What to Expect in a Home Inspection
I'll be frank. There have been some homes I've walked into and wondered how the place had not blown up yet. Or better yet, the house that had a consistent gas leak while 4 children were living there. I really wish I were kidding but as my father-in-law loves to say, "You can't fix stupid."
With that said, you have a few jobs throughout the contract period, but one of the biggest is hiring an inspector. A thorough inspection of the property by a licensed home inspector (please no Cousin Nickys who happens to "know houses") protects you against structural or material problems that are not detectable in a casual walk-through. They're there to make sure that all mechanical systems are working properly. They may also spot repairs that need to be made.
Almost every first-timer asks the same question though: "What should I be looking for during a home inspection?" Well, I'm glad you asked!
Disclaimer: If you haven't noticed, I'm very forthcoming. So, when it comes to potential dangers in your soon-to-be home, I'm not going to sugar coat it, nor should you. Not every home will have these issues, but they're the most common ones I've seen. Remember, most everything can be fixed or replaced.
The Most Common Findings in Inspections
Electricity can be scary. You can 1. Electrocute yourself (see above) 2. Cause a fire. With Chicago homes the real issue is the fact many homes are older, so their electrical systems may be outdated and worn down or one of the sellers over the years thought wrong in assuming he was handy and tried to fix the electrical systems himself while further increasing the risk of a potential issue. I'm assuming most people would prefer to not literally get lit.
I promise you, there is almost always going to be an outlet that needs to be replaced with a GFCI or that is installed backwards but no biggie.
2. Heating & Cooling Systems
You've got your furnace and your air conditioner. Half of the time we aren't able to inspect AC units as it has to be at least 65 degrees out and well, you can't count on Chicago weather to give you that, but you can always check the furnace.
90% of the time, the inspector is going to ask that the furnace be serviced. Why? Because it’s recommended that the heating systems in a home are serviced annually to ensure everything is in a good, safe, working condition. Surprise--most homeowners don't do that, so hello dirty furnace.
What's a big issue though--a crack in the heat exchanger. The catch is a furnace can still run properly with a crack, so many homeowners tend to ignore it. That's like a doctor tell you that you have a disease spreading but it's cool because you seem fine. Um...no. Carbon dioxide and gas are now spewing into the air and the whole furnace needs to be replaced. No band aids here.
3. Water Heater
This can be the biggest facepalm. Water heaters have what is called a temperature pressure relief valve (TPRV). Basically, when the system gets too hot and builds up too much pressure, this emergency valve will engage and release the pressure. I've seen a few homes with either no valve or a valve that is taped up thus not allowing the valve to engage. When that pressure builds and has no release, guess what happens? Boom goes the dynamite.That heater will essentially turn into a rocket and propel through your ceiling. Did I mention valves are like $15 and a super easy fix?
Nothing majorly life threatening here. Pipes leak. It happens sometimes. Some homes still have the older plumbing systems so you may find a lack in water pressure or other issues, but overall, plumbing can typically be fixed. Occasionally a whole system will need to be replaced.
A major issue is when you see water spots in the ceiling. That means that there has been a consistent leak over a long period of time, and it should be addressed immediately. That's when mold can become an issue. Also, pipes can burst showering you and your things in an aggressive waterfall...but don't worry, you'll know when that happens.
Random Drop of Knowledge: If home is going to be vacant, keep your heat set to at least 55 degrees. If not, the water in the pipes will freeze and expand which will almost always result in your pipes bursting. It ain't pretty.
This is a no brainer. That thing over your head can cause a lot of damage if not maintained or installed properly. Take mine for example, the building did not keep up the maintenance of the roof, and one evening, I had the pleasure of watching water pour through the ceiling for hours on end. $30k in damages later, I got to live with Mom & Dad with my husband and our three pets for 4 months. It was real cute.
While exteriors seem like a pretty self-explanatory issue, they can actually be one of the most complex. There are many different types of home exteriors: brick, split-faced block, siding, etc. They're all maintained differently. Obviously, consistent maintenance is required otherwise you can have potential leaks which again leads to mold.