Having put an initial deposit down on a home you hope to buy, the next step is often to have a professional inspection done. Many mortgage lenders require a home inspection, but the process is also essential to alert you to any potentially expensive problems that could be used as a point of negotiation in the sale. And of course, a home inspection can also prevent you from making one of the biggest financial mistakes you’ll ever make by revealing when it’s best to walk away. To help ensure that you buy the home that makes good financial sense for you and that you negotiate from a position of strength, pay extra attention when your home inspector points out any issues with the following:
Signs of water leaks, excess moisture, and poor drainage: Water damage is a major cause for concern as it one of the most costly issues to fix—often resulting in structural problems, dry rot, and even toxic mold. Moisture stains in and around the ceiling, walls or windows are all red flags. If a home has water leaks or an area containing standing water, there could be a number of culprits such as a worn roof that’s no longer watertight, problems with the plumbing system, or cracks in windows. In terms of runoff, water should drain away from the home along its edges, although you may be able to improve drainage by adding roof gutters and downspouts.
Any problems with the foundation: If a home inspection uncovers problems with a home’s foundation, you’ve got a potential deal breaker on your hands. Structural weaknesses come with a steep price, and depending on their severity, you may just want to walk away from the home at this point. While some cracks in a home’s structure are common, others are highly problematic. If it’s unclear from the home inspection which kind you have on your hands, consult an engineer who specializes in this area to make a more detailed evaluation.
Faulty electrical wiring: Worn, outdated or poorly constructed electrical systems are a leading cause of house fires and should be addressed at the outset. Although issues with electrical wiring are most often found in older homes without an adequate supply of power outlets, newer homes are also susceptible to problems. In older homes, watch out for extension cords that run throughout the home from room to room as they can create a hazard. What you especially don’t want to find in homes built pre-1960: a “knob and tube” style electrical system, which requires replacing the entire electrical system in order to bring it up to code—often knocking down walls in the process. Regardless of the age of a home, exposed electrical wires also pose a danger that can cause catastrophic damage.
A roof that needs replacing: With the price of a new roof often running anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to more than one hundred thousand dollars, the condition of the roof should be right at the top of the list of what you should know about the property you’re considering buying. Determining if a roof needs replacing is best left to the professionals who will need to do a thorough evaluation since you can’t accurately assess what shape a roof is in simply from looking at it from the outside. If your home inspector indicates that the roof needs work, your best bet may be to get a more complete picture from a qualified roofer.
Black mold: Not only is black mold a serious health hazard that is highly expensive to eliminate and keep from recurring, it also usually points to more problems with a home such as structural weaknesses or a plumbing system in need of major repair. During a test for moisture conditions in a home, a home inspector may also test the air quality for the presence of mold spores. To protect your health and your finances, find out whether your home inspection will include this step.
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