This summer has been so busy, and I haven’t found much time to write lately. And, quite frankly, I haven’t done anything very exciting around the house in a while. Most of my weekend projects have included unpacking final boxes, cleaning, organizing and fixing things that are broken. After a very intense weekend of fixing things that were broken, I decided that I want to share some things about home inspections that I think everyone should know.
There are certainly lessons we’ve learned from buying two houses now, and they’re valuable. Whether you’re in the market for a new home, already own one or hope to buy one someday, my hope is that this quick guide about home inspections will offer some guidance. Or a moment to commiserate. This little list I came up with are all things I wish I had known, or thought that I did know (but really had no idea.)
1. Getting a good home inspector is your wild card.
Please note: I said good inspector. We did this right in Denver when we bought our first home, but messed up on our current place. In Denver our Realtor was amazing and worked with great partners so when it came time for the home inspections she connected us with one of the best. She knew it was important to us (Mike) to have a ‘Holmes on Holmes’ kind of home inspection, and this guy delivered. He found every small imperfection, but more importantly, the big ones.
We were fortunate enough to have some negotiating power and moved in with all of the big problems fixed. And I didn’t appreciate this at the time, but we also knew exactly what we were getting into. There was only one small surprise, which I’ll get into in a second.
When we bought our current house, we were on a super tight timeline, trying to close in just three weeks. So, our Realtor called on the inspector who owed him a favor and got him out to the house in a few days for the home inspection, instead of the 2-3 weeks that most inspectors were going to take. The report came back a little too clean–nothing major, and only a few small things that the sellers were willing to remediate. We took this as good news, and moved forward. Unfortunately, what we’re finding now is that there was a lot of lipstick on this pretty pig.
The thing with the inspection process is that you don’t necessarily have the time to get a second (or third!) opinion. And, you really won’t know how good the inspector was until you’ve already moved in… so, here’s my advice to you: take your time to get references, read reviews and ask around to get the best inspector possible. If you have time to get a second opinion, it’s worth every dollar–I promise.
2. Pay for elective home inspections, too.
There are several items that the standard inspector doesn’t inspect and you can have a specialist come out to inspect them individually. Ask your Realtor about this, as it varies in different states. For example, Radon is highly prominent in Colorado (it’s a gas that comes up in basements from the soil) and though it’s highly dangerous it’s not required to have it tested. We had to elect to have a specialist come out and test for it.
You should also always have a sewer scope! It’s only a few hundred dollars to send a camera down the drain to ensure that all of your underground pipes are in good condition, and totally worth it to save yourself a $12,000+ expense if a pipe bursts. Especially if it’s an older home with clay pipes, don’t skip this step.
Also, get the sprinklers inspected. When we bought our first house we ran the sprinkler system every day until we got a $400 water bill. Come to find out, it was just dumping all the water out into the ground. We didn’t realize that the sprinkler system isn’t part of the normal home inspections, but I highly recommend having it checked if you can.
3. When it comes to home inspections, Don’t be shy about asking her age.
Knowing how old things are in the house will help you both short-term and longterm. If the inspection reports that the water heater is in great condition, ask how old it is (It has a sticker with a date on it.) If it’s 12 years old, you’ll likely be replacing it at some point even if it’s working well now.
Make a list and find out the age of things like the HVAC, appliances, plumbing, most recent remodels, etc. Also, ask about the upkeep and find out when the last pesticide was sprayed or carpet cleaning was done. Some of these answers will come out of the home inspections, but don’t rely on them to offer up the details. It will help you budget and plan for these expenses later on, at the very least, so don’t be shy about asking!
4. Home warranties aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
I don’t know how many times I heard “you better get a home warranty!” when we were buying our first home. They seem like such a great idea, but the reality is that they’re a waste of money.
First, they only cover a limited number of items–mostly major ones. Appliances are covered, but not if they’re broken–only if they need to be replaced. Garage door openers, leaks, mold and electrical are not covered. If you do have a problem with something that’s covered, you can call them and they’ll send out their preferred partner to check it out. They’ll charge a trip fee as well as “nickel and dime” you on several other small costs.
Personally, I prefer to call out highly-rated companies for a free consultation and then negotiate a good rate on the repair. I’ve heard from several friends that going through their home warranty has actually cost them more money than if they hadn’t.
It’s nearly impossible to buy a house without any problems, so the most important thing is to set realistic expectations for the home inspections. Part of home ownership is fixing things you don’t want to fix. I think we’ve finally gotten most of the dirty work out of our way, and I’m looking forward to getting back to decorating and settling in!