The Inspector General – Does anyone know what this person does?

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OK you don’t need a department of defense person to make sure everything is right about your home purchase but you do need other inspectors; Roof Inspectors, Property Inspectors, Termite Inspectors, Foundation Inspectors, Pool Inspectors, Soil Inspectors, Masonry Inspectors, Septic Tank Inspectors (yuck), Lead Base Paint Inspectors, Mold Inspectors, Tree Inspectors (arborists), Well Inspectors and Boundary Surveyors just to mention the most common.

Add it all up and you could spend a fortune on inspections.  There has to be a way to decide which inspections to get and which you can decide not to get.  Let’s take them one at a time and tell you why and when you need them and how to decide if you don’t want them.

Roof Inspections:  First try to find out how old the roof is.  If the home is somewhat new, you can usually assume the roof is the same age of the home.  Look at the roof and see if you notice any missing shingles or tiles or bare patches.  If it is a wood roof, do you see any curling or cracking of the shingles?  The ridge line (top of the roof) is often where you will see problems occurring.  Look around the eves of the home, do you see any water damage?  Are the rain gutters and downspouts in good condition? Can you see multiple layers of roofing? (in our area, you can roof over an existing roof one time under some conditions) Do you see moss growing or anything else growing on the roof?  Inside the home and garage, do you see any indication of water intrusion?  If after these cursory inspections, you have any question as to the roof’s health, get an inspection.  Here in the San Jose area, they usually cost between $150 to $400 depending on the size and nature of the roof.  The inspector will either certify the roof for a year or provide you a list of repairs required.  An experienced agent will walk you through these things and help you make the right decision.

Property Inspections: This one is a must for nearly every home purchase.  Even new homes often have problems for a hilarious and scary peek into what inspections can find CLICK HERE.  There are so many things that can go wrong with a home as a home buyer, you generally aren’t going to crawl under the home or go up into the attic to check for problems and even if you did, you probably don’t know what to look for.  Often the Property Inspector will be the one that will call for further inspections of possible foundation problems, roof problems, electrical and plumbing problems just to name a few.  The only time I can recall not recommending it was when the home had been sold the previous year and had an inspection at that time. The home appeared to be in perfect condition and was being resold less then a year later and the earlier report was made available.  My client still elected to have a new inspection and guess what? We found that the water heater was nearing end of life and wasn’t meeting current installation standards.  Not earthshaking, but new information.  Get a home inspection. Period.

Termite/Pest Inspections:  Where I live and work, termite activity is very high. We have two types of termites, subterranean and flying.  The flying type can infest any home at any time.  You can have a termite free home one month and have a full blown infestation 3 months later.  Subterranean termites burrow just under the surface of the ground, they can go under the foundation and pop up under your home. They are very sensitive to the smell of food which for them is most any cellulose material.  This includes things like cardboard, small pieces of wood laying on the ground, or any other wood material in contact with the earth.. The funny thing about these guys is they rarely come up and look around and they can only tell if there is a meal out there if the food is in contact with the ground.  What is bad is that once they do find a meal and surface to munch on it, they can then look up and see a whole houseful of wood, enough for their lifetime and all their friends.  When buying a home, you must get an inspection because the chances are if your home hasn’t been inspected in a while, it might have termite activity.

Also, the same inspectors look for other problems related mostly to dry rot.  This occurs when exposed wood comes in contact with moisture for a prolonged period of time.  A fungus sets in and starts to eat or rot the wood.  I have seen $20,000 in damages caused by dry rot.  Leaky toilets, poor calking around tubs and shower enclosures and such can cause immense damage to the floor and sub floor.  Termite and Pest Inspections can cost anywhere from $135 to $300 or more and are a must.

NOTE: Just because you bought a clean home doesn’t mean that it will stay that way.. A prudent homeowner will have his or her home re-inspected every 18 months or so.  A problem caught early can often be corrected with much less expense then if it was left for a long period of time.

Foundation Inspections:  If you are looking at a home that is older or in an area of high soil movement, you need to get a foundation inspection.  Older homes were sometimes built without having the home strapped or bolted to the foundation.  What this means is that in the event of an earthquake (Yes, I live in California) or other events, the home may slip off the foundation. Also you may find the home has settled over time causing doorways and window to become out of square or noticeable sloping on the floors.  Your realtor should know the area and should help you access the homes foundation. I like to take marbles with me to judge the slop of floors. I sometimes take a carpenter’s square to check doorways and windows. I look for evidence of doors being shaved or the latch strike plates being re-positioned to accommodate settling problems.  I look above door corners and window corners and along drywall seams for evidence of settling, I pay attention to other inspection reports, especially the property inspection report, looking for any evidence of foundation issues.  If there is a basement, I check the concrete walls if visible for large cracks. I walk the perimeter of the home checking the visible areas of the foundation for cracks and after all that, I call for a professional inspection if there is any question of the integrity of the foundation.  Foundation Inspections can cost several hundred dollars but foundation problems can cost tens of thousands of dollars to correct.

Pool Inspectors:  Simple, if there is a pool, get an inspection.  End of discussion!  You and I aren’t experts here and this is too big of an issue to leave to chance. Inspections are generally $200-$400 or so.

Soil Inspectors:  Generally if you have foundation problems or you are planning to add a second story of do new construction, you should get a soil inspection.  This will help you understand the nature of the soil under your home, drainage issues, where bedrock is, what kind of movement and compaction you can expect and more.  Costs vary widely by area and localized inspection issues but this is generally moderately expensive.

Masonry Inspections: Mostly these are firebox and chimney inspections.  Out here, we don’t have many brick homes.  Still, if the home has any age to it beyond 6 or so years, I would recommend getting the firebox and chimney inspected. Because I live in an area of high seismic activity, we often find broken and cracked chimneys. These are unsafe and I personally know a realtor who’s own home caught fire inside a wall next to the chimney. It smoldered for hours before breaking out and causing tens of thousands in damage to the home.  The inspections are fairly inexpensive often costing under $250. Well worth it.

Septic Tank Inspections: If the home you are buying has a septic tank, it must be inspected.  No Exceptions. Leach lines and the tank itself can have problems that must be addressed and there is routine maintenance that you need to be sure has been done properly. Cost varies by area and type of septic used.

Lead based paint Inspections:  OK lets put this into proper perspective.  Homes built before 1978 may have had paint that contained lead. Lead based paint was outlawed for homes starting in 1978.  If your home was built after 1978 you don’t have to worry..

If your home was built before 1978 it may have lead based paint.  Oh My Gosh! Yikes, What to do?  Let’s put it into perspective.  This is a problem if you naw on your walls and doors and window,  More to the point, if you have paint flaking off and a pet or small child puts it in their mouth and ingests it, you may have a problem.  If you sand the paint down and swallow a lot of paint dust, you may have a problem.  Other than that, there are few issues that I know of related to lead based paint. So, if you have pets or people that are likely to swallow paint or are planning to do a lot of sanding without wearing a dust mask, you might want to get the home inspected, otherwise, just be clean, don’t let things chew on your paint and if it starts to peal and flake off, take care of the problem and don’t let paint flakes and chips get into the mouths of pets and people.  I never had a client choose to get a lead based paint inspection so I have no idea what if costs.. I doubt it is much.

Mold Inspections: If you have asthma or sever mold allergies, you might want to have any home you buy checked for mold.  Otherwise, mold inspections are generally done if there is evidence of moisture within walls. This often occurs around windows where there are cracks on the exterior walls.. Bathrooms are another source of mold issues with problems generally occurring with water intrusion or leaks around the faucets and shower head or tub spigot.  If in doubt, get this inspection.  If there is any evidence of mold or mildew problems noted on other inspection reports you probably want to get this inspected. And if there is evidence of current or past standing water under the house, get this inspection.

Tree Inspections: If the home you are buying has large or old trees on the property that could fall and cause damage to your home or other property or if they died would adversely affect the value of your property, get them inspected by an arborist.  They will look for evidence of disease, dry rot, insect infestations, root issues and access the general health of the trees. Often the can make recommendations on how to trim or maintain the trees for their health and your safety. I think this is money well spent if a tree could harm your home or other property or if they are the reason you like the home so much.

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