Whether your offer is contingent or non-cotingent, it is always dawn’s advice, as your broker and fiduciary, to obtain your own inspections. 

Once an offer is accepted and the transaction is in the “contingency” phase (usually in a buyers’ market), one of the buyer’s objectives is to ensure their understanding of the condition of the property they are about to acquire. Inspections are a critical activity in this “due diligence” period.

While many different inspections can be performed for a single-family residential home, the most common inspections are:

  • Home or Property
  • Pest or Termite
  • Roof
  • Chimney

The following is some general information regarding common issues that may arise during these inspections.  Note that you are free to hire any inspection company with whom you feel comfortable.  We are happy to refer inspection companies who have served us and our clients for years.  We tend to only work with inspection companies whose inspectors do not get paid commissions on things they find. In any case, we highly recommended that you attend the inspections in person.  This is a great opportunity to you to learn about the house through the eyes of the inspector, and to ask questions about any of the findings and recommendations.

Home Inspections

Home Inspections (Property Inspections) are a general inspection covering the various systems of the home.  They will typically inspect the structural components of the home (foundation, crawl space, attic, exterior, doors and windows, and interior walls and surfaces), the electrical, plumbing, appliances, heating & air conditioning, smoke detectors, C02 detectors, garage door, drainage, and water heater.  They will look for conditions that are not up-to-code or are not in compliance with current health and safety standards and codes.  They will typically comment on maintenance and other repairs that you may expect over time.

Home inspections usually do not include a comprehensive inspection of the chimney and the roof.  Inspectors will provide comments on things they see with foundations, drainage, etc., but they will always advise obtaining further inspections by professionals who specialize in those various areas (see below under “Other Inspections”). They also do not check for building permits.

Drainage is one area that is often a concern in our area, especially with older homes.  It is not uncommon to get some dampness in the soil under the home in the winter time.  Large accumulation of water under the home, especially in winter, is not a desirable situation.  If you buy an older home, you should pay particular attention to the drainage, and what improvements you might want to consider over time.

Cracking and settlement may be another area of concern.  This is normally a matter of degree, as some cracking in the sheetrock and concrete surfaces is to be expected as the property settles, lumber shrinks, earthquakes occur, and so on.  Extensive cracking, sticking doors and windows, and floors that are out of level can be a symptom of more serious settlement and/or foundation issues, so again care should be taken to understand and address these issues.

You should also determine the age of the major components of the home, such as water heaters, the furnace, and air conditioning units.  Pay close attention to the age and ask the home inspector what may be a reasonable expectation for the remaining life of these components?

Pest Inspections

Pest Control Inspectors are licensed with the State Structural Pest Control Board, a regulatory body that regulates termite companies.  In a Structural Pest Inspection (Termite Inspection), the Pest Inspector is looking for active infestations and damage from wood destroying organisms.  This includes termites, beetles, fungus, and dry rot.  There are two types of termites active in our area.

  • Drywood Termites swarm above ground, and randomly infect houses.  The most common way to treat these termites is to tent and fumigate the structure.
  • Subterranean Termites are more common. These termites actually live in the soil and migrate to the structure by building earth tubes.  These are typically treated by chemically treating the soil in and around the infected area.

Any active infestation or damage from either type of termites will be categorized on the Report as SECTION 1.

Additionally, the inspector will be looking for conditions likely to lead to infestation or damage, but where there is currently no evidence of any damage.  These are SECTION 2 items and are usually the responsibility of the Buyer.  An example would be a poorly caulked seam in the linoleum adjacent to a bathtub, or a wood support post in direct contact with soil.  While there may be no damage now, these conditions will likely lead to damage or infestation over time if left untreated.

Also, there is an additional classification known as FURTHER INSPECTION. This would be a situation where there is no visible damage (otherwise it would be Section 1) but there is a strong possibility in the opinion of the inspector that there is damage that is not visible as a result of the condition.  Typical examples of this would be loose tiles in the shower or loose linoleum on a bathroom floor.  It is your right to have these areas inspected, and you would be generally encouraged to do so.  It will always involve some disturbance to the materials involved (peeling back a corner of the linoleum or removing a tile in the shower).  Responsibility for the repair and the replacement of the material would be negotiable. In a Sellers’ Market, the Buyer would usually accept responsibility. If no damage is found, the Buyer is responsible to restore the materials to their pre-inspection condition.

Roof Inspections

A a roof inspection by a licensed roofer is higher recommended for most transactions.  It doesn’t matter if it’s brand new as we’ve seen brand new roofs not properly installed. A roof inspector will issue a report detailing the condition of the roof, and any repairs that are recommended to keep the roof in good condition.  It is important to ask the inspector how much life is left on the roof.

In general, wood shake roofs can normally be expected to last 20 to 25 years with periodic maintenance.  Composition shingle roofs can be expected to last 20 to 30 years depending on the materials used.  Coated metal roofs, tile roofs, and slate roofs can be expected to last well over 40 or 50 years.  Once the recommended repairs are completed, the roofer will guarantee the roof against leaks for a certain warranty period.

Chimney Inspections

If the property has a fireplace, a chimney inspection by a licensed chimney inspector is recommended (especially on masonry or brick fireplace).  The biggest threat is broken flue tiles or a crack to a chimney stack, which present a fire hazard and will require thousands of dollars in repairs.  On newer non-masonry fireplaces, the most common issues are related to separation of the panels or pre-mature aging of the refractory panels.

Other Inspections

Depending on the situation, other inspections may be appropriate.   Usually we start with the property, pest, roof and chimney inspections.  Depending on the results of these inspections additional investigation or a more detailed inspection by a specialist may be warranted.  Some other inspections might include:

  • Mold Inspection
  • Furnace inspections by your electric utility provider
  • Foundation inspections
  • Drainage inspections
  • Pool and/or spa inspections