After you find a home that is aesthetically appealing, the next step is to ensure the house is in top condition with a home inspection. Once the buyer and seller have settled on price, it's the last safeguard for the buyer to know that the soon-to-be-purchased home is really worth the money inside and out. But a home inspection is never a guarantee that your new home is going to be in perfect working order. (For more, see Do You Need A Home Inspection?)
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- Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC) are one of the top problems that home inspectors can miss, says Mark Vuncannon, a broker with Allen Tate Realtors in Asheboro, North Carolina, because the technicians may be reluctant to run the air conditioning in extreme cold, or to check the heat in blistering heat. "The inspectors do this because they do not want to do damage by running the unit too long in adverse conditions or they do not want to be held responsible for repairs if it breaks a few days after the new homeowner moves in," he says.
When the home inspection report is issued, it usually contains a disclaimer that relieves inspectors of this liability. To cover any glitches with your heating and cooling systems down the road, Vuncannon recommends having the system checked by a licensed specialist separate from the home inspection.
- Roof Leaks
The number-one culprit to slip through a home inspection is roof leaks, according to Reggie Marston, president of Residential Equity Management Home Inspections in Springfield, Virginia. That's because home inspectors don't physically access the roof to check on its condition, he explains. Instead, inspectors generally examine the roof from ground level with binoculars or when possible, they'll look out higher level windows to get a view of roofing below. Inspectors will note torn or missing shingles and nail pops that may or may not be indicative of a full-fledged problem. To guarantee that you are buying a house with a durable roof, Marston suggests hiring a licensed roof contractor to provide a full evaluation of its state.
- Faulty Appliances
Part of a home inspection is checking that all major appliances are functioning properly. Marston says that this is the second most likely flaw to be overlooked in a home inspection. To confirm that all appliances are in working order, a technician will run them through one or two cycles to make sure there's no trouble, such as a leaking refrigerator or a smoking dryer.
However, the check is only a neutral source confirming that the appliances work, not an internal or technical diagnostic of the appliance. That means an appliance could work fine the day the inspector tests it, and flare-up on move-in day when the seller has already been absolved of any responsibility. (For more, check out The 10 Worst First-Time Homebuyer Mistakes.)
- Damaged Siding and Windows
According to Marston, real estate contracts are structured so that major systems, such as electric and plumbing, are reviewed and obligate the seller to fix any deficiencies to complete the sale. But other imperfections that fall outside of the contract's purview may go unrepaired. For example, in past inspections, Marston says he has noted that damaged siding or old windows that the seller is not required to fix, but that could develop into a much bigger problem later. (For a related reading, see 4 Types Of Home Renovations: Which Ones Boost Value?)
- Under the Carpet
Inspectors look for evidence of significant wear that are in plain view, but the things that can't be seen pose a risk, says Chobee Hoy, Owner of Chobee Hoy Realty Associates, Inc. She recommends shadowing an inspector to have them look at concerns you have about the house and probing what is under some moldy carpet or is lurking behind paneling, adding that buyers can seek sellers' permission to remove superficial facades for the inspector to take a deeper look.
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What to Do Next
If the home inspector reports a problem with your dream home, the process doesn't end here. Next, it's up to you to hire specialists - whether it's a roof contractor or an air conditioning technician - to fully investigate the problem at hand. It may run you a few hundred dollars upfront, but that's a savings compared to the thousands of dollars unreported or unresolved problems could costs after the sale has been finalized. (For a step-by-step walkthrough of the home buying process check out our Buying A Home Tutorial.)