Home Inspection Tips For The Home Buyer

Most home buyer information is about finances, budgeting and dealing with Realtors and lenders. This article is about home inspection tips for the home buyer, yet from the point of view of a Vancouver home inspector, so you can better protect yourself when you are ready to purchase a home.

Home inspectors are trained to expose safety concerns and potentially expensive issues. We conduct a visual inspection, leaving the walls, ceilings and floors in tact.

Below are some home inspection tips for the home buyer, along with some ideas to help you make the best decision for your circumstances.

There Are No Perfect Homes Out There

All houses, townhouses and condominiums will have flaws. Some of these problems are obvious and others are hidden. Regardless, it is best to have realistic expectations, knowing that no homes are perfect.

Newly constructed homes will have issues as well. All houses settle after a few years, and depending on the soil conditions, may continue to settle, revealing cracks in various places.

Be curious about what might be under large carpets or behind the walls covered by furniture or storage items. Try to visualize the house empty to get a better sense of space.

Safety Issues Come First

Safety concerns are usually related to structural and or electrical flaws. For example, any cracks that are wider than half on the outside wall, may be a concern. Any structural columns that have suffered rot damage at the bottom, could impact the stability of the home.

If the home is old, the electrical service might be out of date and in need of upgrading. Find out if the home has Knob and Tube wiring. Loose wires should be clamped and secured properly. Aluminum wiring can make it difficult to get home insurance.

There should be at least one functional smoke detector on each floor, and I recommend installing a carbon monoxide detector as well. These two items are not expensive.

Also, be aware that mold is most commonly found in the basement, the attic, and the corners of windows, especially in townhouses and some newer homes because they are built with fewer air leaks.

You will also need to know if there is any evidence of asbestos in the house. Asbestos may not be harmful if it if undisturbed. However, if you are considering renovations and the home contains asbestos, then you definitely must have it removed by an asbestos removal company.

Expensive Items To Consider

Water damage is the biggest concern to all homes, especially here on the West Coast around Vancouver. If you are considering the purchase of a townhouse or condo, find out if the building(s) have been rain screened and when this took place.  A properly rain screened building can save you money down the road. Rain-screening has been used to combat the leaky condo issue.

Look for homes with large overhangs and good flashing details around the windows and doors. These details better protect the home from water damage than those without. Be suspicious of homes with patches on the exterior walls, as this may indicate rot damage behind the walls.

Always get a copy of any manufacturer warranties. For a town house or a condo, be sure to read the minutes and find out if there will be any large repairs in the near future.

Potentially expensive items include:

1.    Out of date furnaces, boilers and water heaters

2.  Roof Replacement- You will also need the warranty documents for the roof if possible.

3.    Electrical rewiring or upgrades

4.    Removal of a buried oil tank – For environmental reasons, you must take care of this. Your local fire department will have further details for you about this topic.

5.    Repair of the exterior drainage- Ensure that the drain system is in working order. Look for large trees close to the perimeter of the house, as their roots can disrupt the underground drain tile, or in extreme cases push against the foundation walls of the home. To me sure have a plumber test the drainage.

6.     Ideally, the slope of the house should be slightly down and away from the house. Houses on a poor slope can contribute to water leakage, resulting in expensive damp proofing bills.

7.     Polybutylene piping of the early 1980’s to mid 1990’s can cause serious flood damage to homes. Polybutylene is most often light grey, but it can also be blue or black.  If you have been told that a home has this type plumbing material, it absolutely should be replaced and can be costly to do so, depending on how much Polybutylene is in the home.

Limit Your Emotions When Buying The Home

One of the most difficult aspects of buying a home is being objective. Although difficult, try to look at the house for what it is… A unique set of systems, which work together in providing a place to live. As mentioned, determine which issues you can live with, afford and fix, while leaving the others behind. One thing is for sure, having a 3rd party home inspection will give you the information and peace of mind needed to buy or move on.

Prepare Questions In Advance

Once you are ready to put in an offer, make a list of questions for your realtor and the home inspector, before the inspection. I recommend attending a thorough walk-through of the home with the inspector before the inspector leaves for the day.

Finally, be sure to get a proper home inspection report from a knowledgeable inspector who truly cares about doing his/her job… Protecting you!

In my opinion, the best reports are written in a narrative style, not the typical checklist format. They should be customized and detailed, including relevant photos so you can see the problem areas.

Good luck on your journey to finding your next home!

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