A home inspection is a fairly standard part of the home buying process. What many first time homebuyers do not know is that your standard home inspection is not going to cover absolutely everything. Even after some homeowners get a clean inspection report they may find themselves buried in repair or replacement costs. To avoid these pitfalls it is important to understand what your home inspection covers, as well as what your home inspection might not uncover.
Purchasing a new home is a very exciting and sometimes nerve-wracking experience. But there are many things to consider before taking this big step, including considering the potential problems you may run into as a homeowner.
When buying an as-is home, what you don’t see can cost you!
As prospective homebuyers look for deals, they’re becoming increasingly interested in foreclosed homes. In fact, 20 percent of all sales in April were foreclosure re-sales.
Interested in buying a foreclosed home? Here’s what you bargain hunters need to know:
Where to buy
Even though the national foreclosure rate appears to have peaked (In April, the number of foreclosures was down almost 3 percent from a year ago), a tide of new foreclosures continues to plague the beleaguered housing market. Naturally, the regions with the most foreclosures – to date – are the ones worst affected by the housing crisis: places like Atlanta, Sacramento, Miami, Las Vegas (The “poster child” of the housing crisis — prices dropped over 60% from the peak in 2006), and Riverside, California areas, where 14.75 out of 10,000 homes were foreclosed in April.
How to buy
While you can buy directly from the owner before they’re officially foreclosed on, or dare to try your hand among the seasoned, fast-moving, competitive investors at an auction, it’s safer – and easier — to find homes that are owned by the bank (or “REO,” which is industry lingo for real-estate owned). You can inspect the home before you purchase it (This is important, as foreclosed homes are generally sold “as is” and may need significant repairs — something you’re going to need to budget for), and you can mortgage your purchase (be sure to secure your financing in advance as it’s a competitive, and fast-moving market). Furthermore, former homeowners are out of the picture at this point so you won’t have to evict them. And you can be reasonably sure that the property’s title is free of liens, because the bank will typically perform an extensive title search before listing the home for sale.
What to expect
Working with a real estate agent who specializes in foreclosures can be a huge time-saver, but you should pack your patience anyway as there may be unexpected challenges and road bumps along the way. Also – while you can expect significant savings (in some markets, upwards of 40%, compared to non-distressed/non-foreclosed properties), remember that a bargain price – with virtually no room for negotiation, by the way, so don’t bother with a lowball offer — doesn’t make up for a $30,000 roof repair, active termites or other high cost issues. Pay for a complete home inspection and back out of the deal if the problems are too significant.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.
I don’t understand how a home inspector who is not an electrician can evaluate an electrical system; who is not a plumber can evaluate a plumbing system; who is not an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) contractor can evaluate a furnace. Can you explain?
This is a great question, and there is an analogous question that answers it clearly. How can a family doctor who is not a cardiologist diagnose your heart; who is not an orthopedist determine the condition of your joints; who is not a gastroenterologist evaluate your digestive system?
The answer in any of these cases is that family doctors and home inspectors know the basics of the systems they are inspecting, without being specialists. Here are some examples that relate to home inspection.
A home inspector may not have the electrical knowledge of a qualified electrician. However, if the inspector is competent, he can inspect a service panel for overfusing; double tapping; bundled ground wires; inadequate bonding of ground wires; combined ground and neutral wires in subpanels; bonding of neutral buses in subpanels; evidence of overheated wires; aluminum wire issues; corrosion; physical damage; and more.
Visible wiring can be checked for unprotected wires, damaged or detached conduits, exposed splices, terminated wire ends, damaged insulation, open junction boxes, inadequate weatherproofing, and more.
Outlets are routinely tested for open grounds, reverse polarity, lack of ground-fault protection, defective ground-fault devices, lack of arc-fault protection, hazardous locations, physical damage, and more.
When defects are found, home inspectors recommend further evaluation or repairs, just as a family doctor recommends a cardiologist when heart-related symptoms are observed.
A home inspector may not have the plumbing knowledge of a qualified plumber. However, a competent inspector checks waste and water supply piping for corrosion, physical damage, leaking, approved materials, correct sizing, standard connections, supply-waste cross connections, lack of dielectric fittings, and compliance with numerous other plumbing standards.
Fixtures such as sinks, toilets, tubs, and showers are operated and tested for proper installation and function, corrosion, physical damage, leaking, and more.
Water heaters are checked for age and condition, as well as compliance with numerous standards, including water supply fittings, gas or electrical connections, combustion air supply, exhaust venting, proper placement in the building, earthquake strapping where required, and more.
When defects are found, home inspectors recommend further evaluation or repairs, just as a medical practitioner would recommend an orthopedist when a patient has joint pain.
A home inspector may not know as much about heating and air conditioning systems as an HVAC contractor, but a competent inspector routinely checks furnaces and air conditioning systems for fire clearances, fuel connections, exhaust venting, combustion air supply, location of fixtures, air flow at registers, condition of ducts and insulation, corrosion, physical damage, and more.
When defects are found, home inspectors recommend further evaluation or repairs, just as a family doctor would recommend a gastroenterologist for a patient with an abdominal disorder.
Home inspectors are the first line of defense for homebuyers. They are the generalists who provide preliminary examinations. Their job is to find the symptoms that indicate when a specialist is needed.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
According to recent reports from the EPA and World Health Organization, radon gas is responsible for approximately 20,000 deaths in the U.S. and 100,000 deaths worldwide each year. This equates to about 15% of all lung cancer deaths. Statistically, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers and the second leading cause for smokers.
According to The Environmental Protection Agency, over 8 million U.S. homes have dangerous levels of radon gas. The Surgeon General is urging the media, state health departments, and the press to participate in National Radon Action Month by helping to promote awareness of this silent killer. Testing for radon is easy and inexpensive. Radon problems can be fixed in most homes for under $1,000.
January (which is National Radon Action Month) is the perfect time of year to test for radon gas. Testing in the summer time is difficult because occupants tend to keep windows and doors open for longer durations which could skew the results of the test. Since winter time is when people tend to spend more time indoors, it makes sense to test during this time. It’s a good idea to conduct a long-term or multiple short-term tests because radon levels can vary from season to season.
All homes should be tested for radon regardless of the age of the home, geographic location, or type of construction. Radon problems have been found in every state in the U.S. and since you cannot see, smell, or taste radon, the only way to know if your home is affected is to conduct a test. The EPA recommends that you conduct a test at least once every two years because radon levels can fluctuate over time. If you find that your radon levels are above the EPA’s limit of 4.0 pci/L, a qualified contractor can install a radon reduction system to fix the problem. In most cases, the work can be completed in a single day.
Radon gas causes more deaths each year than any other in-home hazard including fires, carbon monoxide, drowning, poisoning, falls, and even guns! National Radon Action Month is an ideal time to make your household a safer place. You can learn more about 2012 National Radon Action Month and local activities that you can participate in and help create awareness about this deadly carcinogen at by visiting http://www.epa.gov/radon/nram/index.html
MC2 Home Inspections is dedicated to helping consumers test for Radon in their homes. Our Radon testing includes the use of a CRM (Continuous Radon Monitor) rather than the typical charcoal canister method. The CRM provides a detailed hourly view of the Radon levels in the home, provides more accurate readings and is less likely to be tampered with during the testing period. If you live in the Indianapolis area and would like to have your home tested for Radon, call us today to schedule an appointment.