What to know about your home inspection when you decide to buy a house. Most inspections take between 2 and 5 hours depending on the size and type of property. The bigger the house the longer it’s going to take. Not all buyers can spend all that time attending an inspection, many have no idea why they are attending, whether they need to attend at all. What types of home inspections are there in our area? What does a home inspection consist of and what should you do with your report?
We are here to answer all your inspection questions, and offer our home inspection tips for buyers.
What is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is a visual examination and if possible testing of the physical structure and systems of a house, from the roof to the foundation. It includes everything that can be looked at without moving structure, fittings like built in cabinets and carpet, or furniture and personal belongings. Testing of systems is only limited by access and time of year. We’ll take more about that in the what’s included section.
Inspecting a house is not an appraisal for your mortgage. That is carried our by a licensed appraiser and serves a different purpose. An appraiser will value the house.
Should I have a Home Inspection?
My recommendation is always, yes absolutely. Why wouldn’t you? This is your single chance to gain as much knowledge about the condition of a house. You are not a home inspector so there are things you cannot visually see or remember or have knowledge of. An inspector will inspect and test it for you.
An inspection also gives you the opportunity to ask the property owner to make repairs or if needed system replacements. The idea is not to ask for every little item found on the report but to request major things you did not know about when you visually inspected the property and decided to buy it. There’s a summary sheet with most inspection reports that give you a checklist of health and safety issues. Address these items as a priority.
Are home inspections mandatory? No they are not. But you carry the entire risk of buying a home without having one.
Can My Uncle Do My Inspection?
You can have anyone you like do your home inspection but it will be of no value to you if the provider is not licensed in the state of Illinois. Here our inspectors are required to be licensed; we know that not all states have the same requirement.
Consider this though. Your Uncle, or Dad, or brother, sister, auntie or grandma, or any general contractor or builder that does not have a license will not be providing a report according the the states license requirements. What are they going to miss? Potentially quite a lot. Hire a professional!
A report provided by a non licensed practitioner cannot give you the ability to ask for repairs. In that respect it’s a useless report.
When Do I Have the Inspection Done?
Here in Northern Illinois we negotiate our contracts first, get signatures and get homes in contract before we do anything else. Our contracts have provision for buyers to have any inspection they wish and for the contract to be contingent on your acceptance of the results of those reports. You are allowed a period of time to have your inspections completed. House inspections should be completed within the first 5 days after contract agreement and remedy requests requested by your attorney. (That applies to us here in Barrington and Inverness as well as most northern Illinois cities. It is determined by the contract we use for home purchases.)
What’s Included in My Report?
Before any home inspection is carried out you’ll be required to sign a contract between yourself and the inspector. You must acknowledge any limitations as well as the scope of the inspection. You may ask to see an inspectors license or home inspection certification. (Depends on state).
Townhomes and condos are a little different to single family homes. This is because often the exterior is maintained as part of an Home Owners Association. While not part of any inspection repair negotiation, a good home inspector will still provide a home inspection checklist so you can address any HOA issues directly with the HOA either before or after closing.
Here’s what you can expect your inspector to look at. He’ll provide a full report and usually a summary sheet and photos to show any issues he finds. This is not a complete list and I am not a licensed home inspector.
He’s should inspect and report findings on:
- Property Exterior – asphalt surfaces, concrete and brick surfaces, retaining walls, lot grading and drainage, electrical outlets, exterior faucets, presence of things like a lawn sprinkler system but wont test it, exterior siding, trim and flashings, doors, windows, decks, patios, balconies, steps and staircases.
- The Roof – how is he inspecting, materials used, flashings, gutters, downspouts.
- Attic – access and location, insulation, ventilation, electrical, vents and ducting, presence of vermin.
- Garage – Type, floor material, overhead doors and hardware, openers, fire door and service door, windows, walls, firewalls, electrical, stairs to attic if there is one, additional components like heaters.
- Chimneys, Flues, Vents – Materials used, visible condition, flue, rain caps.
- Structure – Foundation type, foundation walls, exterior framing, roof framing, roof sheathing, floors, columns, beams, storm drainage.
- Basement – Stairs, floors, walls, and if necessary the finished product the same as the rest of the interior.
- Plumbing – water supply system, sewer, gas meter and piping, water lines, drain waste and vent pipes, storm water pumps, ejector pumps, plumbing components.
- Water Heater – location, type, supply, condition, age.
- Electrical – Amperage and voltage, grounding, panel components, wiring, fusing, risk.
- heating – Type, energy source, general conditions, functioning, filters, distribution, ducting, humidifier,
- AC Units – Type, energy source, condition, drainage, testing if conditions allow it.
- Kitchen – Appliances, electrical, counter tops, faucets, disposal.
- Bathrooms – sinks, faucets, tubs, showers, toilets, condition, drains and water supply.
- interior – in addition to everything already mentioned, visual inspection of walls for cracks, or repairs needed, electrical outlets.
Not all things apply to all houses, this is meant as a general guide. Connect with your home inspector with any questions about your report. It is an extensive report and while you may for focused on the inside the exterior is more important. The biggest issue for any residence is water. It is the most damaging of things to go wrong.
What’s Not Included in General House Inspections?
A general house inspection does not include:
- Engineering reports on the foundation of the property.
- Well and septic reports – these are usually a sellers provision here in Barrington.
- Water and sewer supply.
- Code compliance.
- Free standing structures like sheds.
- Hot tubs and swimming pools – a separate inspector can provide this in summer.
- Central vac systems.
- Alarm systems.
- Fire and smoke detection or suppression systems like sprinklers.
- Environmental hazard reports. i.e Radon, Lead, Asbestos.
- Lawn sprinklers.
- Termites or pests.
Many of these can be covered under a separate report by a qualified company. Home inspectors may be willing to give you a recommendation if they see something suspicious like mold or termites in a house. It is beyond their license as a general house inspector.
What Other Inspections Can I have?
As stated before you can have whatever inspections you deem necessary to provide you with a complete picture, one that gives you the comfort of proceeding with the purchase. Here are some of the more common ones.
Radon is a Carcinogenic
Radon Test – Radon is a gas emitted from the ground and can appear in any home up to the third level. For single family homes it is very common to have Radon in a house. The EPA has set an action level of 4 pCi/L. The recommended maximum is 2 pCi/L but no amount is safe. An action level means a home-owner should take measures to reduce the Radon gas present in a house.
As a home buyer you may order a test. This involves meters placed in the lowest levels of the property which read the air for a minimum of 48 hours and provide an average metered reading for each meter placed. If the level is above the actionable level, then the seller should be requested to have a mitigation system installed before you close your purchase.
Sellers – If your buyer or you has a test with a meter reading above the actionable level and your purchase does not proceed, you must now complete a new Radon disclosure. You must now answer the questions again and disclose that you have a reading higher than the actionable level. You would be wise to install a mitigation system because most buyers will not proceed without one.
Radon testing companies are seperated from Radon mitigation system companies for good reason.
Lead Paint is a Carcinogenic
Lead Based Paint Testing – Properties built prior to 1978 may have lead based paint. It may well have been painted over, time and time again. It was typically used on window frames, windows, doors etc, the trim areas of a house. Lead paint chips and cracks and finds its way to the floor. Young children are at great risk because they have this habit of sticking everything in their mouths.
The only way to test for lead based paint is to chip away the top layers until you get to the bottom and then take samples for testing. It would likely be unreasonable to ask a seller to have all his house paint removed for you and repainted. But you should know! When you come to renovate you can follow the guidelines to remove all the old paint and start fresh. You might also decide not to buy the property.
Mold May Be a Health Risk
Mold can cause a variety of health effects, or none at all. It can cause respiratory problems and skin irritation. Mold allergies are present in some people. Immune compromised people are likely to have greater reactions.
Most homes have Mold in to some degree. It grows where it’s moist and not ventilated. Bathrooms are a prime location. Attics another. Common molds like this can easily be cleaned away with bleach. Toxic black mold or black mold is a name commonly used for Stachybotrys chartarum. It is one of the most infamous toxic molds because it can grow in houses and is extremely dangerous to humans.
Mold testing can include air testing and scrape testing. A home inspector likely knows what mold looks like and may make a recommendation to have a home tested. If you have family members with Asthma, ask your Doctor is it’s something you should consider testing for before moving.
Removing toxic molds is a big job. You’ll need to address any molds found from a mold inspection with your attorney. Molds in attics can be a major headache and expense for a seller. A Mold remediation company must carry out any work.
Another of the health risk products previously used in homes. Used in siding, insulation, fire-proffing, roof tiles and many other uses. Asbestos can cause lung cancer, the best known being Mesothelioma. This is more common with the workers who used the product. Asbestos invades the body in small amounts and causes illness over time.
It also causes asbestosis, pleuritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Removal of asbestos is by encapsulating the product and removing so as not to disturb the fibers.
Asbestos was mostly found in properties built prior to 1980. If you or your home inspector has any doubt about the presence of Asbestos, do not touch or remove. Have an Asbestos test performed by the experts.
The stability of a home rests on its foundation. While much of that is below grade there many be some tell tale signs that all is not right.
- Any interior basement cracks.
- Unlevel flooring.
- Doors and windows not closing.
- Exterior bulging in concrete.
- The house does not appear to be level.
- Leaning walls.
Foundation cracks do not automatically mean there is a foundation issue. To be sure a house has stopped moving you need a structural engineer to carry out tests. While this is not common, older homes suffer many of these issues and the wise buyer will want to be sure the house is not continuing to settle.
EIFS Testing – Exterior Insulation and Finishing Systems
Also known as fake stucco and one brand name most people know is Dryvit.
A home inspection checklist might include a quick look at a home with this product and a recommendation for further inspection. Commonly used as a decorative product alongside brick and stone, it can get damaged easily. The issue is once moisture gets behind it, it cannot breathe and evaporate. Moisture is the route of all evil for homes inside and out. Wood is a target product that can deteriorate over time, something you’ll not be able to see.
While EIFS systems have improved over time it has been around in the Barrington market place for 40 years. A good home inspector will have seen the product often enough and know the tell tale signs of problems. If you’re not sure, give the EIFS a knock with your knuckles. If it’s hard it maybe Stucco. EIFS has a smoother finish generally than Stucco does and it is not as hard.
Should I Consider Other Inspections?
Only you can make this determination. Take guidance from the home inspector as to what he thinks you might consider. The age of a property certainly helps determine risk in some areas.
How Much Will an Inspection Cost?
Home inspection services can vary quite a lot. Home inspection rates are determined by the home inspection company or inspector. There are national home inspection companies, franchise companies and individuals. Each has their own fee scale. Home inspection cost is often linked to the type of property and much more so to the size of the home being inspected.
Average home inspection cost will range from $250 to $800 for a single home. This includes condos and townhomes.
How do I Find an Inspection Company?
Your agent likely has several names they have crossed paths with over time. You can also search online in companies like Yelp, Angies List or HomeAdvisor. Google Home Inspector Near Me and I am sure you’ll find several. You can also for recommendations from friends in the area.
Look for inspectors that have passed the AHIT course. The American Home Inspectors Training Institute. There are also the AHSI home inpectors, members of the American Society of Home Inspectors. Membership indicates passion and extensive experience.
Who Gets My Report?
As you are paying for the report, it’s delivered to you. Some inspectors give it to you at the property. This slows down the time spent onsite while it is being prepared and printed. You’ll receive photos to go with the inspection report via email. Others will deliver the entire report with photos via email, usually within 24 hours. You might also be directed to a website to login in and retrieve your report.
You should share your report with your attorney. You may authorize the inspector to share it with your agent.
The seller is NOT given a copy, nor their agent.
What Happens After The Inspection?
You will need to read and digest the report and then discuss with your attorney any remedies you wish the seller to carry out. All homes have minor issues and the idea is not to nit pick the entire report. Focus on the big issues. This like non functioning systems, or systems at the end of life. Common issues are plumbing leaks, electrical issues, mechanical systems not working or failing.
If your home inspection checklist has a list of items on a summary sheet, focus on these. They are generally health and safety issues and should be addressed be the seller. A negotiation usually follows with these scenarios:
- The seller agrees to remedy some or all of the items and you accept.
- The seller prefers to compensate you with a closing cost credit and you choose to accept.
- You do or do not reach agreement on inspection issues and the contract proceeds or does not.
What’s a Home Buyer Walk Through Checklist?
When it comes time to close your purchase, it’s time to do a walkthrough. This is not a re-inspection of the property. It’s the time for you to make sure it’s the same as it was when you decided to buy it. Make sure there are no disappearing appliances, that the house has been emptied of personal belongings. You’ll want to test a few things to make sure they still function, flush a toilet, run a faucet, turn the gas cooktop on. Most buyers agents have such a checklist in their minds. they carry out home walk throughs all the time.
If your seller agreed to repair items on your home inspection he should provide you with receipts from qualified service providers. Licensed electricians for example, not a handyman. You can take a quick look too. Home inspectors may do a walk through with you, just be aware of any home inspection reinspection fees.
Your walk through is NOT the time for family and friends to visit. It’s not your property until closing and there’s plenty of time after that for visits and oohs and ahhs.
When Do I Do My Walkthrough?
As close as possible to your closing. My recommendation is if you are closing in the afternoon, do your walk through that morning. If you are closing in the morning, the best time is the evening before. Your buyers agent will attend with you and it should take no longer than 20-60 minutes depending on size of property.
Ideally we want the house to be empty, but it does not always happen if the sellers are last minute folks. The reason for this is to make sure they remove all of their belongings, not leaving you with stuff you don’t want.
We hope this helps you understand a little more about what your home inspector will do. If you need help buying a home in the Barrington area, please give us at call at 847-363-3686.