Long before, acquiring a property was not as complex as today. There was a time when people normally bought a property based on mutual trust and reliance. In those days, a person wanting to acquire an asset usually walked through a property, made some simple inquiries, had a quick glance at the oven and subsequently purchased the house as it stood. However, over the years the scenario has undergone a sea change and buying a house has become a very complex process today. Even the consumers have now began to realize that even the house is a complicated assortment comprising of numerous items such as bricks, pipes, shingles, wires, boards and different equipment. Many of these items are susceptible to decay, damage, rusting and breakage as soon as the purchaser or the new home owner occupies the house.
The material state of a property has always been a matter of concern for all property purchasers at all times. If there is a crack on the wall, a leakage in the basement or a broken staircase, it is easily detectable by the buyer and this enables him or her to evaluate the property. However, what should a buyer do if he or she is ignorant about the leakage in the basement? Hence, it may be said that compared to the basement leakage, the lack of precise knowledge regarding the physical condition of the property is of more concern for any prospective property buyer.
Barring the instance of a seller being aware of a 'significant' shortcoming of his or her property and tries to intentionally conceal the setback, usually the responsibility or onus of ensuring the physical state of a real estate lies with the buyer. Nonetheless, it has always been a tricky task to define or ascertain what actually a 'significant' defect is. No one can say for certain if a leakage in the roof of a house can be called a 'significant' or 'considerable' flaw, or even if they say so, what amount of water leakage from the roof every year should be considered as a 'significant' problem. Then again, the concept of a 'substantial' defect will vary depending on the seller and the buyer. For instance, if the seller is one who builds or repairs roofs and the buyer is from a different profession, there concept of a 'substantial' problem vis-à-vis the leakage of the roof is bound to differ.
In fact, the above makes it all the more important for the buyer to arrange for a home inspection before purchasing the property. It may, however, be mentioned here that the objective of a home inspection is not to unravel each and every defect and shortcoming present in a particular residential property. We must always bear in mind that there is no house, not even the most expensive building in the town, is absolutely faultless. On the contrary, each and every house has some shortcoming, damage or defect at some place or the other. By undertaking a home inspection a prospective buyer in effect wants to be acquainted with the amount of repair or replacement required to make the house perfect and how much would these tasks cost him or her. The buyer's main concern is regarding the measures that need to be taken to make the house be livable and run it effectively. At the same time, the buyer is interested to know the amount he or she needs to spend on upkeep of the house over the next few years.
A house inspection actually helps a prospective buyer of a particular property to decide on the precise price he or she should offer the seller for the asset considering the defects and the repairs required. Moreover, given the flaws of the house and the money need for its maintenance, a home inspection also enables the buyer to come to a decision whether they should actually make an offer for the property or not. Hence, it is advisable that all prospective buyers should at least casually scrutinize a property before making any offer for its actual purchase.
Now, one may ask what is meant by an informal home inspection. One may take photographs of the house to keep a record of the physical condition of the house when you inspect it. It is possible that when you visited the house to inspect it and make an offer to the seller, you had found the front door to be in perfect condition, but may find it damaged while moving in. In this instance, the seller is to be blamed for the condition of the door. On the other hand, if you had found the door to be damaged or broken at the time of inspecting the house and before you made an offer, it would mean that you have purchased the house in that condition or your offer was made taking the damaged door into consideration.
Now, coming to an official home inspection, there are several things or aspects of a property that a buyer or inspector should look into or take into consideration. Below is the list of things that the buyer and overseer should consider before making an offer to the seller. Basically, one need to check the foundation and footing, framing, electrical system, heating and cooling system, fireplace and chimney, wooden stoves, plumbing, hot water heater, exterior wall finishes, windows, exterior doors, roofs, private wells and other important things of a house during the inspection.
It is important to scrutinize the foundation and footing of a house before making any purchase offer as these are the two most vital aspects of any construction. The entire construction stands on its foundation and hence it provides strength to the structure. So, when you are inspecting the foundation and footing a house you need to ascertain whether the house is built on solid ground, if the ground is slanted away from the cornerstone, if the footings of the building are above the depth limit of the frost and if the house has an effective floor sewage system. In addition, you need to make sure whether the pump is functioning, if there is any leakage problem in the basement, if the ridge cover is steadfastly fastened to the foundation crest as well as whether there is sufficient aeration and movement space in the basement. Other things that need to be checked include examining if the foundation walls are free from any major crack, settling and corrosion. You also need to find out if the foundation wall is amply protected on either side.
The framework or structure of a building is as important as its foundation and footing. If the support system is not perfect or strong, the house will be under the threat of collapse any time. So, when you inspect a home it is essential that you pay adequate importance to its framing. Confirm if there is sufficient protection between the house sill plate and the foundation at all places. Also examine if the floor is solid while you walk on it and if the floor joints are basically firm and are not subject to wilting, falling down or bounce. Also check if the walls, beams, wadding of the ceiling, lintels and the roof lines and beam are physically safe and sound. What you should focus on is whether the above mentioned features have been built with good materials, if they are structurally correct and whether there is any threat of them being twisted, damaged or deteriorate in the near future. Be sure that there is no decay, termite or damage by fire or water anywhere. In addition, find out if there is sufficient ventilation in the uppermost floor or any condensation trouble, if the roofing, especially the collar ties, bracing and sheathing, is effectively secure and if there is any sign of decay or rot.
There was a time when there was no electricity and hence there were no electrical system in any building. However, this is one of the most important aspects, especially the power supply and wiring system, of any house today. While an inadequate electrical system may not fulfill all your basic requirements, a faulty system may prove to be hazardous. Hence, you need to be very cautious and careful while examining the electrical system of the house you want to purchase. The most important aspects to look into are whether there is copper wiring all through the house, whether the house has a 240-volt power supply and if the main disconnect comprises of a minimum of two 100-amperes fuses. Also ensure if the copper wiring used in the house is of minimum No. 14 gauge that can transmit 15 amperes and if the service panel has been provided with circuit breakers and not fuses. Ensure if the house has adequate power supply to run all your normal household electrical gadgets and if there are adequate number of circuits and effective receptacles all through the building, including the bathroom, garage, basement and the attic. Here it is important to be certain that the floor of the bathroom does not have any fault and whether there is sufficient shield against electrocution.
The plumbing is another vital aspect of any house that needs to be checked thoroughly before making any purchase offer. First and foremost, ensure if the pressure of the water supplied to the house is sufficient. If it is not, the supply may not only be insufficient to meet all your requirements, but you may also face frequent water crisis. In addition, check if the pipes used inside the house are made of copper and whether there is a central water shut-off valve from where the water supply enters the building. Also look into the plumbing fixtures and the flushing systems in the toilets. If the house has a septic tank, make sure that it has been cleaned lately and whether the house if free from any kind of gaseous stench. Also remember that a loud plumbing system is considered to be a negative aspect of any house.
While inspecting a home before making a purchase offer it is essential to look into the heating and cooling systems of the house. This is especially important for houses located in extremely cold climes. Here you need to find out if the heating and cooling systems of the house are effective as well as inexpensive. Also ensure that they are appropriate for the building and capable of effectively spreading the heat or cold evenly all over the house. Finally, make sure that these systems do not generate unwarranted sound while functioning.
While inspecting the fireplace and chimney of a house it is essential to ensure if the two have been built or mounted and whether they have been cleaned properly every year. Also make certain that the fireplace functions appropriately when there is sufficient stimulus and whether the chimney outlet is precisely one-twelfth of the hole or opening of the fireplace. Although these may appear to be trifle issues, ensuring that these are in perfect order will go a long way in ensuring a comfortable living.
During a home inspection make sure that the wood stove, also known as the potbelly stove, in the house has proper permission for the use of inflammable substances. Ensuring this aspect of a wood stove is vital so that you do not confront any problem at a later stage. At the same time, check whether the outlet of the wood stove and its chimney are well connected. You should also find out if there is too much creosote (the residue from burning wood) accumulation in the wood stove chimney.
Hot water heaters are a must in houses and hence before purchasing a house it is vital to ensure that they are effective and in sound condition. While you must be certain that the water heater itself has not been purchased more than five years back, even the physical condition of the tank supplying water to the heater needs to be sound. At the same time, check if the temperature control panel is on moderate setting and if the overflow valve of the water tank overspills corroded water.
A house should not only be perfect in its construction and equipments, but should also appear neat and attractive. Hence, it is important that the exterior walls of any house have a fine finishing or polish. While examining a house, check if its exterior walls are in good state or they require some repairs. Ensure whether the joint ridges have been suitably closed with plaster and if the wall finish still has 25 per cent of its life span left. Try to find out if there is any sign of crumpling on the walls or there is any mark of peeling on the painted areas.
Windows are an important part of any house as they ensure proper sunlight and ventilation keeping suffocation and illnesses at bay. So when you are on a home inspection, ensure that the windows function properly, do not have too much blemishes of water, have no less than double glazing and also if the double glazing is factory sealed and still effective. Also check the window frames. Ensure that the frames are sealed properly on the exterior so as to make them waterproof and that there is no air infiltration or ex-filtration when the windows are closed. Make sure that the window panes should also not discolored and free from condensation.
The exterior doors of any house or building must be solid and capable of ensuring security to the residents. Therefore, while inspecting a house check if these doors are made of insulated or wadded steel or firm wood. Ensure that the latches on the door work properly and are weather-tight. All frames of the external doors too must be correctly sealed to ensure safety.
Like the foundation, footing and walls, the roofs are also an important component of any building. And like a solid foundation, a well-constructed roof increases the life span of a building. So, when inspecting a home, emphasis should be on checking that the roof still has 10 years of its life span remaining before you need to undertake any major repair or maintenance. Check whether the roof is water proof with no part of it missing any shingles or having any loose shingles. Similarly, ensure that all the pieces of sheet metal used in the roofing are correctly mounted and their condition is sound.
Wells are not very common in modern-day homes as most of the water requirements are met by the municipal supplies. However, if a house does have a private well, you need to ensure that the water has been examined to deem it fit for drinking. You may also check if the water level in the well is sufficient throughout the year and the water system from the well has adequate pressure. Make sure that the well has a safety valve to shut off the water supply.