Home inspectors are quite thorough. Before you buy a house, they’ll scrutinize things you never thought to look at in your many walk-throughs, from cracks in stucco to how well the toilet flushes. In fact, their checklists include over hundreds of features, all with the goal of helping you decide whether the home is in good enough shape for you to close this deal…or walk. A home inspection can cost anywhere from $400 – $1,000 depending upon the size of the house and could save you many times more in repairs.
And yet, home inspectors don’t check everything. For one, conditions such as mold, radon, or asbestos that require laboratory samples or equipment are the stuff of specialty inspections, which must be conducted by other specialists. Here’s what home inspectors conducting a basic search aren’t eyeballing, and what you can do if you want to make sure your prospective new home checks out on all counts.
Electrical outlets behind heavy furniture
For one, basic home inspections evaluate only the stuff these professionals can see or access easily. That means if furniture is blocking certain areas, your home inspector isn’t about to throw out his back to lug it aside.
Home inspectors will gamely climb onto your roof and check for missing or warped shingles and make sure flashing and gutters are in good shape. Beyond that, you’re on your own.
Fireplace and chimney
Home inspectors will typically open and shut dampers to make sure they’re working, and shine a flashlight up the chimney to check for big obstructions like a bird nest. But that’s typically where their inspection ends.
Want more? A fireplace inspector can perform a Level 1 inspection to look for soot and creosote buildup, which could start a chimney fire. This extra inspection will cost about $80 to $200. If the home has experienced an earthquake or major storm, a chimney inspector will perform a Level 2 inspection, which adds visits to the roof, attic, and crawl space to check for damage ($100 to $500).
While home inspectors will thoroughly check the home, the ground beneath it might go largely ignored. If you’re worried about the land’s structural integrity—or whether it shifts, tilts, has sinkholes or a high water table—you’ll need to hire a geotechnical or structural engineer. For South Bay residents, think of the so-called “soils” areas in Torrance that contain fine-grained clay soil. For more info on this, go to the city’s website and search for “expansive soil guidelines”.
These professionals test the soil for an array of problems, but it’s costly. Maybe first check out PlotScan, a free site that will tell you the history of sinkholes and other natural catastrophes in the vicinity of your home and help you assess whether more research should be done.
Basic home inspectors will turn on pool pumps and heaters to make sure they’re working. But inspectors won’t routinely evaluate cracks or dents in the pool. For that, you’ll need a professional pool inspector, who will run pressure tests for plumbing leaks. He’ll also scrutinize pumps, filters, decking surfaces, and safety covers.