I missed our 2 year anniversary of owning our house (3/31/12) but thought I’d write a belated post in celebration of that, since I’ve been thinking about home related things lately. Mostly the not so much fun stuff that comes along with home ownership- trees falling on fences, roof hail damage (fingers crossed this isn’t a reality for us!), pest control and hidden problems under flooring (like a rotten subfloor).
I came across this great article that I thought was pretty helpful for all those new or soon to be (or just dreaming about) home owners. Some things to be aware of when you have a home inspection done (and please, oh please, get a home inspection done before you buy!!). Here’s a link to the original article. And to paraphrase:
Our friends bought a brand new construction house last year, and their inspector caught this problem. Lucky for them it had just rained before their inspection, and their entire crawl space was filled with water. The builder was nice enough to pay to rectify the solution, which involved installing a sump pump.
The inspector isn’t going to be able to catch all wiring problems, because that usually involves ripping holes in walls which they obviously don’t want to do. But they can inspect your electrical panel and any wires that are exposed. Some other friends of ours had some wiring issues caught in their inspection- they weren’t as lucky and had to pay for the repairs themselves, but at least they won’t be dealing with a hazard later on down the line.
Our house had the original roof (21+ years old) on it when we looked at buying it. This was almost a deal killer for us- they’d done repairs on the roof due to some leaks but weren’t going to shell out the funds for a new roof. UNTIL- they discovered the damage was due to hail and were able to get a new roof from their insurance company for $500. Sweet!! Now we have a brand new roof- and the roof company offers to come out once a year and walk on our roof (for free!!) to inspect it and make sure it’s holding up well. They’re coming out some time early next week actually, because we had a hail storm recently and I want them to check for hail damage.
“Even if a plumbing problem causes you to walk away from a house, it’s much better to have an inspector warn you so it didn’t become your disgusting and expensive problem. The inspector will probably check the water meter, vents, traps, fixtures, and pipes for any issues.“
The inspector will also check your septic system if the house has one (you might have to pay extra for this service)- they usually do a dye test which involves flushing a bunch of dye into your system- the tell-tale problem is if this dye appears in the drain field, a sure sign your septic system needs to be pumped/is failing. To keep your septic system in good working order, make sure you have it pumped every 3-5 years (depending on the number of people living in your household) and be kind to it- don’t use a garbage disposal or powdered detergents, plus make sure your toilet paper is approved for septic systems.
“Some problems may have easy fixes, like changing the air filter or small parts of the system, but if the heater or furnace is more than 10 or 20 years old or has been poorly maintained, you might be facing a complete replacement.“
Our house, unfortunately, had the original heating/cooling system in it (21 years old)- our inspector was kind enough to point this out to us. The people we bought the house from never had it serviced in the 3+ years they lived there, but it seemed to be in decent working condition (though not very efficient). We knew that this was going to be something we would have to replace- and thanks to a couple of government sponsored tax credits we were able to put in a brand new efficient system. We also have that system serviced twice a year by the company who did the installation, to hopefully avoid any emergency phone calls to the company in the middle of winter/summer.
“A common problem with insulation is simply that there’s not enough or it’s inconsistent, which can be fixed by having a professional add more. In older homes, though, an inspector might find asbestos, which needs to be removed. Improper ventilation can cause condensation in the attic that can lead to mildew and rot over time.“
Luckily- no problems here for us (or anyone else we know who has bought a house recently). I know I’ve lived in some houses that were poorly insulated which stinks in the winter/summer. Our house is overly insulated- even the floor joists are insulated which is great, and means our power bill is decent year round.
“If there’s one thing you can’t fix cheaply after you’ve bought a house, it’s foundation problems. They can lead to serious structural problems in your home and fixing them will be a major job that can cost into the tens of thousands of dollars. If an inspector tells you that the house has serious foundation issues and you buy it anyway, you’ll end up throwing your money into the sinkhole you’re going to have to fix.“
Yeah- no problems to report here either, thank goodness. But if our inspector had said anything about foundation problems to us, you can bet we would have run the other way!!
“Inspectors will look for termites, carpenter ants, and other insects that eat wood and can cause serious structural damage. They also keep an eye out for signs of creepy-crawly things you won’t want to run into, like cockroaches and rats.“
Actually- most normal house inspectors DON’T look for termites- you need to pay extra to have this service done (at least in our neck of the woods). You might get a really nice inspector who will let you know if they notice any termite damage, but otherwise this is something you need to pay extra for and it’s not a bad idea to consider getting a termite bond from a pest company that specializes in termite control.
We also have a pest company come out quarterly and spray our house- when we moved in, we found cockroaches, GIANT spiders and scorpions. Now that we have regular pest control we rarely see anything around the house- except for the stupid black ants that have decided to take up residence in our kitchen. Good thing our pest guy is coming soon!!