Buying a home, especially if its your first home, is an exciting time. After deciding on your dream home and making an offer, theres a lot to do, including having a home inspector give your new home a once-over so you know what to expect after you take possession.
Having a home inspection is a standard practice when buying a home because it protects buyers from unexpected surprises, such as a heating system that quits the day after you move in or finding major structural damage that was cleverly disguised during showings.
A thorough home inspection should take about 3 to 4 hours and even then, there are certain aspects of your home that the inspector may not inspect, sometimes because of physical limitations of a non-invasive inspection, sometimes because of a lack of expertise.
Yard Inspecting the condition of fences, trees, underground pipes, septic tanks, and wells is typically not included. The inspection focuses on the home so if you are worried about the tall trees leaning over the house, you may want to have an arborist take a look.
Outbuildings Checking garden and tool sheds, greenhouses and other outbuildings may not be included in your inspection. If the property you are considering has outbuildings, you may want to ask your inspector to give them a quick once-over.
Hidden Spaces Uncovering issues behind walls or under floor coverings may be impossible, as inspections are non-invasive. As a result, your inspector may miss signs of mold or vermin or damage from termites or carpenter ants.
Code Compliance Checking the home against the current code requirements falls outside the scope of work for a home inspector so if you are considering doing a renovation, you may want to have your contractor join you.
Toxic Substances Determining if your home has asbestos or lead paint often isnt something included in a home inspection. If the home you are considering buying was built before 1975, you may want to hire a separate asbestos inspector.
Chimneys and Fireplaces Inspecting chimneys, fireplaces and/or wood stoves requires hiring a separate inspector who has the tools to do a proper assessment. If you have a wood-burning fireplace or stove, having it inspected will likely be a condition of obtaining a mortgage.
Geological Stability Checking the slope stability on a cliff or hillside property goes beyond the expertise of a home inspector. A geological inspector can even assess the potential risks associated with homes located on a flood zone.
Nonconforming Use Determining if upgrades to the property were properly permitted goes beyond the scope of a home inspection. If you are buying a property with recent upgrades, check that they were approved.
As with anything, hiring a home inspector is a matter of buyer beware. Ask for recommendations and before hiring an inspector, ask for a checklist of things that are and arent included in the inspection. If your home inspector doesnt include aspects of the home that you are concerned about, consider hiring additional experts to give you an opinion.