A home inspection is a fairly standard part of the home buying process. What many first time homebuyers do not know is that your standard home inspection is not going to cover absolutely everything. Even after some homeowners get a clean inspection report they may find themselves buried in repair or replacement costs. To avoid these pitfalls it is important to understand what your home inspection covers, as well as what your home inspection might not uncover.
A home inspection is meant to uncover any defects in materials or hazardous conditions that may be unsafe. Structurally the property will be checked for defects and visually for anything that looks to be broken or not in working order. What the standard home inspection does not cover is environmental hazards. Checking for lead based paint, asbestos and radon is not generally included, so it will be up to you to determine if the home you wish to purchase is at risk for these environmental hazards. If the home was built prior to 1978, you should probably have it tested for lead based paint. Basements with 9-inch square floor tile could have asbestos. Be informed about potential risks and arrange for the appropriate inspections.
A home inspector might not see evidence of mold or mice, or other vermin if it is hidden behind baseboards or underneath flooring. It will be up to you to direct your home inspector to look for these issues if you feel there might be a problem.
Child safety issues in a home are not something that a home inspector will look for. Older homes may have issues with railing widths, homes with pools that are not fenced properly for safety, these are things that you the homebuyer should make note of. Many of these safety issues only exist if there are young children in the house. If you have children who are older, these it may not be a problem if the stair railings are more than four inches apart or if the kitchen cabinets do not lock. If you are a young couple with small children, or if you have plans to have children, you might want to budget for these safety fixes down the road.
The best way to ensure that you avoid as many unpleasant surprises as possible after closing is to do your due diligence before closing. Interview home inspectors and find the one that is right for you. These are services that you pay for so do not feel like you must accept whomever your real estate agent suggests. The more issues that are uncovered before you buy, the more opportunity you will have to get the seller to assist with the cost of the repairs. An informed buyer is a smart buyer. Know what your standard home inspection might not cover and make sure you get the inspections you need to protect yourself and your investment.
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About David Goldstein — David Goldstein is an Owner and Founding Partner of Colibri Real Estate, LLC. which operates online education providers Colibri Real Estate, Insurance License Express and License Tutor. Follow him on Twitter.