There are multiple types of home inspections a buyer can get before purchasing a property. Want to know if the home you’re buying has termites, foundation issues, sewage problems, or asbestos? There’s an inspection for that. What about radon gas, lead-based paint, or synthetic stucco with hidden mold? There’s an inspection for that too.
With all the different home inspections available, it can be a little overwhelming when trying to decide which ones you actually need. Here is a list of the most common types of home inspections a buyer can get. Most of these will require a licensed or certified professional but there are a few you can do yourself.
General Home Inspection
The purpose of the general home inspection is to determine the condition of the major mechanical and structural components of your home. It gives you the “big picture” regarding the overall condition of your home. The inspector will look at the electrical system, plumbing, roofing, structural components, heating and cooling systems, insulation, and more.
The home inspector is a generalist. They are familiar with all the components of a home and are trained to recognize their defects but further examination by a specialist may sometimes be necessary. For example, your home inspector may find a defect in the roof covering and recommend further inspection by a licensed roofing contractor or they may find an issue with the electrical system and recommend further inspection by a licensed electrician.
In Tennessee, the home inspection can only be performed by a licensed home inspector or by the buyer themselves. Home inspections in the Knoxville area start out at $300 to $400, with additional charges based on the square footage of the home.Spending a few hundred dollars on a home inspection now could literally save you thousands later.Click To Tweet
Wood Destroying Insect
The wood destroying insect inspection is commonly referred to as a termite inspection, although the inspection covers other wood destroying insects in addition to termites. This inspection is often required by lenders but is highly recommended even if it’s not required. During the inspection, the inspector will look for signs of an active infestation as well as any damage from previous infestations. If damage is present and severe enough, further inspection by as structural engineer may be required.
In Tennessee, this inspection is required to be performed by a licensed and chartered pest control operator. If an active infestation is discovered, it is the seller’s responsibility to pay for treatment. The cost of repairing any damages are addressed in the buyer’s request for repairs during the resolution period. Termite inspections in the Knoxville area typically cost around $100 to $200.
In a sewer inspection, a plumber performs a video inspection of your home’s sewer drain line by inserting a specialized camera into the line and pushing it all the way out to where it connects with the main line or septic tank. This inspection can reveal drain line build-up or tree root penetration, problems that can lead to sewer backups. Sewer line problems become more common as the age of the home increases, especially in homes containing cast iron or clay drain pipes.
Many homes in rural areas are on a septic system rather than public sewer. A septic system is an underground waste treatment system that typically consists of a tank and a leach field. During the septic system inspection, the inspector will verify the size and condition of the system and determine whether it is functioning properly. The inspection requires the tank to be pumped out, which typically costs several hundred dollars to do, so this inspection should only be done after the other inspections have been completed and any issues resolved.
You’ll also want to review a copy of the septic permit. This may be provided as part of the seller’s disclosure forms but if not, be sure to request a copy. In Tennessee, as in many other states, a home cannot be advertised as having more bedrooms than the septic system is permitted for.
Recently, a seller was trying to sell their home in Briceville, TN. The home was originally built in 1978 as a 2 bedroom home but a recent addition had expanded the living space and added an extra bedroom. After pulling the original septic permit, it was discovered the septic system was only approved for 2 bedrooms. As a result, we had to list the home as having only 2 bedrooms, lowering its appeal and market value. You might not think this is a big deal when buying a home, but it certainly will be whenever you decide to sell the home.
Homes in rural areas often don’t have access to public water sources. If you are buying a home supplied by a private well system, you’ll want to have the water tested to make sure it’s safe for you and your family to drink. Testing generally includes measurements of pH and water hardness as well as determining the presence of harmful bacteria and heavy metals such as lead.
It’s pretty common for homes on well water to also have a septic system, which creates an even greater risk for well water contamination. If the septic system is inadequately designed or isn’t operating properly, sewage could be seeping into your drinking water. Pretty disgusting, right? That’s why you want to get it tested!Homeowners with well water and septic systems should test their well regularly. Don't ask why. Just think about it.Click To Tweet
As part of your general home inspection, the inspector will point out any obvious issues with your foundation. If there are cracks or other defects, or you suspect there may be an issue due to the property’s terrain or geology, consider having the foundation inspected by a qualified structural engineer. If you are purchasing a manufactured home, your lender may require you to have a foundation inspection to certify the home is on a permanent foundation.
Mold can cause health issues in some individuals, particularly those with allergies or asthma. If the home you are purchasing has a musty smell, you should be concerned about the possibility of mold and consider having it inspected further. However, the lack of an odor doesn’t guarantee the home is mold free.
Mold is often found in wet areas created by leaky pipes, roof leaks, or water entering through the walls or foundation of the home. Chimneys, bathrooms, basements, crawl spaces, and exterior walls covered with synthetic stucco (see EIFS below) are all common areas where you may find mold problems. A visual inspection of these areas should be performed. If mold is found, it should be removed and the moisture source should be eliminated. The best way to control mold is to control moisture. Mold will not grow if moisture is not present.
Should you have a mold test performed in addition to a visual inspection? This is a test where air samples are taken and then sent off to a lab to determine the level of mold spores present in the air. According to both the EPA and the Tennessee Department of Health, mold sampling is generally not necessary. Currently, there are no EPA regulations or standards for airborne mold contaminants.
Radon is an odorless, radioactive gas that naturally seeps up out of the soil. It has been identified as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Outdoors, the gas is diluted in the open air but the danger occurs when radon accumulates in your home and its level becomes more concentrated. This can usually be easily remedied through additional ventilation of your basement or crawl space.
Since radon cannot be seen or smelled, only a test can verify its presence in your home. DIY radon tests can be purchased from local home supply stores or more sophisticated testing can be performed by a home inspection service that specializes in radon testing.
Nearly every county in East Tennessee is considered to be at moderate or high risk of radon. The Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee Radon Program support the standing of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that every home should be tested in order to know the radon level. You can view a Tennessee county risk map and learn more about the health risks of radon at the TN Department of Health.Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Have your home tested ASAP!Click To Tweet
If you are buying a home built before 1980, it could very well contain asbestos. Asbestos was used in many building products such as roof shingles, exterior siding, ceiling and floor tiles, insulation around boilers and pipes, joint compound used in the seams of sheetrock, and more. It had excellent insulation and fire resistant properties and was cheap to produce, making it a popular choice for building products. After it was discovered that exposure to asbestos fibers could lead to increased risks of lung cancer, its use in construction materials was phased out.
Asbestos removal can be expensive and requires a certified asbestos abatement professional using protective gear. If you suspect the home you are purchasing may contain asbestos, an asbestos inspection is recommended. You can find additional information on the health concerns of asbestos from the CDC.
Before it was banned in 1978, lead-based paint was widely used to paint the interior and exterior walls of homes. Exposure to paint chips or dust can lead to serious health problems. Children and pregnant women are at higher risk. During the inspection, the inspector will use a specialized meter to detect the presence of lead-based paint. If your home was built before 1978, consider having the interior and exterior walls inspected by a trained professional. You can find more information on the dangers of lead exposure from the EPA.
More commonly referred to as synthetic stucco, EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finish System) is an exterior wall cladding system that was first used in Europe shortly after World War II. The system allowed bomb damaged exterior walls to be quickly and easily covered with an insulated, water-resistant cladding. In the 1960s, EIFS began to be used on commercial buildings in the United States and later became popular in residential construction during the ’80s and ’90s.
The issue with EIFS installed prior to 2000 is water intrusion. If water gets behind the cladding, there is no way for it to get out. This leads to wet framing and sheathing, which further leads to mold issues and wood rot. Class action lawsuits were filed and there was a industry debate as to whether a faulty product or improper installation was to blame. After 2000, in an effort to address the water intrusion issues, the EIFS industry introduced a new installation method containing an air/moisture barrier behind the foam. If you are purchasing a home with EIFS that was built prior to 2000, consider having it inspected by a professional who specializes in EIFS inspections.
A survey gives the buyer specific information regarding a property’s boundary lines. A licensed surveyor will verify the property’s boundaries as well as identify potential issues such as encroachments, easements, or setbacks. Why is this important? It’s always a good idea to know exactly where your property lines are but a survey could also discover issues such as a neighbor’s fence or building that has been built on the property, or a utility easement that would prevent you from building on part of the property.A survey could uncover an issue that would prevent you from building on part of the property.Click To Tweet
If you are buying a condo, townhouse, or a single-family residence that is part of a planned community, you will typically be required to be part of a homeowners’ association (HOA). The HOA has community rules that are designed to maintain the neighborhood aesthetics and protect property values. These rules are outlined in what is known as the Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions, or CC&Rs. Many HOA rules are perfectly reasonable but sometimes HOAs can impose strict rules you may not be willing to live with. Since there can be financial and legal penalties for violating community rules, you’ll want to make sure you understand these rules and are comfortable living by them for years to come.
As a member of a HOA, you’ll also be required to pay monthly fees that cover the cost of maintaining community amenities and common areas shared by everyone such as landscaping, sidewalks, pools, elevators, etc. These monthly fees will be an added housing expense, leaving you with a smaller budget to cover your mortgage payment. Be sure to review the HOA CC&Rs thoroughly before making an offer on a property in one of these communities.
The final inspection is a chance for the buyer to conduct a final walk-through of the property to make sure it’s in the same condition as it was when the contract was signed, that all repairs or replacements that were agreed to during negotiations have been completed, and that nothing has gone wrong with the property since you last looked at it. The final inspection generally occurs within a few days prior to closing.
Do not pass up the opportunity to do your final inspection! Closing the sale generally constitutes acceptance of the property in its condition as of the time of closing.
The costs of having multiple inspections can quickly add up. On the other hand, foregoing an inspection can cost you much more down the road should an issue be discovered after you’ve already closed on the home. So what inspections should you have when buying a new home? Every property is different and not all inspections will apply, or even be in the budget.
At a minimum, you should do the general home inspection and the wood destroying insect inspection. If you have the budget to do additional inspections, you may discover something now that could save you thousands of dollars later. Don’t ignore the final inspection though. That one is free!
More About Home Inspections
- What Does a Home Inspector Look For? A Whole Lot via Realtor.com
- Common Problems Found During Home Inspections via HGTV
- Your 48-Point DIY Home Inspection Checklist via BiggerPockets
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