Home Inspections



Why Do I Need a Home Inspection?

The purchase of a home is one of the biggest investments people will make in their life-time. But it is also among the greatest source of anxiety. A home inspection helps ensure home buyers of the quality of their investment by making them aware of its condition and alerting them to any concerns. This can serve to relieve stress, increase confidence and even reduce the threat of legal action in the future.

SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF A HOME INSPECTION ARE:

Knowledge: Understanding exactly what you’re buying – old or new.

Peace of mind: Helps in making a sound buying decision

Savings: The home inspection reveals the need for repairs or replacements before you buy

Fewer Surprises: The home inspection limits the number of problems you may discover after you move in

Education: A good home inspection also gives you invaluable details about your new home in addition to information about the condition of the property. You’ll learn where the main shutoff valves to the utilities are located, how the house operates and more!

HOW DO I FIND A GOOD HOME INSPECTOR?

Not all inspection companies are alike, and selecting the wrong company could cost you thousands of dollars in repair and replacement costs. Consider the following when shopping for home inspection companies.

Experience: How much experience do the inspectors have and how long have they been in business? The best home inspectors have been in business for years and have seen thousands of homes.

Home Inspection Training: Have the inspectors gone through any extensive home inspection training? In many states inspectors can simply call themselves home inspectors without any training or licensing. However, in Oklahoma home inspectors must be eighteen (18) years of age or older and be of good moral character, and must have successfully completed fifty (50) clock hours of state approved home inspection training.

Association Membership: Is the inspector a member of a professional home inspection organization? Companies that are affiliated with professional organizations are serious about what they do, and know about all the new developments in their fields. Some well-known trade associations are: American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) www.ashi.org and National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI). Inspectors in your area can be located through these associations.

Liability Insurance: Does the inspector carry Professional Liability Insurance (Errors and Omissions Insurance)? If you ever need to collect on a legal judgment, an inspector without insurance may not be able to pay your claim.


What to Look For During Your Home Inspection?

Before making an offer on a home, nearly all real estate experts recommend conducting extensive inspections. Home inspections are designed to protect you from unexpected repairs and costs after move-in. If any problems are found during a pre-sale inspection, the buyer can then negotiate with the seller to have the issues resolved before closing or incorporate the cost of repairs into the offer. By assuring the buyer that they are purchasing the best home for their money, home inspections are an invaluable resource in the home buying process.

In most cases, home inspections analyze a number of factors both inside and outside the home.

SIX MOST CRITICAL INSPECTION CONCERNS FOR THE EXTERIOR OF THE HOME:

Foundation – The most important thing to check for in the foundation are cracks. If any cracks or irregularities are noticed in the foundation, a further inspection may be needed to check the integrity of the construction.

Roof – When the roof is inspected, it must first be determined if any leaks are present. If the roof is free of leaks, a proper inspection will then attempt to determine if the roof possesses any flaws that could cause leaks in the future. During inspection, it is also important to notice if any large trees hang over the home. Wet leaves from such trees can sometimes cause serious problems for homeowners.

Drainage – The most important thing to consider is how the home is situated on the property. To ensure adequate drainage and prevent flooding in the home, the surrounding land should slope away from the home and 6-8 inches of the concrete foundation should be visible. Additionally, all gutters and drainage spouts should be angled away from the home.

Windows and Doors – Besides looking for broken glass, a check of the windows should cover many factors. Ideally, all windows should open and close properly with a good seal, be free of rot around the window sills and have all screens intact. Similarly, all doors opening to the exterior should open and close properly with a good seal to prevent extra heating and cooling costs.

Siding, Trim, Gutters and Pain – An inspection of the exterior siding or paint should check for the presence of bubbling or peeling. Also, all exterior fixtures that do not impact the structural integrity – such as ornamental trim and rain gutters – should be checked for overall condition.

Decks and Porches – If the home has a deck or porch, the inspection will try to uncover the presence of rot or insect damage.


SIX FACTORS THAT SHOULD BE THOROUGHLY INSPECTED WITHIN THE INTERIOR OF THE HOME:

Walls, Floors and Ceilings – All walls, floors and ceilings inside the home should be checked for the presence of water damage – usually present as mold or other stains – and signs of insects or pests. The areas near plumbing fixtures should be given extra attention to check for mold and water damage, while gaps or cracks in exterior walls should be checked for the presence of insects. Lastly, all wall and floor surfaces – such as paint, plaster, wood-floors, tile bathrooms and carpet – should be checked for overall condition.

Appliances – Typically, home inspectors will urn one dishwasher cycle and check all functions of eh oven and stove. If the home is being sold with a full set of appliances, it is wise to check the working order of refrigerators, washers, dryers and microwaves.

Electrical, Heating and Cooling Systems – These inspections of the home’s infrastructure are some of the most telling assessments of a property’s quality and, by extension, value. An inspection of the electrical system will typically test all outlets, lights fixtures and circuit breakers. If it is an older home, an inspection should look for updated features such as ground fault interrupt (GFI) outlets in the bathrooms and kitchen. When checking heating and cooling systems, inspectors typically test the furnace, monitor the response of the thermostat and assess the overall ventilation of the home.

Plumbing – The inspection of the plumbing system begins with a check for leaks around all fixtures and pipes. Net, both bold and hot water pressure should be tested by turning on multiple faucets. In the bathrooms, the areas around each bathtub and shower should be inspected for water damage. Lastly, try to ensure that the hot water heater is up to code and functioning properly.

Basement – If the home has a basement, the most important thing to check for is the presence of water damage. An inspection of the basement is primarily an extension of the previously mentioned check for walls, floors and ceilings.

Chimney and Fireplace –
An inspection of the chimney and each fireplace will check for loose bricks and mortar, assess the overall stability and check for obstructions within the chimney.


Keep in mind, if an inspection uncovers a problem, you should not necessarily be deterred from buying the home. More than anything, the inspection will help you determine the value of a home and prevent you from overpaying or experiencing unwanted repairs. Depending on what is uncovered during the inspection, you may want to conduct an additional inspection of the problematic element or simply work with the seller to resolve the issue as part of your offer.



10 Questions to Ask Your Home Inspector

Before you make your final buying or selling decision, you should have the home inspected by a professional. An inspection can alert you to potential problems with a property and allow you to make an informed decision. Ask these questions to prospective home inspectors:

1. WILL YOUR INSPECTION MEET RECOGNIZED STANDARDS?

Ask whether the inspection and the inspection report will meet all state requirements and comply with a well-recognized standard of practice and code of ethics, such as the one adopted by the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors. Customers can view each group’s standards of practice and code of ethics online at www.ashi.org or www.nahi.org. ASHI’s Web site also provides a database of state regulations.

2. DO YOU BELONG TO A PROFESSIONAL HOME INSPECTOR ASSOCIATION?

There are many state and national associations for home inspectors, including the two groups mentioned in No. 1. Unfortunately, some groups confer questionable credentials or certifications in return for nothing more than a fee. Insist on members of reputable, nonprofit trade organizations; request to see a membership ID.

3. HOW EXPERIENCED ARE YOU?

Ask how long inspectors have been in the profession and how many inspections they’ve completed. They should provide customer referrals on request. New inspectors also may be highly qualified, but they should describe their training and let you know whether they plan to work with a more experienced partner.

4. HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR EXPERTISE UP TO DATE?

Inspectors’ commitment to continuing education is a good measure of their professionalism and service. Advanced knowledge is especially important in cases in which a home is older or includes unique elements requiring additional or updated training.

5. DO YOU FOCUS ON RESIDENTIAL INSPECTION?

Make sure the inspector has training and experience in the unique discipline of home inspection, which is very different from inspecting commercial buildings or a construction site. If your customers are buying a unique property, such as a historic home, they may want to ask whether the inspector has experience with that type of property in particular.

6. WILL YOU OFFER TO DO REPAIRS OR IMPROVEMENTS?

Some state laws and trade associations allow the inspector to provide repair work on problems uncovered during the inspection. However, other states and associations forbid it as a conflict of interest. Contact your local ASHI chapter to learn about the rules in your state.

7. HOW LONG WILL THE INSPECTION TAKE?

On average, an inspector working alone inspects a typical single-family house in two to three hours; anything significantly less may not be thorough. If your customers are purchasing an especially large property, they may want to ask whether additional inspectors will be brought in.

8. WHAT’S THE COST?

Costs can vary dramatically, depending on your region, the size and age of the house, and the scope of services. The national average for single-family homes is about $320, but customers with large homes can expect to pay more. Customers should be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.

9. WHAT TYPE OF INSPECTION REPORT DO YOU PROVIDE?

Ask to see samples to determine whether you will understand the inspector's reporting style. Also, most inspectors provide their full report within 24 hours of the inspection.

10. WILL I BE ABLE TO ATTEND THE INSPECTION?

The answer should be yes. A home inspection is a valuable educational opportunity for the buyer. An inspector's refusal to let the buyer attend should raise a red flag.

Source: Rob Paterkiewicz, executive director, American Society of Home Inspectors, Des Plaines, Ill., www.ashi.org.


Life Spans for Home Systems & Appliances


Item

Exhaust Fan

Gas range

Gas or oil furnace

Refrigerators

Electric ranges

Freezers

Central A/C

A/C Compressor

Forced Air Furnace

Electric Water Heater

Expected Life (years)

20

19

18

17

17

16

15+

15

15

14

Item

Dryer

Gas Ovens

Clothes Washer

Gas Water Heater

Microwave Ovens

Window A/C

Trash Compactors

Dishwashers

Disposal

Expected Life (years)

14

14

13

11 to 13

11

10

10

10

10



What About Termites?

Termites are wood destroying insects common in most areas of Oklahoma. They cause millions of dollars of damage annually. Subterranean termites live in the soil and are found throughout the state. The probability that termites will attack wooden structures within 10 to 20 years of being built is greater than 70% in Oklahoma.

Typically, the buyer pays for the initial pest inspection. The seller usually pays for any termite treatment; however, this needs to be stated specifically in the contract.

Most lenders will require a termite inspection before approving a loan. Here are some tips for getting the most out of a termite inspection:

Regardless if the Seller has had the house treated or inspected recently, get your own inspection. Use an established company and check references.

If the house already is under contract, call the pest-control company and get the pest history.

Arrange to accompany the inspector and make notes about any possible problems and inaccessible areas that weren't inspected.

During the general inspection take note of any leaks or moisture problems and make sure your termite inspector checks them out thoroughly.

Make sure the inspector can get under a house built on piers to check joists, supports and interior piers for signs of termites.

If there's an area of specific concern, work with the sellers on removing obstacles so that it can be more thoroughly checked.

If there is evidence of prior infestation, the buyer should ask the seller to certify that the house has been treated by a licensed pest control operator and that the infestation has been eliminated and all structural repairs were done properly.

Decide whether you want to continue with the seller's pest control company, or hire your own. The seller's company may be willing to let you assume the annual renewal payments without paying the cost of a new treatment. But a new company will want to install its own treatment system to put the house under contract.


Septic Inspection

While no septic inspection and test can guarantee 100% that all septic defects have been found, they can reduce the chances of a dangerous or costly surprise on a property after closing.

When buying a home with a septic system, septic tank and leachfield, you should consider the following steps:

STEP 1: ASK ABOUT THE SYSTEM

Ask the seller the following questions. Don't worry if the seller says they don't know the answers. "Not knowing" is also important information.

How old is the property?

Is the property occupied or vacant? If occupied, for how long and by how many

occupants? If vacant, for how long?

How long has the seller owned the property?

Where is the septic system? ( If the owner has been at the property for years and does not know where the septic tank is located, they have never pumped it. On the other hand, if they know exactly where it is and if it has an easily-opened access cover, it might mean it is being pumped unusually often .)

What is installed? (How big is the tank, is it concrete or steel, etc)

What is the service or repair history of the septic system

STEP 2: VISUAL INSPECTION

Once the locations of the septic tank and leaching fields are known, walk over the entire area and observe whether there is any evidence of a sewage overflow condition. Greener grass in the leaching area may not necessarily indicate a system problem. If, however the area is completely saturated and odorous you should be very concerned. It most likely indicates a system failure.

Try to get a sense of how natural conditions are affecting the capacity of the property to drain water.


STEP 3: WHEN TO HAVE THE TANK PUMPED

Pumping a septic tank prior to purchasing a home may or may not be necessary, depending on the age and service history of the system and the results of the visual inspection . But pumping the tank can be helpful in any case. Important additional information, available when the tank is pumped, can tell you if it was past-due for pumping (risking damaging the drain fields) and if it is damaged. You'll also know exactly where the tank is, if it's concrete, steel, fiberglass or homemade, if it has been damaged, if the baffles are broken, if the tank has been flooded (indicating a blocked drain field), and if the tank has a safe cover.

Even if there are no signs of trouble from the visual inspection - if nothing is known about the system history, or if it is known that the system has not been opened and pumped in 3 years or longer, this step is strongly advised. If the septic tank has been pumped quite recently, you should call the pumping contractor to ask if, at the time of pumping, the contractor observed any indications of system problems or upcoming system repairs.

The above steps are recommended for a traditional tank and leachfield system.


AEROBIC SEPTIC SYSTEM

If you are purchasing a home with an aerobic septic system ask the seller the following questions:

How old is the system and when was it last pumped? (It should be on a similar schedule as a traditional system)

Do you have a regular maintenance contract in the system?

Who installed it?

Have you ever had to replace any sprinkler heads or other parts?

What kind of chlorine do you use in the chlorinator and how often do you add chlorine?

Being informed about the type and condition of the septic system in the house you are purchasing will help you be aware and perhaps minimize surprises after you move in.


Reference for information above:
Lesikar, Bruce. Agricultural Communications, The Texas A&M University System. Aerobic Treatment unit. Publication L-5302. 26 Jul. 2000.
http://www.inspectapedia.com/septic/buyguide5.htm


What About Mold?

No one wants to buy a house with a mold problem. Unfortunately, mold problems are not always easy to detect. If you are looking to buy a home, learn how to detect mold in homes, get the seller to disclose mold issues, and remove mold if you decide to buy a home damaged by it.

Mold is a fungus that comes in various colors (black, white, green, or gray) and shapes. While some molds are visible and even odorous, mold can also grow between walls, under floors and ceilings, or in less accessible spots, such as basements and attics. Mold does best in water-soaked materials (paneling, wallboard, carpet, paint, ceiling tiles, and the like) but can survive in almost any damp location. Mold can grow in houses situated in the desert, and it can grow in homes in hot and humid climes.

Here are some common places in a home where mold is likely to take hold:

around leaking pipes, windows, or roofs (the constant supply of water gives mold spores the start they need)

any place that’s been flooded and hasn’t been thoroughly dried

tightly sealed buildings (common with new construction), which trap excess moisture inside, and

in homes with poor ventilation, numerous over-watered houseplants, and housekeeping habits that ignore obvious dampness and don’t include airing the place out.

Besides presenting an ugly appearance and, sometimes, an unpleasant odor, mold can cause health problems. In the worst cases, a few types of molds produce mycotoxins, which can cause rashes, seizures, unusual bleeding, respiratory problems, and severe fatigue in some people. Fortunately, most molds are of the non-toxic variety.

You won’t always know if there is mold in a house you’re considering buying, but you can take a few easy steps to try and find out.

BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR MOLD

When you’re thinking about buying a home, look for the elements above to figure out if there are any obvious signs of mold or the potential for mold. Keep your eyes peeled for standing water in the basement, water marks on walls (particularly recent-looking stains), or musty smells (particularly in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, basements, cabinets with plumbing, or other areas with plumbing).

ASK YOUR HOME INSPECTOR

If you have the home professionally inspected before you buy it, your home inspector may see obvious signs of mold or water damage. While it’s not the inspector’s job to look for mold, most home inspectors will mention obvious signs of water damage and the possible presence of mold. And because the inspector will poke around in spaces you might not, he or she may see things you wouldn’t.

Don’t hesitate to ask whether the inspector saw signs of mold or potential mold dangers, and ask that these results be included in the inspection report. Some inspectors may be wary of this, because they want to avoid liability for any mold-related problems. But all should be comfortable talking to you about whether they saw anything suspicious.

ASK THE SELLER TO DISCLOSE ANY MOLD OR WATER-RELATED PROBLEMS

In addition, ask questions about things that could lead to mold growth, such as “Have any pipes ever burst?” or “Have any of the windows ever leaked?”

Sellers are required to disclose on the Residential Property Condition Disclosure Form and knowledge or treatment for mold. Keep in mind that the seller’s duty to disclose only relates to things the seller knows about or reasonably should know about -- he or she doesn’t have a duty to go poking around in the walls to see if there’s mold, for example. That’s another reason it’s a good idea to ask about potential mold-causing problems. The seller may know of these conditions without being able to confirm there’s actual mold growth.

PROFESSIONAL MOLD TESTING

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), testing for mold isn’t usually necessary when it’s visible on surfaces. Most people will end up relying on the detection methods discussed above.

However, if you suspect mold is present in the home, but none is visible, you might elect to hire a professional mold testing company. These companies test the air in and around the home. They can also dig into walls and take samples, which they later test in a laboratory. Testing the air usually costs several hundred dollars. If the company takes wall samples, the cost will be even higher.

You can use the results from mold testing in two ways when negotiating a home purchase:

You can add a mold-related contingency to your offer which states that if mold problems are discovered, you can back out of the agreement.

If the testing company finds a significant mold problem, you can use this to negotiate a lower price on the home or get the seller to agree to pay for the cost of mold removal.

by Alayna Schroeder http://ctmlaw.com


Lead Based Paint

Many houses and built before 1978 have paint that contains high levels of lead (called lead based paint). Lead from paint, chips and dust can pose serious health hazards if not taken care of properly.

Sellers must disclose any known lead-based paint and hazards in homes built prior to 1978 in a Lead Based Paint Disclosure Form.

They are also required to give buyers any reports that are available from tests that have been performed. Sellers must also give buyers a pamphlet about how to protect families from lead in homes. (Your REALTOR® should give you a copy of this pamphlet.)

You also have the right to a 10-day period to conduct a lead-based paint inspection or risk assessment at your own expense.

You are encouraged to check for lead-based paint before renting, buying or renovating pre-1978 homes.