Don't overlook these areas that may be outside your inspector's area of expertise.
Inspection day is exciting. It’s an opportunity to spend an extended period of time in your new prospective house, exploring every nook, cranny, closet, and attic. You get to turn on all the faucets and run each of the showers. You get to test all the appliances and even peel back a corner of the wall-to-wall carpet to see if there is hardwood underneath. (Fingers crossed!)
What should be inspected? Everything.
It’s important to examine all areas of the home, including the exterior, interior, attic, and basement, as well as electrical, plumbing, heating, and air systems. Faulty construction, improper electrical wiring, inefficient insulation, old heating, building permit violations, and other unseen problems can lead to expensive home repairs — large and small.
You and your home inspector need to examine every square inch of the house, from the electric garage door to the built-in microwave.
However, don’t assume that if you hire a home inspector, he or she will be able to tell you absolutely everything you need to know about the house. They will cover almost everything, but you might have to fill in a few blanks.
Home inspectors are very careful not to take on liability for issues outside their area of expertise, so there are certain areas that home inspectors will be hesitant to “sign off” on.
There are a few areas for which you will need to follow up with an additional inspector, whose expertise will give you the full picture.
1. Roof inspection
Ask your inspector if they are certified to inspect the roof. If they aren’t, then you will need to call in a roof specialist to do the job.
Keep in mind that if you are doing an inspection in snowy weather, it may be very difficult to access and examine the roof. It may be possible to include a special provision that allows you to extend the inspection contingency specifically to accommodate the roof, in the hope that the weather improves.
2. Chimney inspection
Your average inspector may not inspect the chimney, but if you suspect instability or hints of structural damage, hire a chimney specialist. This person will be able to use a “chimney cam,” a small video camera used to inspect the chimney from the inside, to uncover hidden damage.
3. Geological inspection
A geological inspection is commonly used in hillside and cliffside properties, as well as in flood areas. A geological inspection can unearth a severe drainage or ground-shifting problem — and save you thousands from further damage.
4. Sewer inspection
Your inspector may be able to tell whether or not things are, um, “flowing.” However, a sewer expert can use a “sewer cam” to discover cracks or breaks in the sewer line from the house to the street.
This is critical for properties that are heavily landscaped, where root growth can crack and clog the pipeline. Sewer issues can be a serious expense, so it’s better to find out sooner rather than later. A sewer line replacement can be an enormous expense.
5. Termite inspection
The seller commonly pays for this inspection, because most mortgage companies and banks will need it prior to allowing a loan on the house. Regardless of who pays, make sure you review the finished report and that all the recommended work is completed.
6. Moisture, mold, and toxin inspection
It’s important to check for moisture in any basement or below-ground-level areas. Moisture indicates a potential mold problem — if there isn’t one already. Be sure your house has a clean bill of mold health, especially in wet areas close to bodies of water.
7. Asbestos inspection
If the house was built prior to 1975, you will need an asbestos inspection. Asbestos can be present on insulation around ducting, water heaters, and pipes. If it is accessible and can be removed by an asbestos specialist, consider asking the seller to foot the bill.
8. Nonconforming-use inspection
The issue of nonconforming use does not require a specific additional inspector. It is usually a joint effort between your inspector and your real estate agent to determine if all additions and major changes have been properly permitted.
Converted garages, sun porches, or add-on bedrooms can increase square footage, but when completed improperly, they can add headaches when it’s time to make them legal.
Michael Corbett hosts NBC's EXTRA's Mansions and Millionaires. In addition to his regular segments on ABC's The View and Fox News, he is a national bestselling author with three critically acclaimed real estate books: Find It, Fix It, FLIP IT!; Ready, Set, SOLD! and Before You BUY!