Evaluating a property is something both buyer
should do. An evaluation (or inspection) allows a buyer to assess the condition of a house before any money is exchanged.
An inspection is also advantageous for the seller to find out what's right and wrong with the house before putting it on the market. Also, lending institutions may require an inspection before approving a loan.
Even if you're not buying or selling a house, evaluating the house will give you a good sense of what work and improvements are needed to maintain or increase its value.
Before you and/or a professional inspector examine a house, make sure these items are taken care of: 1) utilities are turned on, 2) you have access to all parts of the house, 3) permission to operate all appliances and heating/cooling systems and ask if it's all right to videotape the house.
Remember that the purpose of a home inspection is not just to find items that need repair or replacement. You're also checking for upcoming maintenance expenses and recording the condition of the property prior to sale.
Use a checklist to make sure that you are looking at all parts of the house. Check off those items that are in good condition, and make notes about those that aren't.
If you're buying a house and don't have a general knowledge of construction and mechanical systems, or if you just want a second opinion, consider hiring a professional inspector to evaluate the house before closing.
If the house has problems, the best course of action is usually to convince the seller to correct them. Trying to renegotiate a purchase price after a purchase agreement has been signed often involves difficult paperwork changes.
A good inspector will be a generalist. Specific skills and training (as in engineering or electrical work) are valuable, but not a guarantee that the inspector is qualified to evaluate the WHOLE house.
A good professional inspector will NOT be tied to a contractor. Beware of an inspector who diagnoses a problem and then refers a company to fix it. Make sure the inspector is experienced in examining residential construction.
Ask what, specifically, the inspection will include, and how long it will take. A good inspection will take between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 hours.
Make sure that you can attend the inspection if you wish and that the inspector will supply a written report that will be made available quickly.
Here are some basic tools used in many home inspections. The handiest tool may be a video camera. Taping inspection visits will help answer questions once you get home and provide a visual record of the house.
- clipboard and checklist
- assorted screwdrivers
- step ladder
- tape measure
- electrical tester
- safety glasses
- dust mask
- camera/ video camera
Questions For Sellers
Some states and cities have disclosure laws requiring sellers to make known any problems in the house that they are aware of. Here are some specific points to ask about.
- Who performed the work on any recent repairs, improvements or remodeling? Were the appropriate building permits obtained and inspections performed?
- Have there been any leaks in the roof? Has there been a problem with ice dams? How old is the roof?
- Has there been water in the basement?
- Has the septic system or sewer line required unusual maintenance?
- Can you provide copies of heating, electric, and other utility bills?
- Has an exterminator ever been hired for the property?
- Has the house been tested for radon?