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How to Look

at a House


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

  1. 2)Are there any foundation problems? - The sad tale of someone who bought a house and shortly afterward discovered it had major—and very expensive—structural damage is one most of us have heard. Sometimes the signs of a structural defect were in plain sight but overlooked. Then again, the telltale cracks might have been artfully patched, only to reopen later when further settlement occurs. Either way, a home inspector is trained to recognize even subtle signs of structural distress and point them out to you before buying the house.
       Damage can be caused by a sinkhole, clay soil, soil subsidence, or tree roots, just to name a few potential defects. For more insight on foundation problems, check out these blog posts:
    • Should I buy a house with structural problems?
    • How do I recognize structural problems in a house?
    How can homebuyers protect themselves against buying a house over a sinkhole?

  2. 3)Are you going to test the appliances? - Most home inspectors test the installed appliances, such as the dishwasher, refrigerator, washer and dryer, if they are included in the sale of the home. A Florida state statute (61-30.807) requires testing certain appliances as part of a home inspection. To read the part of the statute regarding appliance testing, see our blog post “Do home inspectors test the appliances?”

  3. 4)Do you look at the trees? - Trees near a home have the potential to damage it, so those trees are typically noted if there is the possibility of a problem. But a home inspector is not an arborist, and cannot evaluate the condition of trees that are not obviously diseased or dead. See our blog post “How can trees damage a house?” to find out more.

  4. 5)How old is the air conditioner? - An inspector will tell you the exact age if the manufacturer’s data plate is intact and readable. If not, then it will be estimated based on the condition of the system. Sometimes the condenser (outdoor unit) was replaced separately from the air handler (indoor unit), and one is older than the other.

  5. 6)Are the cracks in the garage floor a problem? - The normal shrinkage of a concrete slab as it cures over the first year of its life will cause minor cracks, which are not a structural defect. Because the garage floor is usually the only part of a house where the floor slab is exposed, it’s also the only area where a homeowner will see those minor cracks. Occasionally the width and distribution of the cracks indicate structural distress, but they are rarely severe enough to be a structural defect. To find out more, see our blog post “How can I tell if the cracks in the garage floor are a problem or not?”

  6. 7)Do you go in the attic? - Home inspectors examine as much of the attic as is safely possible. Access and clearance problems due to lack of an attic hatch opening or ducts and other obstructions like stacks of stored boxes, may limit the inspector’s ability to get into or move around all of the attic.

  7. 8)Will the house pass a 4-point inspection? - When the home you are buying is 40 years old or beyond, many insurers require a special inspection report called a "four point letter" or "four point inspection." An underwriter for the insurance company must review and approve the four point inspection report before the company will issue a policy. It is a separate report from your home inspection and, since insurance is a requirement for obtaining a mortgage, making sure a house will pass a four point inspection is important.
       
    Most homebuyers already know about this but, unfortunately, some don't find out about the four-point requirement until until after their inspection period, when the cost of making necessary repairs to qualify for insurance cannot be negotiated with the seller.
        So we recommend that you check with your insurance agent to see if a four point inspection is necessary, based on the age of the home. If you decide not to order the additional report at the time of your home inspection, then ask the inspector if the home has any defects that would keep it from getting a "clean" report.
        To learn more, see these blog posts:
    Why does my homeowner’s insurance want a four point inspection?
    How do I get insurance if my home can’t pass a 4-point inspection?

  8. 9)Do you look for termites? - Termites cause more damage to homes in America than fires, silently munching through an estimated $13 billion of wood each year. Home inspectors exclude them in their contract terms in Florida because it requires a special license issued by the Department of Agriculture for an inspector to legally determine the presence or absence of termites. The termite inspection report must be issued on a state-mandated standard form, plus the inspector must look for evidence of other wood-destroying organisms, such as wood rot fungi and several species of beetles that attack wood.
       
    Many inspectors have a pest control company they can recommend for your termite inspection, which is officially called a "WDO" for Wood Destroying Organism report. Others, like us, have the necessary license and can do the WDO at the same time as the home inspection for an additional fee.
        To find out more about termites, see any of the following blog posts:
    I think I saw a termite. What do they look like?
    How can I know how much damage there is inside a wall if the inspector found termites in the baseboard?
    What is the difference between a subterranean and a drywood termite?
    Does a recent termite company inspection sticker mean there are no termites?

  9. 10) Would you let your daughter buy this house? - That’s a loaded question and the easy answer is “Gosh, I don’t have a daughter!” But, more importantly, a home inspector’s job is to give you the information you need on the condition of the home, so that you can factor it in with the price, neighborhood, floor plan, available mortgage options, and other considerations to make a wise decision. We are not qualified to advise you on whether the house is good deal or how well it suits your needs.

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


More Blog Posts on Similar Subjects:

  1. What do you check in a mobile home inspection?

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

  3. Should a home inspection scare you?

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

  5. Are you licensed and insured?

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

  7. Is a home inspection required?

  8. Should I be there for the inspection?

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

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

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

  12. Can I do my own home inspection?

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

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

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

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

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

  18. What happens at a home inspection?

  19. How do sellers try to fool the home inspector?

  20. Does the home inspector also check for termites?

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

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

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

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

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

  26. Should the seller be at the home inspection?

  27. What is the average lifespan of a house?

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

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

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

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

  32. What makes a house fail the home inspection?

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

  34. What is a “continuous load path”?

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

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

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

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

  39. Where are the funny home inspection pictures?

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

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

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

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

  44. Who should pay for the home inspection?

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

  46. What are the pros and cons of concrete block versus wood frame construction?

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