Most buyers understand that they should get a building inspection before they purchase a home, but getting a building inspection simply isn’t enough for most homes.
Standard Inspections for Every Home Purchase:
The building inspection is the bare minimum that should be performed before every home purchase. Unless you are a professional rehabber, you need a professional building inspector to identify the needed repairs and potential costs.
A basic building inspection will include review of the structure, foundation, plumbing, electric, heating & cooling, roof and fireplaces.
It is even possible to get the seller of an AS-IS home to agree to a building inspection contingency. The contingency can allow you to terminate the contract if you are not satisfied with the inspections. Even if you agree up front that you won’t ask the sellers to fix anything, you should be able to inspect a home before buying it to know what you are getting yourself into.
Termite inspections are really inexpensive and can identify problems that can result in thousands of dollars in repairs. Basically, termites are bugs that live in the ground. They dig tunnels, routing around, until they bump into some wood….their food of choice. Once they discover a food source, the entire colony will continue coming back and before you know it, they will have eaten through the wood framing and drywall that supports your home.
Since you can’t see behind walls, it is important to bring in a qualified termite inspector to look for signs of active termite infestation along with potential structural damage.
Given that Missouri has a high level of termite activity and that the cost of on an inspection is only around $80, there’s no excuse for not hiring a termite inspector.
According to medical experts, exposure to high levels of radon is considered the number 2 cause of lung cancer. Depending on the soil that is below your home’s foundation, radon gas may collect below your concrete slab and find its way into your home. The EPA states that all homes should be tested for radon gas levels in the air, and homes that have a level of 4.0 pCi/L should have a radon mitigation system installed. Radon mitigation systems completely eliminate the hazardous high levels of radon, and cost around $700 for most homes in the St. Louis area.
St. Louis City – 16%
St. Louis County – 29%
St. Charles County – 30%
Jefferson County – 32%
Franklin County – 32%
Testing for radon during a home sale offers two options. I prefer the continuous monitoring device that records the level of radon every hour for 48 hours. One of the main reasons that I prefer this method of testing vs the charcoal canister test method is that you can determine if it is moved or if windows and doors are left open in an attempt to tamper with the results. Locally, these tests are available through a radon inspector for around $175.
If you are not in the process of buying a home, you should still consider testing your home. A simple charcoal canister test is available through Lowe’s for $16. With 1 in 3 homes in the St. Louis area having hazardous levels of indoor radon levels, this simple test is one that everyone should do.
Additional Inspections that May be Needed:
Depending on the home, there are a number of other additional inspections that may be recommended. Some of the more common ones recommended by real estate agents and building inspectors are:
Sewer lateral line camera inspections
Most homes that are over 30 years old were built with cast iron plumbing for the waste stacks and underneath the home, and clay sewer pipes from the edge of the foundation to the main sewer line. Over time, these pipes can rust, crack or disintegrate. Repairs can be extremely costly since it may involve digging up the pipes under the concrete slab, sidewalks and driveway, and digging up the yard. Even though many parts of the St. Louis region have a sewer lateral insurance program, homeowners are always still responsible for any repairs underneath their home, and often are responsible for some of the cost of the repairs in their yards.
A simple camera test can show you if there are any problems with the sewer line. A sewer company will run a camera line through the sewer line from the base of the stack in the home to the main sewer line. For less than $200, you will be given a CD or videotape showing you exactly the condition of your pipes.
Building inspectors normally include a review of the roof as part of their inspection. However, there are time when the building inspector do not have access to the roof due to the height or extreme steep slope. In addition, building inspectors do not have the proper equipment to walk on a slate or clay tile roof without damaging it. In case where the building inspector is unable to walk the roof, a specialized roofing inspection should be obtained to verify the condition of the roof.
Fireplace & chimney inspections
Building inspectors also review chimneys and fireplaces in the standard building inspection. However, there are times when they will recommend following up with an inspection from a chimney sweep company. These professionals have the proper equipment to determine if the flue installed in the chimney is functional or if it is in need of repair.
Depending on the home and the buyers concerns, a buyer may want to get additional inspections to review environmental concerns including:
For more information on how to select a building inspector, watch for my follow up article coming soon.