I have had many experiences in my combined 30 years in real estate, contracting and home inspections and there is none more difficult than when the home inspection reveals a defect the seller forgot to disclose.
This defect can suddenly takes on epic proportions because there was no disclosure, was it intentionally missed? Items maybe un-disclosed because of an underlying more serious problem. This can scare off skittish buyers. This is when a professional can be counted on to assess the defects and make recommendations that will put your deal back on track while at the same time giving expert advice to buyers.
Completing the Sellers Disclosure of Real Property and Condition Report is very important part of a real estate transaction. The Real Estate agent is also bound to disclose any knowledge they may have that would affect the property. That is why Banks, when selling under Power of Sale, sell their properties, “AS IS”.
Most people remember the cracks in the driveway, repaired roof leak, updated HVAC systems and the more visible defects. These are easy to remember. What about the cracked basement window or the slow drain in the bathroom sink? Did we forget to obtain a permit or get a final inspection on the electrical work or the sun room addition? The municipality of local building department can provide information for you.
Before your home is listed or a home inspection is going to take place, take some time to open all the windows to be sure they all operate properly. Make sure the heater and air conditioning system is operating properly. Check the gutters and downspouts for leaks and clogs.
If there was work performed, check to see the proper permits and procedures were followed. Check for any areas in need of paint or repair. Not only will this help you understand your home, you will also be able to address items that may need attention or repair. A small repair or minor defect, left unaddressed, could cause considerably more damage to the home.
Items that have not been addressed can indicate the lack of care to a property, therefore causing the home to take longer to sell and possibly at a lower price. The buyer may point out these small items using them to negotiate for a lower selling price. This is where an experienced real estate agent is critical. If there are visible signs of defects and maybe some not so visible, an experienced real estate professional can recommend a qualified home inspector to throughly inspect your home with you to point out items in need of repair, maintenance or disclosure.
If a professional contractor is needed, your real estate agent can assist you in finding the proper professional to address these items. Do not take chances when you are selling one of your most valuable assets. Remember Real Estate agents sell property and Home Inspectors inspect your property, dont get the two confused, that could cost you money.
Construction defects and safety deficiencies are quite common and are usually very visible, but the majority of home owners are totally unaware of them. Some, in fact, like standing water by foundations, can be found by the home owner if he just walks around his house after a heavy rain. People get used to seeing things and unless educated never realize the problem.
The following, is a list of common defects likely to appear in a typical home inspection report:
1. Roofing defects, caused by aging or improper installation are likely to be found on most buildings. Excessive wear in area of discharge from higher roofs is also a common problem. This does not mean that most roofs need replacement, but that many are in need of maintenance and repair.
2. Ceiling stains in many homes indicate past or current leaks. Also a good home inspector will be alert to newly painted areas of ceiling, a dead give away of a cover up going on. The challenge is to determine if the leak was repaired or will recur during the next rain. Discovery is not always possible. A good moisture meter will help you tell if there was any recent leakage.
3. Faulty ground drainage often causes water intrusion beneath buildings. Such problems can be pervasive, difficult to resolve, and may cause damage to building components. Soil compaction is common along foundation in new homes, which is caused by natural settling. Advise home owners to build-up any low areas to maintain proper drainage.
4. Electrical safety violations, either few or many, are to be found in the majority of homes. Examples are ungrounded outlets, lack of shock protection, amateur wiring “improvements,” and conditions too numerous to name. FPE panels have a background of problems and aluminum wiring was used between 60s and 70s, and although allowed should certainly be identified. Many home owners are becoming very adept at hiding their aluminum wiring. Pushing wire tight to breaker and running copper from nearby junction boxes to the panel are just a couple of means of avoiding detection.
5. Rotted wood is common where components remain wet for long periods. Exterior locations are trim, eaves, and decks. Problems also occur at walls and floors in bathrooms. Mold can occur in as little as 48 hours when conditions are right, always recommend a mold specialist if mold is suspected.
6. Code violations are common where additions and alterations are built without permits. Sellers often boast that, “We added the garage without a permit, but it was all done to code.” This is a red flag to most home inspectors. Recommend your buyer check with local building officials if there is any doubt about permits or code violations, there maybe property line issues.
7. Fireplaces and chimneys are often unsafe. Common causes are amateur installation of hardware and fixtures, exterior rust damage, or simple failure to call a chimney sweep. Most home inspectors provide WETT inspection services, mine is included at no charge.
8. Water heaters are seldom in total compliance with code requirements. Violations include inadequate strapping, substandard overflow piping, unsafe flue conditions, and faulty gas lines. Rental hot water heaters are usually installed by gas company and rarely have any defects in their installation.
9. Gas furnaces often harbor defects. These range from dirty filters to faulty combustion; from poor airflow to exhaust hazards; from noisy operation to inadequate fire clearance. Given the potential for major consequences, annual servicing by the gas company is recommended. Inspecting furnace filter and finding any build up is a flag that cleaning is probably required.
10. Faulty firewalls are common in garages. Violations include, holes, unprotected attic accesses, doors not fire rated, drywall that is too thin, and exposed wood framing. In Ontario, interior garage doors, require automatic closures. Many homeowners disconnect the closures to make bringing in groceries easier. There is no requirement to keep garage door closure intact after obtaining Occupancy Permit. This decision is up to the home owner.
11. Minor plumbing defects are commonly found, including loose toilets, dripping faucets, slow drains, leaking drains, hot water at the right faucet. Polybutylene Plumbing Lines (PB) (Quest) was installed in some homes and has been known to fail due to chemical reaction on fittings, this could lead to thousands of dollars in water damage and should be inspected by a licensed and insured plumber.
12. Failed seals are routinely found at thermal pane windows, resulting in fogging and mineral deposits on inside of glass. This is most common with windows manufacturer during the 1980′s. Casement windows can have faulty or loose mechanisms, cracks in glass panes and wood rot are also common problems found in many window units. Most professional home inspectors belong to associations that keep them up to date on newly discovered defects and product notifications.