Short sales, foreclosures, government homes, private homes…what do these purchases all have in common? They are all just that, homes. Places people live, sometimes work, play, fix-up, ignore. Even if it’s pretty on the outside, and looks pretty on the inside, a Private Home Inspection is a NECESSARY step when you are buying the BIGGEST purchase you will ever make, where you will live, breathe and raise a family. If I had a dollar for every ‘perfume on the pig’ home I have shown, I would be a wealthy woman!
A home that passes a municipality inspection is just the starting point. That only means that the home in that municipality, is up to the local building, plumbing, mechanical and electrical codes. It does not mean the items inspections are in good condition. It is not a replacement for a home inspection by a qualified home inspector. Here in the state of Michigan, the last time our building code was overhauled was in 2006. All municipalities, if they even do inspections, do so with different criteria, and often on that inspector’s preference and not necessarily code. Some municipalities only inspect if the property you are buying will be a rental property, and not if YOU plan on living there. So if the listing ticket that your agent gives you says ‘C of O is done!’ that means the C of O (Certificate of Occupancy) is complete and the municipality will allow you to live in that home. It doesn’t mean that the home does not have issues that need to be discovered. And that is why you must have a Private Home Inspection.
Further, in the State of Michigan, one does not, I repeat, DOES NOT have to have ANY LICENSE, EXPERIENCE or otherwise to call themselves a Private Home Inspector. Yes, I hear what you are thinking. One needs a license to hang wallpaper, but doesn’t need a license to INSPECT THE BIGGEST, MOST IMPORTANT PURCHASE OF YOUR LIFE. Sounds a little backwards, doesn’t it? Well, hang on, because I am going to help you now unravel this mystery.
So what is the purpose of the Private Home Inspection? In a nutshell, it is an inspection that should uncover everything THAT CAN BE SEEN that you ever (and maybe never) wanted to know about the home you are ready to buy. Your private inspection should cover the entire exterior and interior of your home and any outbuildings. The inspection should include: Structure and foundation, Electrical systems, Plumbing systems, Roofs and Attics, Basements and Crawl Spaces, Gutters and Drainage, Walls, Floors and Ceilings, Porches and Decks, Garages, Property and Site. Some inspectors will have an HVAC person even perform a carbon monoxide test on the furnace. Some won’t. Ask your inspector so you can make sure that your furnace is not leaking carbon monoxide by having a licensed HVAC contractor come to your inspection. A/C units can only be inspected in season, so keep that in mind.
If the home you intend to buy was built in 1980 or before, you should have the Main Sewer Line inspection. I will blog on this later. This is an ABSOLUTE MUST INSPECTION and requires a plumber that has a camera or a scope.
Other items that you can have inspected at an additional cost: Radon-in-Air, Lead / Radon VOC’s-in-Well Water, Well water quality, Wood destroying organisms, Mold sampling, Septic inspection, Swimming pool and spa inspection (if the season allows), Asbestos and lead detection, Residential environmental reports. If you have a septic or well, you must have these inspected and some municipalities REQUIRE these inspections before you close a property.
Do not leave it to your Real Estate Agent to do your due diligence. Please call the Building Department at the municipality where you intend to buy the home and ask them if you need a well or septic test or a C of O to occupy. In some areas, you may have to go to the County to find out. In my area of Michigan, some municipalities require a ‘Roof Letter’ before you can close. A roof letter is a letter stating that you, the Buyer, acknowledge that the roof has “X” amount of years of life left. It must be signed by a contractor who holds a license in this field.
So the Private Home Inspection covers what you CAN see, and other inspections will cover what you CANNOT see. If you live in an area where Radon is known to be prevalent, have the inspection done. This is a naturally occurring gas and can be mitigated quite easily and inexpensively.
When scheduling your appointment with the Private Home Inspector, please be sure to mention any outbuildings, well, septic or other items that you want to test. It’s important that your inspector has enough time and the right equipment. If you’re buying a smaller home, you can expect a minimum of 2 hours for the entire inspection, much longer if the home is bigger.
What happens if your inspections turn up something that you don’t like? First let me start by saying there is no such thing as a perfect home. I have seen brand new construction fail a Private Home Inspection miserably, so the age of the home should have no bearing as to whether or not you have a Private Home Inspection. ALL homes have something, or some things, wrong with them. Your inspector will review all of these items with you. Some inspectors will have a list of ‘what you can expect to pay’ for repairs, others will give you a line item by line item cost, others will not give you anything and you will have to have licensed contractors look at these repairs so you have a clear understanding of how much money you will have out of pocket if repairs need to be made. Just because the inspection turns up things that are wrong, doesn’t mean that the deal is over. Your agent can help you negotiate these items with the Seller.
If you need help finding a qualified home inspector, please feel free to contact me. The money you pay out during this process can potentially save you from making a VERY expensive mistake (buying a LEMON) or give you peace of mind that the home you are buying is safe and habitable.
It is my opinion that the Private Home Inspector you choose should have BOTH ASHI & NAHI certifications. For more information you may go to: ASHI (http://www.ashi.org) NAHI (www.nahi.org). At these websites, you will see the criteria and education that it takes for an inspector to have these designations. It is expensive to belong, expensive to take the continuing education and maintain the designations. Any inspector that does this for a living is investing in his/her education year after year. And since the State of Michigan DOES NOT require licensing in this field, one must do what it takes to be as educated as possible when selecting a Private Home Inspector.
In the coming month, I will be addressing the issue of ‘Flipped’ properties, sometimes known as Rehabs. I will discuss at length what you NEED to know when buying a property like this and making sure that this ‘new home’ is everything the listing ticket says it is. Remember, with Flips, Seller(s ) DO HAVE TO DISCLOSE EVERYTHING THEY KNOW even if the Seller(s) has/have never lived in the home. Banks do not. If you are hunting for a new home, you will definitely want to check this out.
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