You might be asking yourself, “what the heck is a Pre-Home Inspection, Inspection?” To put it simply a Pre-Home Inspection, Inspection is something that could save you somewhere around $500 and a lot of wasted time.
I have been a realtor for about ten years, and during this period I have been through a lot of inspections, some went great, some didn’t. Let's play a little game where I explain two different inspections, one that I consider went great and the other horrible. Oh and if you just want to know what a Pre-home Inspection, Inspection is and don’t want the examples just scroll down to where I wrote, ‘So what do you do to avoid all this,” it’s in bold a few paragraphs below.
Inspection #1, Inspector discovers the shingles are well past their expected life and need replacing. The interior ceiling has water marks, and the inspector thinks the marks are due to roof leakage.
Inspection #2, Inspector notices one of the support pillars in the basement is leaning slightly. The basement is finished so the foundation's walls are not visible. The Inspector finds a spot where he can just see behind the drywall and discovers that the foundation wall is crumbling. The reason why the pillar is leaning is that the house is collapsing. He isn’t an expert in foundations, but at a minimum, some major repairs are required, and possibly the entire house will need to be knocked down and rebuilt.
So which inspection went great and which went horribly? Well, you might be thinking neither went great and in some ways you are correct. However in another way you are wrong.
Inspection #2 the one with crumbling foundations, in my opinion, went maybe not great but could have gone much worse. Sure my clients lost out on the money they paid for the inspection, and the house is in trouble. But think about how much it would have cost them if they hadn’t got the inspection?
So what about inspection #1 why did I say that one went horrible, well that is the whole point of this blog post that I am finally getting to the point. In inspection #1 the clients were at their budget’s limit with the purchase of the house and couldn’t afford the repairs, they ended up having to walk away from the house, just like in inspection #2. What was the big difference, well simply put inspection #1 was completely unnecessary, a waste of money and a lot of time.
You see the inspection could have been avoided by the buyer simply looking at the roof from the street and noting that the shingles were in really rough shape. Then after noticing the shingles, taking a closer look at the interior ceiling would have revealed the leak. At that point, the buyers should have decided that since they can’t afford the repairs, the house wasn’t for them, or done something in the negotiations to try and get the sellers to fix it. What they should not have done was write the offer, waste a ton of time for everyone involved and most importantly spend $500 on an inspection.
This kind of thing happens all the time. People have a house inspected only to discover there are issues and walk away. For issues that they couldn’t have figured out on their own, that is fine, but when it is easily identifiable problems, that's a waste of time and money.
So what do you do to avoid all this?
Do a pre-home inspection, inspection. Don’t do it for every home you see, just for the one you like best and are thinking of putting in an offer on. Book a second showing through your Realtor and do a quick 20-30 min more detailed look at the house. You could very likely find something that would turn you off the home and therefore save you around $500 on a home inspection. Note I am not saying don't do the home inspection. Buying a home is likely the largest investment you will make in your life. Find a qualified home inspector to ensure your investment is a good one. Doing a pre-home inspection, inspection will help you decide if the actual inspection, and writing the offer, is worth doing at all.
Here’s what to look for;
Shingles- Asphalt shingles are the most common in Alberta, so that is where I will focus. Don’t bring a ladder and go up to the roof; the inspector can handle that. Walk a little down the street or find a safe place you can see the roof, bring binoculars if you have. Look for curling shingles or completing missing ones.
Windows- Check the framing of the windows, if they are the old wood style, look for rotting. In the windows themselves look for moisture, you can look at this when indoors as well. Also look for broken windows.
Foundation- Walk around the exterior of the house and look at what you can see of the foundation, there is usually a foot or so exposed above the ground. Look for cracks. Parging cracks are fine (image #1). The parging is thin and primarily just to look nice, so the cracks don’t really matter and are easy to repair. What you want to look for is in image #2 which is a crack in the actual foundation. They are not always the end of the world, but they are an area of concern. Make a note of any you find and where they are located so when you get to the basement you can check for moisture.
Grading- The grading (ground) around the home should slope slightly away from the house. If it slopes towards the house, then when it rains, or the snow melts, moisture will flow towards the foundation. If the ground is dirt or lawn, repairing isn't a huge deal. Concrete, however, can be a little more tricky. Mudjaking might be an option for concrete, they drill a hole in the concrete, pump a material in which then raises the concrete. Mudjacking isn’t overly expensive, but it is not always an option. If the concrete is old and has lots of cracks in it, you may not be able to mudjack which may then require having the concrete removed and repoured which is costly.
Siding/Exterior Finish- There are multiple types of siding/exterior finishes; vinyl, brick, hardy plank, etc. The biggest thing to look for is missing pieces. Missing one square foot of siding likely isn't costly, providing you can find a matching piece. The issue is depending on how old the siding is, finding more of it might not be possible. If you can’t match it, can you find something similar or will you have to replace the siding on the whole house?
Driveway- Similar to what I mentioned concerning concrete in the grading section. Concrete only lasts so long, and it is an expensive repair. Cracks are normal and to be expected, but when the cracks spread to gaps and dips between slabs, repairs can get costly.
Garage door- Open it, did it work great!
Fence/Deck- Give them a good look over and keep your eye out for rotting wood. Replacing a few boards is minor, but you might not want a total rebuild.
Electrical- So you probably aren't an electrician, and even if you are, you shouldn’t be opening panels and inspecting the electrical components of someone's home without their permission. It should only be inspected be a trained professional who has permission. You don't want to hurt yourself or screw something up. Aluminum wiring can be a concern. If the home is older and you are concerned about aluminum wiring, the best bet is to ask the owner's rather then try to inspect it. If you ask they likely won’t lie seeing as you are going to be getting the home inspected anyway and will know for sure after that. You could look (not touch) around the electrical panel and try to identify it that way also. The issues with aluminum wiring are easy to find online, in some rare cases, it can cause fires, and because of this sometimes you might run into issues getting house insurance. There are modifications that can be made to make it safer, for example, pig tailing. Again I want to repeat in case you somehow missed it but asking is the best route here. Test the light switches to see if they work though it could always just be the bulb. Another one is, bring your phone charger and check the plugins.
Plumbing- Look under all the sinks and around the toilets for water damage. If the home was built in the 1970’s to 90’s, look for Poly B plumbing. You can look online and see what the issues can be. Some people argue there are no problems with this stuff others think it's horrible and just a matter of time until it starts to leak. I am not a plumber, so I don’t know which is true, but you should know what is in the house you are thinking of purchasing and decide if it's an issue for you.
Foundation- Just like for the exterior, for the interior walk around the foundation and look for cracks. Not every crack is evil, but if the crack is large enough to slide a coin into, it could be an issue. Also look for wet concrete beside the cracks, puddling or signs of previous moisture on the ground near the cracks. Horizontal cracks could be signs of a structural issue so look for those as well. If dealing with a finished basement, things can be a little tougher. Look at the baseboards and flooring, discoloration or swelling could be signs of moisture. Look extra close below any windows; often cracks start near windows.
Flooring- If you see an area rug or something in an odd spot, maybe take a quick peek underneath. You would be surprised how often people try to hide carpet stains or flooring scratches.
Things I would love to tell you to do, but you probably shouldn't do are things like testing the stove, dishwasher, washing machines or running the furnace. Although I am sure you are capable of handling these, you don’t want to be on the hook for damaging something. If you really want to test them, then run it by the listing Realtor/sellers first.
That pretty much sums it up, there are of course other things to look for, but that should cover all of the big ones that may or may not prevent you from wanting to purchase the house. Though I have already said it repeatedly I will still say it one more time, if you do decide to go through with buying the house, get it professionally inspected.
No house is perfect, and they will all likely have problems, including some of the ones I listed above. Hopefully, this will help you identify the majors one without costing you more than an hour of your time. Once you know, then you can decide if you want to go through with writing an offer and getting an actual inspection.
Happy house hunting.