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One of the most important steps in buying a house is hiring an inspector to perform a general home inspection. The inspector will ensure that there are no major problems with the structure of your future property. They’ll check the foundation, walls, electrical system, and other major components of the house. It’s a great way to protect your peace of mind before making one of the largest purchases of your life.
However, homebuyers need to understand that a general home inspection does not cover every single inch of the home. These inspections target basic, visible problems, but there are many areas of a home that are not included. Depending on the location and features of your home, you may need additional specialized inspections.
General home inspections typically don’t cover outdoor fixtures. This includes hot tubs, docks (when the home is on a waterfront), and the classic example, swimming pools. If the home that you are purchasing has a pool, the general inspection most likely won’t cover it at all.
This doesn’t mean that you should leave the pool to chance. Instead, you can hire a specialized pool inspector to make sure that it is in good shape. These inspectors can also examine hot tubs, and other inspectors specialize in many additional outdoor fixtures.
Inside Walls and Underground
Since a general home inspection only focuses on visible problems, the inspector typically won’t catch anything wrong inside the walls or underground. Enclosed wires and pipes are not part of a general home inspection. One of the basic rules of thumb of a general home inspection is to not do anything that would physically alter the house. There’s no way for an inspector to check inside the walls or underground without breaking this rule.
Similarly, you shouldn’t expect an inspector to look under the carpet or even behind pictures and furniture. If the seller hasn’t moved out yet, some of their belongings might be obscuring problems with the house. You can ask the seller to move their furniture out of the way or double-check these areas during your final walkthrough before closing.
Tight Crawl Spaces
There are some areas that a general home inspection may or may not cover depending on the individual inspector. These include areas that are hard, but not impossible, to reach, such as tight crawl spaces. A home inspector is never required to do anything that they think might put their safety at risk, so many of these areas end up becoming judgment calls for the individual inspector.
An inspector might be willing to check a big crawl space free of obstructions but draw the line at a small crawl space with exposed nails. You can ask the inspector for their checklist ahead of time so that you have a general idea of which areas of the house they are most likely to check. You should also make sure to attend the inspection so that you know exactly which areas of the home were examined and which were skipped.
Alternative Electrical Systems
Most general home inspections will do a quick check of the electrical system, but don’t count on a general inspector to thoroughly examine complex electrical setups. For example, if your new home has an alternative energy source, such as solar panels, this will fall outside the purview of a general home inspection. A general inspection is limited to more basic components like outlets and light switches.
If you are purchasing a home with solar panels, complex battery systems, hydrothermal energy, alarm systems, or any other complex electrical systems, consider hiring a specialist electrician to perform an additional inspection. They will be able to tell you whether these systems are working properly, and if not, what work you’ll need to get them running smoothly.
One of the most important questions to ask your general home inspector is whether they check for pests. In some regions, a pest inspection is part of a general home inspection. In most regions, it is not.
However, even though a pest inspection normally isn’t included, it is incredibly important, especially in wooden homes or areas with known pest problems. Pest infestations, including the dreaded termites, can seriously devalue a home. It’s important to spot and treat any infestations before closing. Therefore, most homebuyers should order a pest inspection in addition to their general home inspection.
General home inspections are a helpful tool for prospective homebuyers, but they aren’t necessarily the only home inspection that you’ll need. Most homebuyers should also consider a specialized pest inspection. You may even need additional specialized inspectors depending on the unique features of your home. These inspections will cost you a few hundred dollars but have the potential to save you tens of thousands by helping you spot costly problems before you buy your house.
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