You have a signed contract to sell your home. The only hurdle is the buyer’s home inspection. Even if you are selling the house “as is,” a smart buyer will insist on hiring a home inspector to ensure they have a complete picture of the condition of the home.
Even if you have been diligent with maintenance, unless you know what to look for, you may not even be aware that there are conditions in your home that a home inspector could identify as needing costly repairs. These kinds of findings could easily lead to the buyer backing out of the contract, forcing you to start over.
It’s not uncommon to have cracks in a foundation. Can you spot the signs of a serious crack? The home inspector can, and will recommend a structural engineer to determine the cause and specify the repair.
Foundation repairs can be as simple as sealing a shrinkage crack with a special epoxy. They could also mean tens of thousands of dollars in repairs to stabilize the affected area with carbon fiber strips, helical piers, hold-backs, or any number of other specialty repair products or materials. It may also involve altering the grade and landscaping around the house to correct the underlying cause of the cracking. Your home inspector will examine the foundation and report on its condition and any actionable items and what specialists should be performing the diagnostics and repairs.
Bad panels/Electrical issues
If your home is 40 or more years old, you may very well have problems with the electrical system. Having a few missing ground fault circuits probably won’t mean losing the sale, but how about dangerous electrical panels, active knob-and-tube wiring, or service that’s less than 150 Amps? To fix any of these is several thousand dollars or more.
There are brands of electrical panels that are known to have significant issues and could jeopardize the home’s insurability. If you have one of these panels, your insurance company may choose not to offer you insurance, or offer it only with exclusions and expensive riders. They may even terminate your existing insurance coverage, forcing you to scramble to find new insurance, often with a considerably higher premium.
Another showstopper is active knob-and-tube wiring. This obsolete wiring system can sometimes be spotted in unfinished areas, but almost always has improper splices and junctions hidden behind walls and ceilings. This old wiring can be a significant fire and electrocution hazard. Home Inspectors are trained to look in all the spots where they may not have gotten to, uncovering fragments that can tell the story to someone trained to recognize it.
Buried/Leaking oil tank
Underground oil tanks, especially older ones, could be leaking, and you won’t have a clue. The cleanup costs for a leaking oil tank can be astronomical. A badly leaking tank could easily cost hundreds of thousands to remediate — and these costs are not covered by insurance. Many inspectors will advise that buried tanks be dug up, and a new tank installed either next to the house or in the basement.
Some contractors may offer a lower price if you are willing to skip the permits; this is nearly always a sign of an unscrupulous contractor. It’s tempting to have home improvements done without pesky permits, but doing so could lead to problems with your homeowners insurance in the event that work leads to damage. The only way to ensure the work is done properly is to have permits and municipal inspections.
While lack of permits doesn’t automatically mean substandard work, an experienced Home Inspector will usually recognize the signs and recommend contacting the local permit office to inquire about the house’s permit history. This may trigger a municipal inspection, and the homeowner could be required to expose all of the unpermitted work to allow the municipal inspector to see all the electrical, plumbing and structural components. The project would then have to start all over with the appropriate permits. This can be messy, time consuming, wasteful, and very expensive.
Decks have a finite lifespan: between 12-15 years. Anything older than that likely has framing deterioration and rot, and does not have the safety features required for new decks. Deck collapses are catastrophic events, leading to not just property damage, but also injury or death to anyone on or under the deck when it falls. Replacing a small deck can easily top $10,000, and a lot more if it’s large and/or complicated.
You can avoid all the hassle by getting a pre-listing home inspection prior to putting your house on the market. This will let you repair issues, or disclose them and adjust your asking price to reflect what the house needs.
Don’t learn the hard way. Skipping the home inspection can mean nasty surprises down the road.
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