Home inspectors can’t ID every issue


Rich Duerkop, For USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin3:54 p.m. CDT October 20, 2016


Question: I asked my home inspector what kind of warranty or guarantee he offers, and he said none. Why is that?

Answer: It is impossible for a home inspector to predict what is going to happen in the future, especially if his or her recommendations and information in the report is not followed. Here are some great examples:

  1. Just because a basement is dry the day of the inspection does not mean that at some time you couldn’t get water in your basement. If I see old water stains in the basement, I suggest the home buyer monitor for future moisture penetration. Another thing I look for is the grade of the landscaping on the exterior of the home. Is there a gutter and downspouts with long extensions to carry water away from the foundation and are the gutters cleaned out? Sometimes even though there are not any signs of moisture penetration and everything appears to be in line, you get a heavy rain and moisture enters the basement. It is impossible to predict.
  2. A water heater is another item in the report. If a water heater is nearing 10 years old I would mention it is nearing the end of its normal life span. If it is 10 years or older, I would mention it is beyond its normal life span. Industry average is 10 years. Mine went out at 11 years. I have seen some go out at 5 years and have seen some still in operation that were well beyond their industrial average of 10 years. To help extend the life of your water heater, drain a pail of water out of the spout on the bottom of the unit every month. This will help get rid of the sediment.  If you hear your water heater rumbling and thumping, it is most likely full of sediment and the unit is working extra hard because it has to heat water constantly because there is very little room for the water because of the sediment. I have helped friends in the past pull a water heater out of a basement that was so heavy because it was full of sediment it took four of us to get it out and we were worried the steps might not hold because of all the weight.
  3. Furnaces are another category. The newer ones are especially hard to assess unlike the old ones. The new ones are sealed so the only way to assess them is by doing a carbon monoxide check at the closest register and the exhaust. The older ones are not sealed and you usually can get a good look inside for rust and cracks. If a furnace has a lot of rust flakes, I automatically recommend a clean and check. If the furnace filter is extremely dirty, that tells me it has not been properly maintained and should be evaluated by a heating specialist. I recommend some furnaces be checked and they weren’t and then they failed.
  4. Roofing is another unpredictable item. Sure, if they are brand new it is easy to say they are in satisfactory condition. But what if they are in mid-stage of life, 7 to 14 years old and are showing signs of heavy granule loss but are flat and show no signs of curling or cupping? I would mention in the report that the shingles are in the last stage of life and to monitor. Last stage means you might get some life out of them or you might get very little. It is impossible to predict how much life you will get out of them. Now if they are cupped and curled or they are showing open blisters they appear to be near the end of life, I recommend a contractor evaluate all roof areas. Remember never put new shingles over old ones. The recommendation is you can have two layers if the bottom layer is flat and in good condition. If they are in good condition why are you changing them? Never put shingles over cedar shakes, which I see often in older homes. I have seen up to four layers in some homes. If there are three layers on a home, even if the work was just done, all of the layers must come off.
  5. Another thing we don’t have is x-ray vision. A home inspection is a visual inspection only. We are not allowed to remove flooring or carpet. We do not move personal effects. If the seller has a large amount of storage, that could hinder the accuracy of the inspection, it should be removed by the seller.

You have to follow the items in the report that should be addressed. As inspectors, we try to do our best to protect our clients and do the best job possible and to offer the best advice we can, but unfortunately, we cannot predict the future.


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Should You Hire a Home Inspector for a New House?

Published October 12, 2016

When you buy an old house worn down by time and climate, it’s a no-brainer to hire a home inspector to check what shape it’s in — before you commit to your purchase. But should you hire a home inspector for a new house, even if it hasn’t been finished yet?

As odd as it may seem, the answer is yes. Here’s why new houses should get inspected, too, and the best way to go about it.

New homes can have problems, too

Sure, a new home may look flawless, but that’s because no one has lived in it to see if anything’s amiss. Ever notice how new products can be riddled with flaws that are caught only after they’ve been tried out by consumers? (We’re looking at you, Samsung Galaxy Note7!)

Well, the same is true for homes. Buy a new one, and you’re essentially the guinea pig testing how well the HVAC system works and whether the basement floods during a storm. An old home, by contrast, may have more wear and tear, but the owner is required by law to disclose any known problems.

New homes aren’t always built to code

We know what you’re wondering: Don’t county building inspectors make sure construction on a new home is up to snuff? They should, but that doesn’t always happen in reality. County inspectors work for the municipality and make sure new construction lives up to a minimum building code — repeat, minimum — plus these public servants don’t work for you. And unless you’re a general contractor or know nailed drywall as opposed to screwed, well, you just might be screwed yourself.

Reuben Saltzman, president of Structure Tech Home Inspections in Minneapolis, MN, says he’s found “egregious defects with every trade in new construction.” In one new house, he discovered that a contractor had failed to install attic insulation — not a good thing in a state that regularly sees below-zero temperatures in winter.

“The code inspectors missed it,” Saltzman says. “It paid off for this buyer to have a home inspection performed.”

Why new homes should ideally get two inspections

In fact, if you’re buying a home under construction, you should hire an inspectortwice. The first time is so he can look over the home before the walls are closed, and inspect framing and systems installation. The second should be after the home is complete, so he can inspect everything else.

Home inspectors typically charge $300 to $500, depending on the size of your home and where you live. While hiring one twice might seem like costly overkill, think of it this way: If you spring for an early pre-drywall inspection, the inspector will make sure the studs, insulation, home systems, beams, and posts have been installed properly. That’s a sneak peek most home inspectors don’t get to make with homes once the walls are up. And if problems turn up, you can take the list of complaints and concerns — an early punch list — to the builder to correct before the walls are closed.

Once construction is complete, ask your inspector to review the house a few days before your final walk-through with the builder. The inspector is trained to notice details that escape the unpracticed eye. Add these issues to your final punch list, and don’t fork over the final payment until each problem is solved.

If you’re not part of the construction process and buy a spec house after it’s completed, add a home inspection contingency to your sales contract and hire an inspector to review the property before closing. Not only will an inspector make sure the house and systems are sound, but if you accompany him on his rounds, he’ll also teach you how to operate and maintain your new home.


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‘Another set of eyes’: Inspectors are trained to review a home’s condition before a sale is finalized

Buying a home can be an enormous undertaking, from finding a reputable lender to making sure a place has all the amenities it can.


Even more important, however, is making sure everything is working order before signing on the dotted line.


Getting a home inspected before it’s sold is one of the most important steps in the process. After all, no one wants to be saddled with the additional expense of a damaged, dangerous or malfunctioning property.


Buyers should always review any written disclosure statement provided by the seller, but even a seller’s knowledge of the features and condition of their own home may be limited. An inspection gives the buyer another set of eyes reviewing the home’s condition on the buyer’s behalf before deciding to purchase.”


Although items to be inspected can vary from inspector to inspector, he or she usually will conduct a visual inspection of a home’s grounds, its exterior, roof, garage/carport, electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems, structural stability, attic, basement, heating/air conditioning systems and windows.


In some cases, more work might be needed from specialists, such as for sewer lines or septic tanks.


As a general rule, inspectors cannot inspect inaccessible areas or see through walls, so at the very least, the inspection will be limited in those respects.


Another point to consider is how qualified an inspector is.


The state of Kansas is one of 11 states that does not require a license to inspect homes. Because of this, it is best for buyers to do their research prior to hiring an inspector.


The most qualified home inspectors are likely to have extensive training and experience and will belong to reputable trade organizations, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI).


Continuing education is important for inspectors, too. Things are constantly changing and evolving in home construction.


So not only does an inspector need to know what to check in older homes — with galvanized piping being one example — but he or she must be knowledgeable about what is acceptable in newer houses as well.


When it isn’t possible to ascertain whether something is faulty or dangerous, An Inspector will recommend clients bring in more specialized professionals.


This can be relevant in checking for termites and other pests, but also for things that can’t be seen but probably exist, such as Radon a cancer-causing gases.


In homes that test above the action level for Radon, a specialist will drill a hole in the basement floor and install a pipe that diverts the gas away from the home.


Radon, of course, is an extreme example of what can trip up buyers and sellers.


An Inspector’s job isn’t to pick the house apart. It’s to educate the buyer and the seller on the condition of the house so they can work out how (any issues are) going to be resolved.

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