If you are in the market for a new home, you want to learn all you can about a property before you buy. Unless you are a contractor or intend to tear the house down, it makes sense for you to hire a professional home inspector to check all the systems in the house. By attending the inspection (everyone should), you will learn a great deal more about the house. Once the inspection is done, the findings will be provided to you in a written report. If there are big issues, these often serve as the basis for either the seller to have them addressed prior to the closing or to agree to provide you with a credit at the closing. Sometimes, in the case of severe issues, you may decide to rescind the offer entirely.
The 10 Most Common Issues Professional Home Inspectors Find
- Improper grading and drainage. This is the most frequently found problem. It is responsible for many common problems with cracked slabs and water penetration of the basement. Sometimes the property needs re-grading, and/or correcting gutters and downspouts so that they drain farther away from the foundation.
- Improper and undersized electrical wiring. Another common problem is electrical wiring issues. These include insufficient electrical service coming into the house, outdated aluminum wiring, inadequate overload protection, improper grounding of outlets, and dangerous amateur wiring connections. Sometimes there are so-called “double taps” within the electrical breaker box, which is when there are two electrical circuits or feeds attached to a single breaker. These issues often come up with do-it-yourself renovations and can be a serious safety hazard. Other common electrical problems are the lack of GFCI outlets in bathrooms, kitchen, garage, and the exterior.
- Older or damaged roofs. Asphalt shingle roofs only last about 15 to 20 years. Roof leakage caused by old or damaged shingles or improper flashing around chimneys or in valleys is a frequent problem. It can be easy and inexpensive to repair damaged tiles and shingles and to re-caulk the roof penetrations. But if maintenance is deferred, this can lead to major roof repairs.
- Deficient and older heating systems. Heating systems should be serviced and maintained annually according to the manufacturer's instructions. Common problems include broken or malfunctioning controls, blocked chimneys, unsafe exhaust flues, and cracked heat exchangers. These can be a health and safety hazard. Many homeowners do not have their heating systems serviced annually, so a common inspection finding is a dirty heating system. Home inspectors will normally recommend a cleaning and inspection of the heating system in this instance.
- Plumbing problems. Included here are old or incompatible piping materials, faulty fixtures, and waste lines, and improperly strapped hot water heaters. Leaks in the plumbing underneath sinks and around toilets is a common finding. This can be due to the incorrect type of plumbing material, a broken seal around a toilet, or even rusted/corroded plumbing. Older homes often have a galvanized water main. This can lead to poor water pressure due to the corrosion of the inside of the pipe. Newer homes are now utilizing copper water main lines which eliminates the water pressure problem.
- Structural problems. As a result of problems in one or more of the other categories, many houses sustain some damage to structural components such as foundation walls, floor joists, rafters or windows, and door headers. These problems are more common in older homes.
- Exterior issues. Flaws in a home's exterior, including windows that may be rendered inoperable, doors, and wall surfaces are responsible for the discomfort and damage caused by water and air penetration. Inadequate caulking and/or poor weather stripping are the most common culprits of a drafty house. Other exterior concerns are missing fascia boards, lack of weep holes in brick and stone veneer surfaces, lack of and/or improper deck flashing, mortar missing in between the brick/stone of exterior chimneys, and improper or missing handrails and balusters on porches.
- Poor ventilation. Due to overly ambitious efforts to save energy, many homeowners have "over-sealed" their homes, resulting in excessive interior moisture. This can cause rotting and premature failure of both structural and nonstructural elements. Ventilation in a home can greatly affect the lifespan of the home’s roof. Fan ventilation systems should be vented to the exterior of a home. A common finding relates to bathroom vent fans not vented to the exterior of the home, but rather into the attic or crawl space. The moisture from the bathroom vent fan into the attic can potentially cause mold problems. Thankfully, proper venting of a bathroom fan can be done fairly easily and inexpensively.
- Termites and other pests. Once termites and pests enter a home, the problems never get resolved on their own, and they only get worse. While ants and mice are not a huge concern because they can be addressed fairly easily, termites can destroy the structural integrity of a home. Sometimes inspectors will find damage that is so severe that carrying beams need to be replaced.
- Miscellaneous items. This category includes various interior components, such as sticky windows, peeling paint, and environmental concerns such as lead-based paint, asbestos surfaces, radon, and mold. These issues can have varying degrees of concern for the homebuyer.
It has been said that most people take better care of their cars than they do their homes. That's the opinion of many home inspectors, who often come across scuffed or dirty painted surfaces, crumbling masonry, makeshift wiring or plumbing, broken fixtures, or appliances that haven’t worked in years. Although some of these problems may seem more cosmetic than serious, they can reflect the overall lack of care that has been given to a home and should cause a buyer to think carefully about what years of inherited deferred maintenance will mean for them.
While this is not a comprehensive list, it contains the most common issues that home inspectors come across. If you have questions about any aspect of the home-buying process, our real estate attorneys can help. Contact us today!