Having a trained eye inspect your home can save you from dealing with costly issues and unplanned repairs. However, it’s important to know what home inspectors do, and more importantly, what they may not do.
While home buyers rely heavily on the inspection to point out problems, there are several areas of concern most home inspectors don’t regularly investigate. Plus, home inspectors are human. They make mistakes, and they only know what they know—meaning you’ll want to choose carefully and make sure they can provide the most comprehensive analysis available. Get references. Have the inspector provide a sample report. Most importantly, review the entire report once you receive it and not just the summary. Here are a few things to watch for, even with a report in hand.
Pest activity can occur inside walls, in attic crawl spaces, or under buildings. Your home inspector may not be able to access these areas, meaning they wouldn’t see evidence of chewing, nests, and other activity.
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This is a big one. There are tests available for most toxins in the home, but home inspectors don’t typically run them. In fact, the job contract will outline many commonly available tests they don’t perform, so you know upfront. This includes things like lead paint, mold, radon gas, asbestos, and carbon monoxide. While they will check to make sure there are smoke and CO2 detectors in the proper locations, you will have to run other tests independently to evaluate the occurrence of mold in the wall or underneath the flooring.
Again, the extent to which a home inspector evaluates the roof is varied and likely outlined in the contract. Since it’s such a major investment, it might be worth having a specialist take a look. Most home inspectors will take a look from the ground, taking note of peeling shingles or other obvious damage. Few will give an estimate of usable roof life. Even fewer will catch issues with drainage or leaks unless they're obvious from inside the home or along the exterior edges.
4. HVAC Inefficiency
Your home inspector will likely take a look at the setup, but without living in the home, they won’t be able to tell you the furnace doesn’t properly push heat to the back bedroom or is misreading an indicator that causes it to blow inefficiently. You can either live in the space for a few months to figure it out for yourself when the power bill rolls in or have an HVAC professional test the system out.
Your home inspector will do what he or she can to evaluate the integrity of the floor. If they find a ‘soft’ spot near the shower, for example, it will be on the report. Otherwise, they likely won’t have much to say about the subfloor unless it’s new construction and the inspection takes place before the flooring is installed.
Check your contract. Since most home inspectors don’t go on the roof, don’t expect them to inspect the chimney. Plus, it takes specialized lights and scopes to really see what’s going on down the dark and dusty corridor that leads to your fireplace or woodstove. Cleaning a chimney is a doable DIY task, but if you’ve recently bought a home, bring in a professional the first time so they can identify any areas of potential concern.
7. Grade/Drain Problems
If the driveway is flooded when the home inspector arrives, there may be a note on the report, but in general, they aren’t going to see problems with water runoff pooling around the home or rushing into the garage.
8. Fences, Outbuildings, and Overhanging trees
The landscape around your home can bring safety and maintenance issues. However, most home inspectors don’t include outbuildings and infrastructure in their reports. You’ll want to walk the fenceline yourself and take a look inside sheds, checking for pests, rot, mold, etc. Also, take a moment to stand back and look at threats like large trees around the house. It can cost thousands of dollars to remove trees and even more to make repairs if a branch crashes into your home, so it’s good to know what you’re in for.
9. Blocked Sewer Lines
The home inspector will flush the toilet and run water in the sinks. But unless the problem is obvious, a clogged sewer or damaged underground pipe likely won't show up until later.
10. Hidden Electrical Issues
The home inspector can also overlook issues with another crucial household system. They'll check lights and plugs throughout the home, but your report will simply state that a specific electrical unit wasn’t working at the inspection time. Whether it’s a burnt-out bulb, a blown circuit breaker or a major system concern will be for you to investigate further.
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