the EPA guidelines; ask the seller to complete a remediation or establish an escrow account to cover the costs of remediation.