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First Time Buyer

If you’re a first-time buyer who just nabbed your first place, you’re likely in one of the scarier places in the real estate transaction. After weeks or months of looking, your new home is becoming a reality. But before you can pick out the paint colors and decide how you’ll redo the basement, the property needs to be inspected.A property inspection is one of the most important parts of the purchasing process, yet many buyers don’t know what to expect from the various players involved. Here’s a guide to the roles and responsibilities each of the players has during a typical property inspection.

You, the buyer
You’re there to learn as much about the property as possible. But you should have already done your homework before the big day.Prior to the inspection, review the seller’s property disclosures and know up front what questions you have for the inspector. Things may have come up during the marketing or during a walk-through that concerned you. Or maybe the seller disclosed that some unpermitted work was done in the basement years ago. Before you release your inspection contingency, know exactly what you’re getting into site espanacialis.org and that there aren’t any surprises down the road.Block out a few hours on the day of the inspection, depending on the size of the home. Nearly everyone from the transaction will be present, and these few hours can be critical. Most inspections go smoothly, but some can be the beginning of tough negotiations.

The buyer’s agent
Your agent should be standing by your side to walk you through the inspection. Good agents have been through dozens of inspections and know how they work. They should have basic knowledge of what to look for. Most importantly, they know what’s important and what matters in the big picture. If you’re getting a really good price on the home, your agent would likely advise you not to bother the seller for small fixes. If you’re paying top dollar and discover serious flaws, your agent can guide you on how to best proceed after the inspection.

The listing agent
For many reasons, the seller won’t be present during the inspection. But the seller’s listing agent will be front and center as the eyes and ears of the property inspection.By this point, the listing agent should be familiar with the property and is there to address anything that comes up. For the seller and the listing agent, the inspection is one of the last hurdles to get through and a big unknown. Issues, questions or concerns could arise during the inspection, which could kill the sale or affect the property’s value.That’s why many agents advise sellers to get a property inspection before going on the market, to prevent any last-minute unknowns or red flags.Sometimes, it seems as though the listing agent is there to “defend” the property against the buyer, her agent and their chosen inspector. Some feel the inspection is a “three against one” situation. It shouldn’t be.Though the listing agent is there to be an advocate for the seller, everyone should come with the same goal in mind: to facilitate a clean sales transaction.

The inspector
As the buyer, you hire the property inspector, who should be licensed by the state. You sign an agreement with and pay the inspector. Most buyers get a referral for an inspector from their real estate agent.The inspector is not a contractor, though some inspectors were contractors in their previous careers. While they may be able to shed light on what you can or can’t do to a property and its potential costs, their main purpose is to inspect the property, its systems and the overall state of the home.A good inspector will remain impartial and not be an alarmist, though they will point out things to be addressed. The inspector isn’t a part of the transaction and shouldn’t get into the nitty-gritty of your deal, nor would they want to.The inspector should look around, make notes and provide you with a detailed report as well as some feedback on future maintenance. Be sure to walk through the property with the inspector. Whenever possible, go where the inspector goes, go into the basement, venture into the crawlspace. It will be helpful for the inspector to point things out to you in real-time and demonstrate where the systems are and how they work. Also, some things are better understood in person than read about in a report later.

Your Uncle Bob
Finally, it’s important to understand why having Uncle Bob on hand during the inspection isn’t necessarily a good idea. While it may seem logical to bring a relative or close friend who is a contractor, be mindful that these people aren’t licensed property inspectors. Sometimes, the most well-intended people can end up causing harmful consequences. Uncle Bob may feel it’s important to point out as many negative things as possible, just to seem helpful. He’s far from impartial, however, and you run the risk of raising red flags when they don’t need to be.

Time for a huddle
After the inspection, you and your agent will likely huddle to talk about what went on and to strategize next steps. Hopefully, the inspection was flawless and you are one step closer to picking out your new paint colors. Or some additional negotiations may be needed after the inspection. Either way, it helps to know what to expect going in and to be prepared for anything.

Top Deficiencies
Buying the home of your dreams usually consumes all of your available resources as well as everything you can borrow. You sure don't want to wake up to an unexpected $3,000 repair bill for a new heating system three months after you move in.
Identifying subtle defects before you sign a contract can translate into a reduced selling price or repair of uncovered defects at the sellers cost. And don't believe that the seller is offering the house "as is", there's always room for negotiation. Of course, there is a limit to what any inspector can uncover because home inspections are visual investigations and destructive probing is not the standard of practice in the industry. The purpose of a pre-purchase home inspection is to reduce risk to the buyer, the visual inspection cannot eliminate risk.

EXTERIOR

Wear on a roof may be readily apparent if the wear is very advanced but a roof that is starting to age is a more subtle defect that may be harder to see. Resurfacing a roof costs thousands of dollars, and will cost much more if the existing roofing surface needs to be removed prior to re-roofing. If a roof will need to be resurfaced in the foreseeable future, this may be a negotiable item. Similarly, the siding of the house should be carefully inspected because residing a house can also cost thousands of dollars. Replacement of old defective windows can cost thousands of dollars, don't overlook this obvious defect. Eliminating problems before they start is smart, for example, ensuring that the land around the home is properly graded to divert water away from the home, this will help to reduce the possibility of water intrusion into the home.

INTERIOR

If there's one defect you don't want to find out about after you move in, it's a basement that floods. The basement areas of the home should be thoroughly checked for signs of water intrusion, such as water stains, mildew, odor of dampness, efflorescence on the walls and floors, damaged and cupping floors. In addition, look for water proofing systems, sump pumps, etc. in the basement; these systems can help to reduce the risk of water flooding into the basement but may not be able to eliminate water intrusion under all conditions. If a house needs water proofing measures, the cost can run into the thousands.
Proper insulation and ventilation in a home should not be overlooked; proper ventilation in a home is more important than most home buyers are aware of. Inadequate ventilation in an attic result in accelerated deterioration of the structural roof deck; if this occurs, a major expense will be incurred to remove and replace the roofing shingles and roof deck, and in extreme cases, the roof rafters. This is one defect that should not be overlooked.
The condition of the paint surface on homes constructed prior to 1978 may contain lead paint which can be a problem if there is wide spread deterioration of the paint surface. If you are planning renovation of walls, etc. after you move in, lead paint is an issue to consider.

STRUCTURAL

Bulges, deflections, and other irregularities in the roof, exterior wall framing, and interior framing, or cracks in the foundation wall may indicate a serious structural problem that may be the result of poor structural design, poor construction techniques, improper structural alteration, water damage, or termite damage. Jacking up a house to replace damaged structural components, or underpinning a defective foundation wall is a major expense.

ELECTRICAL SYSTEM


First, the size of the service should be identified to determine if it meets current standards; bringing an upgraded electrical service into a home can cost one thousand dollars. The electrical system should then be checked by removing the cover from the electric service panel. Once the wiring is exposed, problems in the panel are visible such as burned wiring, overloaded circuits (the fuse or circuit breaker is too large for the wire size), improper wiring connections, openings in the panel (where a child can put their finger in the panel, ouch!), home owner installed wiring, etc. In addition, electrical switches and convenience outlets in the house should be checked for open ground and wiring reversal conditions. Throughout the house, dead ended wiring and exposed wiring should be on the list of defects to look for. If the home is very old, it may have knob and tube wiring, this is ancient wiring and may be hazardous. Extensive wiring replacement can cost thousands of dollars.

PLUMBING SYSTEM


First, the type of pipe that supplies water to the house from the municipal main in the street should be determined. Be wary of old lead and galvanized steel water supply pipes, replacement costs thousands of dollars. The visible piping distribution in the house should be assessed for type of material and condition looking for deterioration, incompatible piping materials, and leaks. A moisture meter can be used to evaluate any suspect plaster or wall board on the ceilings and walls caused by water leaks; replacing the piping network in the walls and ceilings is a major expense that can cost thousands of dollars. All of the fixtures and faucets must be checked for proper operation, and also checks tiled bathtub and shower enclosures for integrity. Replacement of tiling in a bathroom, or replacement of a shower pan can cost a couple of thousand dollars.

HEATING AND AIR-CONDITIONING SYSTEMS

Look out for that old clunker that used to fire coal, it will consume fuel faster than you can feed it; plan on replacing it with a modern efficient heating system. Other problems include defective furnace heat exchangers, this type of problem is not always easy to uncover and usually means that the furnace will require replacement and this can cost three to four thousand dollars. Boilers that are starting to leak will also require replacement and a typical cost is three to five thousand dollars. In addition, be sure that the heat distribution is satisfactory and that the heat distribution piping or ductwork is in good condition. Safety concerns such as defective controls, inoperative emergency switches, and evidence of past malfunctions and carbon monoxide emissions must be carefully investigated. Be careful of special problems associated with radiant floor heating and other less common systems.

The central air-conditioning system should be tested (outdoor temperature permitting) to be sure that it is cooling properly; replacement of an air-conditioning compressor can cost two to five thousand dollars.

CONTACT

COASTAL HOME INSPECTION
ian@coastalhomeinspector.com
Rye, NH 03870
Main 603-380-5000