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Before You Buy: Consider a Home Inspection PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 26 August 2007

Home Inspections

Q. WHAT IS A "HOME INSPECTION"?

A home inspection is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a home, from the roof to the foundation. The standard home inspector's report will include an evaluation of the condition of the home's heating system, central air conditioning system (temperature permitting), interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic, and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement, and visible structure.

Having a home inspected is like giving it a physical check-up. If problems or symptoms are found,the inspector will refer you to the appropriate specialist or tradesperson for further evaluation.

Q. Why do I need a home inspection?

The purchase of a home is probably the largest single investment you will ever make. You should learn as much as you can about the condition of the property and the need for any major repairs before you buy, so that you can minimize unpleasant surprises and difficulties afterwards.

Of course, a home inspection will also point out the positive aspects of a home, as well as the maintenance that will be necessary to keep it in good shape. After the inspection, you will have a much clearer understanding of the property you are about to purchase, and will be able to make a confident buying decision. If you have owned your home for a long time, a home inspection can identify problems in the making and recommend preventive measures which might avoid costly future repairs. In addition, home sellers may opt for having an inspection prior to placing the home on the market to gain a betterunderstanding of conditions which the buyer's inspector may point out. This provides an opportunity to make repairs that will put the house in better selling condition.

Q. What will it cost?

The inspection fee for a typical three-bedroom house is in the region of R3,000.00. The inspection fee may vary depending upon the size of the house, particular features of the house, its age, and possible additional services, such as granny flat.

However, do not let cost be a factor in deciding whether or not to have a home inspection, or in the selection of your home inspector.

The knowledge gained from an inspection is well worth the cost, and the lowest-priced inspector is not necessarily a bargain. The inspector's experience and training should be the most important consideration.

Q. Can't I do it myself?

Even the most experienced home owner lacks the knowledge and expertise of a professional home inspector who has inspected hundreds, perhaps thousands, of homes in his or her career. An inspector is familiar with all the elements of home construction, their proper installation, and maintenance. He or she understands how the home's systems and components are intended to function together, as well as how and why they fail.

Above all, most buyers find it very difficult to remain completely objective and unemotional about the house they really want, and this may affect their judgement.

For the most accurate picture, it is best to obtain an impartial third-party opinion by an expert in the field of home inspection.

Q. Can a house fail inspection?

No. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of your prospective home. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value, or a municipal inspection, which verifies local code compliance. A home inspector, therefore, will not pass or fail a house, but rather describe its physical condition and indicate what may need repair or replacement.

Q. When do I call in the home inspector?

A home inspector is typically called right after the contract or purchase agreement has been signed, and is often available within a few days. However, before you sign, be sure that there is an inspection clause in the contract, making your purchase obligation contingent upon the findings of a professional home inspection. This clause should specify the terms to which both the buyer and seller are obligated.

Q. Do I have to be there?

It's not necessary for you to be present for the inspection, but it is recommended. By following the home inspector around the house, by observing and asking questions, you will learn a great deal about the condition of the home, how its systems work, and how to maintain it. You will also find the written report easier to understand if you've seen the property first-hand through the inspector's eyes.

Q. What if the report reveals problems?

No house is perfect. If the inspector finds problems, it doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't buy the house, only that you will know in advance what to expect. A seller may be flexible with the purchase price or contract terms if major problems are found. If your budget is very tight, or if you don't wish to become involved in future repair work, this information will be extremely important to you.

Q. What if I find problems after I move into my new home?

A home inspection is not a guarantee that problems won't develop after you move in. However if you believe that a problem was already visible at the time of the inspection and should have been mentioned in the report, your first step should be to call and meet with the inspector to clarify the situation. Misunderstandings are often resolved in this manner.

Q. If the house proves to be in good condition, did I really need an inspection?

Definitely! Now you can complete your home purchase with peace of mind about the condition of the property and all its equipment and systems. You will also have learned a few things about your new home from the inspector's report, and will want to keep that information for future reference. Above all, you can feel assured that you are making a well-informed purchase decision, and that you will be able to enjoy your new home the way you want to.

Septic Tank:

If you are buying a home with a septic tank, you should consider having it inspected by a professional septic contractor. The standard home inspection does not include this type of specialized inspection. To properly inspect the system, the contractor will need to dig holes to access the underground parts of the system. This will include inspecting the tank, as well as the leach field.

Roofing Issues:

Of all the problems you can encounter around the house, roofing problems are by far the sneakiest. Leaks can develop unnoticed for years causing rot, mould, warping and other expensive damage. Experts recommend that you go into your attic or crawlspace at least once a year after a rainstorm to check for leaks and water damage.

Special attention should be paid to areas where you have flashing (the metal or plastic weather stripping that will be around chimneys, pipes,vents, roof planes and eves) because this is typically the most likely area to develop leaks. It is also recommended that you visit the surface of your roof yearly – during good weather – to look for any loose, missing, eroded, warped or otherwise damaged shingles and to check the overall condition of your roof.

You should also clean rain gutters and downspouts of leaves and other debris regularly, preferably in the fall once the trees are bare. While doing this, check for mineral deposits which could indicate the erosion of asphalt shingles.

Many people would prefer not to inspect their roofs themselves. Roofs can be pitched at very steep angles and pose quite a challenge to those leery of heights. Inspecting the roof from an attic or crawlspace full of spiders and other creepy inhabitants may not be too attractive either. Another issue is most people are unsure of what to look for. Leaks can be hard to track – water travels downward and the damage can be far from the actual leak. Because of this, hiring an expert to inspect the roof for you is something you should consider.

Plumbing Issues:

Plumbing problems usually revolve around one of three things: clogs, leaks, or drips. It pays to be familiar with your plumbing system so you can minimize the damage caused by plumbing problems as well as fix minor problems on your own.

The most important thing you can do is find out where the main water shutoff valve is and how to turn it off. This is usually either outside your home or in your basement or crawlspace. If you can not find it or don’t know how to turn it off, contact your utility company and have them show you. If any tools are necessary to turn off your water, keep them handy. Being able to shut your water off at the main valve can be vital to reducing damage to your home if a pipe were to burst.
You should also check each plumbing appliance (sinks, toilets, etc.) for their own shutoff valves and verify they work. If the valves fail to turn off water to the appliance, you should have them fixed by a professional plumber. These valves come in handy when the need arises to repair individual appliances. If an appliance has no valves, you will need to shut off your water at the main valve to repair it.

This article was supplied by Frederick Ollewagen of Inspect-A-Home.

For more information on how to contact Frederick at Inspect-A-Home:

Frederick Ollewagen
Inspect-a-Home (Gauteng)
Cell: 082 878 4366


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Last Updated ( Sunday, 26 August 2007 )
 
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