Typically, we start writing about spring cleanup jobs this time of year. But with our recent snow, we suspect we aren’t the only ones who aren’t quite ready to dig into spring chores.
Besides, in the last two weeks we’ve talked about the importance of building inspectors and discussed if buying a fixer-upper house is a good fit for you. So today, we’re advocating that you hire a home inspector before buying any property you’re seriously considering as your next home.
Think about it: If you buy a used car, you might kick the tires and check out the interior — but if you’re not a mechanic, you often hire a trusted professional to take a deeper look before you invest.
A house is an even greater investment! Yet many people don’t think to hire an expert to “look under the hood.”
We highly recommend that if you plan to take advantage of the low interest rates and lower prices around here to buy a house, you spend a little money to hire an inspector for his expert opinion.
INSPECTING A HOUSE
After “falling in love” with a house, make sure that before saying “I do,” you hire a neutral home inspector to be your trained eye.
After all, a great inspector could save your actual marriage, lots of money and ulcers! Home inspectors are supposed to know what they are looking for and where to look.
Your inspector should be bonded, insured and preferably part of a reliable, reputable nationwide inspection association such as the American Society of Home Inspectors. There are others out there as well, the point being that they have lots of experience and a good track record. You may want to ask for a client reference list and then follow-up by checking with each reference.
Finally, your inspector should be very knowledgeable about our local housing “stock.” After all, a very large percentage of the houses in Grays Harbor are 60 years or older and many of them have construction details unique to this area.
The cost for an inspection will vary based initially upon what you want them to do. The price will then depend on things such as the size of the home, its age, the condition of the property, as well as the type of report you will require.
We recommend that you, the potential buyer, be the one to select and hire your own inspectors.
Ignore past inspection reports, even recent ones, because they are essentially only valid on the date of the inspection. Sellers can and will make changes to their property when problems are brought to their attention, such as by the last inspection of the property. You will want to have the benefit of your inspector’s eye on these changes.
Your inspector’s checklist should include the foundation, siding, roof, chimney, attics, windows, ventilation systems, heating and cooling systems, electrical system, plumbing, possible environmental hazards and even property drainage systems.
Also, if you’re buying in a rural area, make sure to call the county health department regarding the septic and water systems.
The inspector’s “Findings Report” should be a complete written report. For one thing, written documentation can be a powerful tool when negotiating the purchase and may serve as a clear list of what needs to be done before or after closing.
If at all possible, it’s a good idea for you to be present during the inspection. It’s often easier to understand an issue when looking right at it, rather than just reading about it later.
As far as inspections and your dream go, no house — especially an older one — is perfect. So, even if the inspector has concerns, it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy the home.
If there are major problems, you may wish to negotiate the asking price to cover some or all of the repair costs. But remember, if you decide to buy the house, its problems become your problems.
Some home inspectors also complete a pest inspection. Others will only recommend getting one if what they observe warrants it.
You are best protected when you, as the buyer, choose an inspection company and contract this service yourself. Again, they are to be your expert.
Like so many services, your best bet for finding good inspectors is by asking your friends, neighbors and co-workers about their experiences. You can also look up inspectors in the phone book and, again, ask them to give you client references.
A pest inspector’s focus is to look for past and present damage created by wood-destroying pests. Powder post beetles, termites, carpenter ants, dry rot and other fungi, to mention a few.
A good pest inspection will also identify any conditions known to create or support these problems. Poor ventilation, earth- or concrete-to-wood contact, plumbing leaks, inaccessible areas, standing water, wood scraps, even garden bark or wood piles located too near the house, can have dire consequences.
Older homes therefore, having had more time and exposure, may have more problems. But old or new, homes with good ventilation, quality construction and timely maintenance are usually less likely to have problems.
Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is executive director. This is a nonprofit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County. For questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or buying, call 360-533-7828 or visit 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen. Our office is fully ADA-compliant.