Common Home Inspection Issues
Home inspectors provide a valuable service to home buyers and the home inspection is a critical step in the escrow process. Today's ultra-competitive real estate environment requires Sellers to protect themselves from over-zealous Buyers and their agents who may be using a home inspection to renegotiate the contract.
In the interest of making everyone's life a little easier, we've compiled a list of common issues that seem to pop up on nearly every inspection report. Go ahead and knock these out before you put that sign in the yard!
1. Trees & shrubs touching the home.
This is literally, the 'low hanging fruit' of home inspections. And we see it on nearly every report!
Why is it a problem? When the wind blows, tree limbs rub against the home damaging siding and roofing. It's probably the most common cause of damaged shingles along the roof edge. Damaged shingles lead to leaks, wood rot and mold. Also, limbs touching the home create a bridge to the home for rodents, insects and other unwanted pests. Don't make it easy for rats to get in your attic or crawlspace!
How to fix it? You may be able to take care of this yourself with a ladder and a set of loppers. For sections that are too high or dangerous for your own comfort and skill level, hire a landscaper or reputable tree service.
2. GFCI outlet doesn't trip.
GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor. These are the outlets with the little 'Test' and 'Reset' buttons that you typically find near wet areas like kitchens, bathrooms and outside. They are designed to 'trip' when tested/exposed to moisture or a short in the line. It's a safety precaution to avoid electrocution if your hair dryer falls in the bathtub and they tend to wear out over time - especially the ones outside exposed to the elements.
Why is it a problem? It's a safety issue. If the GFCI outlets don't trip as designed then you're running the risk of electrical shock or fire. Their use in wet areas has required by building codes for decades.
How to fix it? Hire a licensed electrician. The materials cost to replace the outlets isn't terrible and you can find them at any hardware store. Sometimes the outlet is working fine but there is something down the line that isn't working correctly (like a bad connection) or another outlet that just needs to be reset. A licensed electrician can help you locate the source of the problem and fix it pretty quickly. While you're at it, have the electrician check your panel for double tapped and oversized breakers - also commonly found in a home inspection.
3. Fogged windows.
Modern double pane windows have a gasket that holds argon gas between the panes to provide insulation. When that seal breaks down, the windows tend to fog and appear dirty. Take a close look at the inside edges of fogged window panes and look for cracking in the gasket.
Why is it a problem? When the seal is broken, the window can't do it's job of insulating the home from exterior heat and cold. It can also result in moisture intrusion into the window sill which will eventually lead to rot. Most importantly, Buyers will try to use that defect as leverage to negotiate for new windows. Very expensive!
How to fix it? You don't necessarily need to replace the entire window. Many local glass shops and window repair companies can replace the double pane windows and keep the window sashes in place. This is a much less expensive option and it will save you money in power bills too! Also, check for loose or broken hardware that affects the windows ability to latch securely and balance in an open position.
4. Drain pan is clogged or missing.
If your washing machine and/or water heater is located inside the home then it should be set inside a drain pan. The same holds true for your HVAC air handler. Many people forget to install a drain pan underneath this equipment and it's an obvious deduction on the home inspection report.
Why is it a problem? These major household components handle large volumes of water or condensation and are therefore susceptible to leaking. The drain pan protects your home from water overflow that could lead to a disastrous insurance claim - when it's in place. Even if it is there, check the drain line to ensure it is flowing freely. Otherwise, the pan can only hold so much excess liquid and it will overflow too!
How to fix it? The pans themselves aren't expensive. Getting them underneath your water heater or washing machine is the trouble. The safe bet is to hire a plumber to drain your water heater, disconnect the lines and lift it up so a pan can be slid underneath and connected to a drain line. For the washing machine, you can probably just enlist the help of a friend or neighbor to pick it up and slide the pan underneath. Most HVAC units already have a pan but they get clogged easily. If you're not on a regular maintenance schedule with an HVAC company (you should be), you can pour a capful of germicidal bleach down the drain to clear it. This is better done as routine maintenance so don't wait til the last minute. While you're up there, check for rust and corrosion of the pan.
5. Dirty air filters.
You know you're supposed to change them every month, right? If you're like most people, you might forget sometimes. Guilty! If the Buyers see an air return caked with lint and dust, chances are they'll bail out before even considering making you an offer. If they overlook it, then you can be certain the home inspector will find it.
Why is it a problem? The air filter needs to be replaced regularly so the air returning to the handler is clean and particle free. Otherwise, those particles get into your system and wreak havoc. When the filter gets too dirty the air handler has to work extra hard to pull air through the system and that isn't good. Making your unit work harder than necessary shortens the lifespan and an aging unit can't heat or cool efficiently.
How to fix it? Duh...change your air filter! Replace them before your list your home and change them regularly. You should be doing this already so please don't forget while your home is on the market. Also, wipe down all the metal registers with vinegar and water to remove dust particles and mildew. Some might even need replacement or paint if they're too far gone. For older systems, it's not a bad idea to have them serviced prior to listing and document that they are functioning properly.
These are the simplest fixes that we see all the time and they're totally avoidable. Bear in mind that home inspectors are trained professionals who are extremely thorough by design. Buyers pay hundreds of dollars to find every problem they can so you should expect something to come back in the final report. If you can address these simple and obvious problems beforehand, then you're taking some chips off the table before the game ever starts. Plus, it's always cheaper and easier to do these repairs on your own terms rather than under pressure when you're trying to focus on packing, closing and moving out.
And remember, an experienced and professional Realtor like Matt DeAntonio can guide you through that inspection process whether you're buying or selling.
"As Is" Sales
Sometimes you just don't want to deal with repairs. That's okay.
Watch this video and learn how Sellers can flip the script by using a Pre-Listing Home Inspection to procure an "As Is" Sale with no repairs or concessions.