A home inspection is just as important as the home you buy, and could save you from potential problems later on.
By Dwight Barnett
Scripps Howard News Service
Q: I'm planning on purchasing a home as soon as I can save enough for a down payment and I have been doing some research which leads me to ask questions about home inspections. Does a new home need to be inspected? How do I find a qualified inspector? If the inspector finds a problem, what do I do about it? _ J.B. Spencer, Ohio
A: You have been doing your homework. I can't understand how some people can make the largest investment they will ever make in buying a new or used home and simply rely on the good faith of the sellers. Every home sold should be inspected. Brand new homes will have some defects that need to be corrected by the builder and most builders that I know follow up with their buyers to fix, align and adjust things in the home after the buyer has moved in. However, the home inspector usually finds defects in the crawl space under the home or in the attic that the builder was not aware of and which often aren't brought to his attention early enough so that he is willing to make adjustments.
Homes are constructed by the builder who acts as a general contractor in the hiring of subcontractors to do the electrical, heating, plumbing, insulation, etc. What usually happens is one of the subcontractors modifies the work of one of the other subcontractors in order to do his work.
For instance, I just inspected a new home and found that the heating contractor had knocked large holes in the bearing concrete block foundation walls to run metal ducts through the openings. The builder was not aware of the problem and the foundation contractor was gone and had no reason to believe that the walls were now damaged.
I also find a lot of newer homes where the insulators are not installing the correct amount of attic and foundation insulation.
In older homes the problem is the same. A contractor or homeowner has made modifications to the original structure or appliance. The worst I have seen is when an inexperienced homeowner has added electrical circuits or modified the electrical wiring to the home.
You can find a home inspector in your area by logging on to http://www.onecallinspections.com/ and click on the ASHI logo or the ASHI-GLC logo. When selecting a home inspector, find one who is experienced in building or remodeling. They will have a better overall view of all the components that make up a finished home. Do not allow any person who has an interest in selling the home to make the choice for you. A real estate agent can provide you with a list of home inspectors in the area, but the choice of inspectors should be left up to you.
Once an inspection has been completed, the home inspector will go over the report with you, explaining the defects found as well as pointing out areas that may need maintenance in the near future. Several home inspectors I know provide a summary list of the defects that need to be repaired. However, they caution that the buyer should not rely solely on the summary list. It is the buyer's responsibility to read the whole report before writing a letter of "response to the inspection" to give to the sellers.
In your letter of response you need to outline the defects you want the seller to correct prior to closing on the sale of the home. In some instances the buyer asks for a monetary sum so that they can make the repairs themselves or they can hire contractors who will be responsible to them.
Selecting the right home inspector is important, so do your homework before you invest.
(Dwight Barnett is a master inspector certified by the American Society of Home Inspectors. Questions may be addressed to him at
PO Box 14091
Evansville, IN 47728
Or by e-mail at email@example.com)