What every buyer and seller needs to know and why.

A home inspection is a standard part of the home buying process. Typically, home inspectors evaluate a property five to ten days after negotiation of a contract is complete in order to secure mortgage approval.

The goal of the inspection is to uncover issues with the home itself. Inspectors won’t tell you if you’re getting a good deal on the home or offer an opinion on the sale price.

An inspector should have an eye for detail and require minimal equipment to complete their job.  A flashlight, ladder and simple tools to document their findings will do the trick.

If there are any hidden issues, for instance, pests, asbestos, and mold, your home inspector probably won’t find them.

It’s a good idea to consider a home inspection for multiple reasons.  For example, if an inspection finds a small, fixable problem, you could ask the seller to fix it before you take possession or ask for a seller’s credit for closing costs so you can make the fix yourself.

Plus, an inspector who takes the time to explain all of their findings with you allows you to learn so much about your potential new home and gain confidence in the decision to move into your new address — or find out enough to pass on the purchase.

There are, however, things that a regular home inspection will not cover.

Septic Systems 

What’s the old saying?  You never know what’s buried in your own backyard?  Well, it could be absolutely true when buying someone else’s old home.  I’m talking about the septic system.

If you chose to forgo this specialized inspection, keep this in mind, with overuse the system can fail causing waste to build up underneath the septic field and essentially cause a backup.  This could mean an expensive and revolting education in the science of waste disposal if something goes wrong later.

Roofs

From down low to up high, an inspector will observe a home’s roof from the ground. He doesn’t actually have to climb up there. He may, but it’s a long shot. Roof leaks are the number one missed problem, but there are more things to consider than just water leaks.  The roof can be a party palace for critters like birds nesting in a fireplace chimney, termites and roof rats.

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Pests 

Although your home inspector will note dry rot or termite-damaged areas, home inspectors are not exterminators. Don’t rely on the checklist or final report to yield that information.  A licensed pest inspection company provides an extensive evaluation and prescribes remedies for treatment.

It’s especially recommended in Arizona to have a termite specialist inspect your home.  Termites cause an estimated $50 billion in damage to buildings and homes in 49 of the 50 states every year.

Landscaping

It may be very obvious in some cases if the landscaping has been let go, if there are dead trees or brush and it probably won’t affect the final price of the house or your ability to negotiate with the seller.  One are that may be a concern is the sprinkler system.  Leaks or failures can lead to costly water bills and serious home damage.  A sprinkler system inspection may or may not be covered in your inspection.  It’s always advised to check with your individual home inspector.

Low-voltage Systems

A general home inspection will include testing whether electrical outlets work, but will not include specialized testing to other components such as; computer, phone, built-in audio, intercom systems, landscape lighting, security, irrigation systems, etc.

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Most home inspectors don’t have the qualifications to look at plumbing and can only call out visible issues like a leak or outdated plumbing.

Finally, home inspectors may not be qualified to check the complex equipment of your swimming pool like pumps, heaters and filters or pressure-test for leaks. And don’t leave out electrical equipment, decking surfaces, safety covers and hardware, which should all be evaluated for condition and durability.

Environmental Testing

If there is already a known source in a home, most states require it be included in a property disclosure report.  If an inspector suspects environmental hazards during a home inspection, they are noted in the report.

Things like mold, lead paint and asbestos need to be sent to a lab for testing.

Appliances

Appliances are not a part of the inspection.  Home inspectors check only that the following appliances are working properly:

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Washers

Dryers

Dishwashers

Refrigerators

Stoves

Most inspectors will run these appliances through just a cycle or two to make sure they work. So, the built-in microwave could have major problems and you wouldn’t know it. Plus, unless a major leak or smoke appears, the appliance is considered to be correctly functioning. If you think there’s a major problem, you should have an appliance technician perform diagnostics and necessary repairs.

HVAC

HVAC systems aren’t covered in the inspection either.

Home inspectors may or may not touch your heating or air conditioning system, depending on the climate conditions at that time of your inspection. They don’t want to cause damage by putting too much pressure on the system. In fact, in your home inspection report, there may be a liability disclaimer relieving your inspector of any responsibility for your HVAC system. Depending on the conditions at the time of purchase or sale, you may need to have it separately inspected.

Think of your home inspection like when you go through the car wash and you have about three or four different options to choose from starting from a simple “car wash” all the way up to the “ultimate wash” which includes detailing and interior cleaning with vacuuming and window washing and air freshener.  Your “car wash” will give your car a decent once over.

This is what a home inspection does.  It’s all about what’s in plain view.

But when you get that “ultimate wash” you know someone is going to spend the extra time on many additional details and make sure other areas are not missed.  For the home inspection, issues that may not be addressed in an inspection include those associated with the following:

Electrical wires

Foundations

Sheds or wells

Areas behind the walls

Chimneys

Insulation

Problems in these areas could cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars in repairs or replacements — especially if you don’t catch them early. It’s better to be safe and perform a specialized inspection than it is to be blindsided by unexpected repairs.