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A buyer’s inspection is initiated by the home-buyer usually as a contingency to the final close of a real estate sale. These types of inspections are designed to assure that there are no hidden surprises for the purchaser.
Seller’s Inspection (Pre-Listing Inspection)
A seller’s inspection is initiated by the property owner usually prior to listing the property. It helps the seller to determine what systems and structures of the property need repair. More importantly, it helps the seller and the seller’s agent to accurately represent the home by disclosing damage to prospective buyers (which further helps to curb lawsuits). Damage discovered as a result of a seller’s inspection can either be repaired by the seller (to maintain market value) or used as a negoting tool by both seller and buyer.
Home builders often initiate a “warranty” on a house for a period of one year or longer which is designed to cover the costs to repair systems and structural-related problems during the warranty period. A warranty inspection should be performed prior to the expiration of the home warranty contract so that you can address repairable issues with the builder while the warranty is in-force. Otherwise, you may be fully liable for the repair costs on your own should you allow the warranty to expire prior to discovering defects. Warranty inspections allow you to take full-advantage of the warranty’s benefits which can save you from paying out-of-pocket for repairs that may otherwise have been the fault of the builder or OEM manufacturer.
A new-construction inspection is much like a warranty inspection except for the fact that the building and its systems are, in fact, new. Whereas a warranty inspection can apply to re-sale homes that offer a warranty, new-construction inspections are specifically designed for homes that have never been lived-in. Though new homes do not have the wear-and-tear on them that re-sale home may, various contractors associated with the construction may have made mistakes whether by accident or intentionally (such as taking “shortcuts” to finish the job faster or under-budget). A new-construction inspection provides you with an unbiased review by the inspector who acts as an objective and knowledgeable observer on your behalf to identify construction-related, code-related, and installation-related issues with home systems and structures.
Home Maintenance Inspection
Also called a “Home Health Check-up”, maintenance inspections are performed usually once per year simply to ensure the integrity of a home’s systems and structure. Because all things have a “planned obsolescence” period, maintenance inspections help to make the homeowner aware of immediate and upcoming needs for replacement and repair that could save thousands-of-dollars if discovered early-on.
Pre- and Post-Renovation Inspection
Renovation inspection services are new in the inspection porfolio. The justification for using a home inspector before major renovations are to be performed on a home, or after renovations have been completed, is the same as why you choose a home inspector to provide you with an objective review of a home’s systems and structure prior to the sale or purchase of a property. Damage or improper installation of home-systems found prior to a renovation may help to increase the success of the renovation. Damage or improper installation found after the renovation will help you to address renovation contractors with facts to initiate necessary repairs before the expiration of any warranties (related solely to the renovation), or before your contractors evacuate the premises with your money and leave you with sub-par installations.
Infrared technology has been used for many decades by military, police, and science organizations, but it is a new phenomena in the inspection profession. Using a hand-held thermagraphic device (camera), an inspector can see temperature variations on surfaces which indicate hot and cold spots along a surface. ITI device technology is so sensitive that it has the ability to see the heat signature of rodents under floorboards or behind drywall. In most cases, ITI-qualified inspectors use this technology to locate air leaks, water leaks, and the occasional “critter” in a non-invasive manner. It has been said that inspectors who use ITI technology have the ability to “see through walls” to locate damage or intrusion that a traditional inspection cannot find. Be prepared to pay a small premium for ITI inspections as the equipment used to perform these types of inspections currently cost thousands of dollars. You should also be sure to ask inspectors if they are ITI-certified. After all, anyone can turn an infrared camera on, but not every can properly distinguish actual damage from non-damaged areas when viewing your home in the infrared spectrum.
Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas. You can’t see radon, you can’t smell it or taste it, but it may be a problem in your home. Radon is estimated to cause many thousands of deaths each year. That’s because when you breathe air containing radon, you can get lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high. Radon can be found all over the U.S. It comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air you breathe. It can get into any type of building — homes, offices, and schools – and result in a high indoor radon level. You and your family are most likely to get your greatest exposure at home where you spend most of your time. Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon, and an inspector certified to perform radon testing is one of your best sources to preventing radon contamination in your home.
Home Energy Assessment
Professional energy assessments generally go into great detail. The energy auditor should do a room-by-room examination of the residence, as well as a thorough examination of past utility bills. Many professional energy assessments will include a blower door test. Most will also include a thermographic scan. There’s also another type of test—the PFT air infiltration measurement technique—but it is rarely offered.
Preparing for an Energy Assessment
Before the energy auditor visits your house, make a list of any existing problems such as condensation and uncomfortable or drafty rooms. Have copies or a summary of the home’s yearly energy bills. (Your utility can get these for you.) Auditors use this information to establish what to look for during the audit. The auditor first examines the outside of the home to determine the size of the house and its features (i.e., wall area, number and size of windows). The auditor then will analyze the residents’ behavior:
- Is anyone home during working hours?
- What is the average thermostat setting for summer and winter?
- How many people live here?
- Is every room in use?
Your answers may help uncover some simple ways to reduce your household’s energy consumption. Walk through your home with the auditors as they work, and ask questions. They may use equipment to detect sources of energy loss, such as blower doors, infrared cameras, furnace efficiency meters, and surface thermometers.
Synthetic Stucco, also known as Exterior Insulated Finish System, or EIFS, was first used in Europe after the end of World War II to repair all the damaged commercial buildings in Berlin. Synthetic stucco eventually came over to the United States and was initially used on commercial properties. Eventually, builders began using synthetic stucco on residential properties. Synthetic Stucco can be very beautiful as well as low maintenance, durable and energy efficient. It really does not deserve the complete black eye reputation it has.
Mold contamination can destroy property and deteriorate health. A mold survey can determine if red flags exist and if found, testing is recommended to determine the presence and type of mold. Remediation and clearances can be done to eleminate and prevent future infestations. Keep in mind that mold identification and removal is specialized work that requires special training. Not just any inspector is capable of providing this service considering toxic it can be.
Wood-Destroying Organism Inspection (WDO Inspection)
Sometimes called “termite inspections”, this specialized inspection looks for damage caused by any type of insecta, primarily termites that feed on, and nest in, the wood that supports your home’s frame, porch, patio, flooring, ceiling, and other places. Of course, not all wood-destroying insects are termites. Ants, bees and beatles, and various larva are also known for making a buffet of your home’s wooden elements and thereby compromising the soundness and integrity of your home’s ability to support itself. The damage caused by wood-destroying insects can certainly lead to the sharp devaluation of your property’s value as well as increasing the danger for occupants.
Well Water Testing
Properly constructed and maintained water wells can provide many years of trouble-free service, but wells can eventually deteriorate or become damaged and allow surface contaminants to enter the water. In addition, some groundwater can contain one or more chemical substances in levels above health-based standards. In some cases, contamination of the water can be detected by sight, taste or smell; however, many of the most serious problems can only be detected through laboratory testing of the water. Public water systems are tested regularly for a variety of contaminants. However, if you have a private well, regular testing is your responsibility. Well construction inspection and improvements, such as fixing a crack in a casing, are important steps in keeping your well water safe.
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