The following is a news article published bi-weekly in The Home Magazine of The Provo Daily Herald

Self-inspections don't reveal all of the home's secrets

Buyers have many tools at their disposal to help them in their decision to buy a home. Ultimately, the final decision is theirs to make and it's a decision they literally have to live with. Many buyers feel that when it comes to inspecting the potential dream home that their own self-inspection is sufficient.

I bump into people almost daily who have purchased their home using only their own home inspection abilities and their response to me is exactly the same, "I wish we would have had our home inspected by a professional inspector before we moved in."

Buying a home is a big investment and it doesn't make sense to skimp on the inspection fee when you are paying for your decision for the next 15 to 30 years. Some Utah buyers are still unaware of the benefits of a quality home inspection and confuse the role of the home inspector with the home appraiser.

The difference between Inspectors and Appraisers is that the appraiser's main interest is to justify to the lender to loan the amount of money being asked. Appraisers work hard to try and establish the home's fair market value by comparing the chosen property with similar homes that have recently been sold in the same area.

A home inspector's role is very different from the appraiser's in that the home inspector is not concerned with the current market value of the home. The home inspector's primary responsibility is to visually evaluate the condition of the components of the home. The components are evaluated using the simple criteria of Durability and Serviceability. In other words, does it work and will it last. For example, a home inspector is trained to evaluate the condition of the roof and project the remaining life expectancy of the roofing material. This information is very important to potential home buyers because it helps them to plan and prepare for future upgrades.

A thorough home inspection takes from 2 to 4 hours, depending on the size of the home, and should be performed by a certified professional. A quality inspection should include the following areas of the home. First is the topography, landscaping, fencing and walkways. Usually, the buyer hasn't noticed how the water drains off the property, yet the water drainage plays a key factor in the structural integrity of the building. The condition of the lawn, trees and shrubs, as well as the condition of the fencing and gates, is also evaluated in a quality home inspection.

The next area of inspection is the driveway, walkways, decks and patios followed by the foundation of the home. The major area of concern here is the cracks and material deterioration. It is important to know whether the cracks in the foundation are normal hairline variety or the result of structural failure. Certified inspectors have both the training and experience to determine the difference.

The homes exterior is then inspected. Consideration is given to the paint, siding, windows, caulking and the eaves and overhangs. The homes exterior is usually where the seller has deferred the most maintenance. When the painting and caulking is put off, material deterioration quickly follows.

The roof and chimney should also be keenly evaluated noting the roof pitch, number of layers of roofing material and the approximate remaining life of the roofing material. To do this the inspector should climb on the roof and observe it up close. The chimney should also be checked for cracks, settling and loose masonry. Many times the trained eye can identify roof leaks on a hot dry summer day that would otherwise go unnoticed until the new homeowner experiences their first rainfall in their new home.

The interior of the home should be inspected room by room looking for ceiling stains, malfunctions in electrical outlets and switches, as well as for broken windows or evidence of structural damage. A good inspector may even include room dimensions and carpet and paint conditions. It should be noted that the home inspector is not concerned with the cosmetics of the home. That is a very subjective area and is best left to the discretion of the home buyer.

A great deal of time is spent by the inspector in the kitchen and bathrooms. This is where most of the homes normal challenges are found. In many instances, small water or drain leaks can be detected that if left to drip would cause major damage to the subfloor and structure in the years ahead. The inspector should also test the major kitchen appliances to see if they work properly.

On a recent inspection I was able to identify a long running toilet leak that had gone unnoticed because of the carpeted floor. The toilet had to be removed and the entire subfloor had to be replaced. All this was done before closing rather than after closing and saved the buyer's considerably more money than the fee for the home inspection.

The home inspection should also include a thorough evaluation of the underneath crawl space as well as all of the accessible areas of the attic. I learn more about the condition of the home in these two locations than in any other part of the inspection. It is in the attic and crawl space that structural damage is most evident. This is also where you see roof leaks, insulation thickness, structural integrity, and proper ventilation.

The final areas of the inspection are in evaluating the plumbing, heating, air conditioning, water heater and electrical systems. These systems require special training to evaluate properly. Very few buyers have the training to evaluate the major mechanical system of the home.

Certified home inspectors provide peace of mind to home buyers that take advantage of their services. Self-inspections are good, but the professional home inspection will help you make an educated, long-term decision that you won't regret later. After all, it's better to know the condition of the home while you are still in the negotiating process than it is to learn about it after you have moved in and it's too late.

(Michael Leavitt is certified by the American Institute of Inspectors. He is the owner of Michael Leavitt & Co Home Inspections and serves Utah County and beyond. Column suggestions or inspection questions are welcomed by calling his office at 801-636-6816.)


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Michael LeavittMichael Leavitt regularly performs home inspections in the following areas and beyond: Orem, Provo, Springville, Mapleton, Spanish Fork, Benjamin, Payson, Elk Ridge, Woodland Hills, Genola, Elberta, Santaquin, Lindon, Pleasant Grove, Cedar Hills, Highland, American Fork, Lehi, Highland, Alpine, Saratoga Springs, Eagle Mountain, Salt Lake City, Draper, Sandy, Midvale, Bluffdale, Riverton, Herriman, South Jordan, West Jordan, Magna, West Valley, Bountiful, Layton, North Salt Lake, Cottonwood Heights, Taylorsville, Murray, Holaday, Magna, West Valley, Centerville, Farmington, Kaysville, Woods Cross, Park City, Jeremy Ranch, Deer Valley, Heber and Sundance.
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