How to Look

at a House


A blog with answers
to your questions about
HOME INSPECTION
and HOME MAINTENANCE

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Welcome to our blog!
We want you to be an informed homebuyer, and each blog post is a question that we have answered for our friends and customers over the years. Hope they help you make a good choice for your next home.

Roof inspection - If your home inspector determines that the roof of your prospective home is in poor condition, a roof inspection report by a licensed building or roofing contractor will bolster your negotiating position for getting a new roof. Also, if the roof is past an average lifespan for the material, your insurance carrier may request one. We are licensed building contractors and include a free roof inspection report, also called a “roof letter,” with our home inspections when requested. But if your home inspector does not have the necessary licensing to provide one, they cost about $100 from a roofing contractor. To read more, go to our blog “What do you look for when you inspect a roof?”

Sewer inspection - Several local plumbers offer a video inspection of the drain piping in home. Starting at a vent pipe in the roof, they fish a long, metal snake  with a video head through the system and out to the sewer or septic tank. To find out more about this inspection, go to our blog ”Do you check the plumbing under the floor slab?”

Pool and spa - Most home inspectors, including us, will inspect a pool and spa area for you. But it is a visual inspection only and we do not operate the equipment and demonstrate the valve functions for you, which pool inspector will do. We often recommend that our customer hire a pool inspector when the pool is older and has big defects that need to be quantified. Pool inspectors charge around $100 and we recommend that you be present during their inspection for a demonstration of all the equipment.

Arborist - While your home inspector will call out tree branches overhanging or touching the house and roof, and also note any trees that appear to be too close to the home’s foundation or that have obvious structural problems, laying out a strategy for repairing the problems and putting a price on it is what an arborist can do for you. Be sure to select one that is certified by the International Arborist Society, which means they have training to evaluate tree structural defects and prune a tree so that it grows in a healthy pattern. You can find a certified arborist on the Florida chapter’s website at www.floridaisa.org.

4-point inspection - If the home you are buying is more than 30 years old, it’s likely that your insurance agent will ask you to provide a 4-point inspection report before quoting you on your insurance. The four points are the roof, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems. Insurance statistics show that older homes have more claims than newer ones, and the claims are often due to the deteriorated condition of older building components. A four point inspection is unusual in that it is for the sole benefit of an insurance underwriter, but you pay for it. Prices range from $100 to $200, but are sometimes discounted when done with a home inspection. See our blog “Why does my homeowners insurance want a four point inspection?”

Air conditioning - Home inspectors identify HVAC systems that are not working properly or not functioning all, but do not troubleshoot the underlying problem. So you may want to get an a/c technician to pinpoint the defect and cost to fix it.

Radon - Testing for radon as part of a real estate transaction requires a minimum 48-hour test in a closed home with the HVAC system functioning to keep the temperature in a normal range for occupancy. The test must be performed by a person licensed by the Florida Department of Health, and results are reported the DOH’s database. We are qualified to test the radon level in a home and the cost is $125. To learn more, see our blog “What’s my chance of getting a high radon reading at a house in Gainesville?”

Infrared - While we include an infrared scan of the building envelope as part of all our home inspections, most inspectors that have infrared technology provide this service at an additional fee of $100 to $200. It is especially valuable in locating hidden moisture problems, like roof, plumbing, and window leaks. Infrared is also useful in identifying air conditioning duct leaks and missing or damaged areas of insulation. 

Chimney Sweep - Heavy creosote buildup or a cracked firebox in a fire place can start a fire in the chimney that is hard to put out. If your inspector finds problems with the fireplace, call a chimney sweep for evaluation and cleaning. Prices vary widely.

Lead Paint - Before it was banned in 1978, lead paint was widely used for residential coatings, especially pre-1960. Ingestion of lead, either as paint chips or dust, leads to debilitating health problems.  A lead paint inspector tests each wall surface of every room and exterior wall for lead content, using a handheld gun-meter that contains a small amount of radioactive material. Cost is about $300. To learn more about lead paint, go to our blog “I signed a lead paint disclaimer in my real estate contract. What’s that about?”

Wind mitigation - Insurance discounts are available for homeowners that provide a windstorm mitigation inspection report to their insurance agent that documents windstorm-resistant features such as tie-down straps, roof sheathing nailing, and FBC rated roofing material. Most home inspectors can also do a wind mitigation inspection for you for about $100. See our blog for more info at “What is a wind mitigation form for homeowners insurance?”

Mold - Inspecting for mold in a home begins with a visual inspection, but also typically includes air and tape samples that are sent to a lab for evaluation. Mold inspection requires an additional license that is separate from home inspection. Visit our blog for more mold information at “What if mold is found during the inspection?”

Electrical - When significant electrical defects are found during the home inspection, a follow-up evaluation by a licensed electrician may be necessary to determine the extent and cost of necessary repairs.

Other specialized inspections include EIFS (Exterior Insulated Finish System), Chinese drywall, sinkhole and clay soil, foundation, asbestos, and water testing.

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  To learn more valuable strategies for getting the best possible home inspection, here’s a few of our other blog posts:

  1. How can I make sure I don’t get screwed on my home inspection?

  2. Should I trust the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement?

  3. Can I do my own home inspection?

  4. How can homebuyers protect themselves against buying a home over a sinkhole?

  5. What makes a house fail the home inspection?

  6. The seller gave me an old home inspection report from a previous home inspection. Should I use it or get my own inspector?

  7. Why are expired building permits a problem for both the buyer and seller of a home?   

    To read about issues related to homes of particular type or one built in a specific decade, visit one of these blog posts:

  1. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1950s house?

  2. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s home?

  3. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1970s house?

  4. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1980s house?

  5. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1990s house?

  6. What problems should I look for when buying a country house or rural property?

  7. What problems should I look when when buying a house that has been moved?

  8. What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been vacant or abandoned?

  9. What are the most common problems with older mobile homes?

  10. What should I look for when buying a “flipper” house?

  11. What should I look for when buying a former rental house?

While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here.
© McGarry and Madsen Inspection

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More Blog Posts on Similar Subjects:

  1. Should a home inspection scare you?

  2. What is the difference between an appraisal and a home inspection?

  3. Are you licensed and insured?

  4. We looked at the house carefully, and it seems alright. Do we really need a home inspection?

  5. Is a home inspection required?

  6. Should I be there for the inspection?

  7. What tools do you use for a home inspection?

  8. Is it common for an insurance company to require an inspection?

  9. The seller has to fix everything you find wrong with the house, right?

  10. Can I do my own home inspection?

  11. Is it still possible to do an inspection if there’s no electricity or water?

  12. What’s the difference between a roof inspection and a roofing estimate?

  13. Should I hire an engineer to inspect the house?

  14. Do inspectors go on the roof? Do they get in the attic?

  15. What should I look for when buying a former rental house?

  16. What happens at a home inspection?

  17. Does the home inspector also check for termites?

  18. What different types of specialized inspections can I get?

  19. What are the questions a home inspector won’t answer?

  20. What is the difference between a building inspector and a home inspector?

  21. What do I need to know about buying a 1950s house?

  22. What is the difference between a home inspection and a final walkthrough inspection?

  23. Should the seller be at the home inspection?

  24. What is the average lifespan of a house?

  25. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s home?

  26. Should I use my realtor’s home inspector or choose one myself?

  27. Should I use a contractor or a home inspector to inspect a house I’m buying?

  28. Should I get a home inspection before signing a contract to buy the house?

  29. Can a home inspector do repairs to a house after doing the inspection?

  30. What is a “continuous load path”?

  31. When did the first Florida Building Code (FBC) begin and become effective?

  32. Should I only hire an inspector that is a member of a national association like ASHi, InterNACHI, or NAHI?

  33. What is a “cosmetic” defect in a home inspection?

  34. Where are the funny home inspection pictures?

  35. Should I follow the inspector around during the inspection?

  36. Why do realtors call some home inspectors “deal killers”?

  37. How can I reduce the risk of an expensive surprise when buying a house sight unseen?

  38. Does my home have to be inspected to get insurance?

  39. Who should pay for the home inspection?

  40. Can you do a home inspection in the rain?

  41. What are the most Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) at a home inspection?

  42. What are the common causes of ceiling stains in a house?

  43. Does a home inspector give cost estimates for repairs?

  44. Are there any minimum inspection standards that a Florida licensed home inspector must meet?

  45. Can a Florida licensed contractor do home inspections without having a home inspector license?

  46. What inspections does a bank or mortgage lender need for loan approval?

  47. Should I buy a house that has been remodeled/renovated without building permits or has open permits?