So what is your new year going to look like? What do you want to do this year? Change? Experience? Does that list include the purchase of a new home? Does the enormity of that idea scare the bajeebbas out of you? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. After all, how do you know it’s a good home? Has it been taken care of? This is a huge purchase and commitment. How do you know you aren’t getting into a money pit? There have been at least a couple of funny movies based on that experience. Is your purchase going to inspire an entirely new episode of comedy? Possibly……
But there are ways to avoid it. I could give all kinds of ideas about being sure you are making the right decision on a new home. I don’t have time here, but if you want more, feel free to attend one of our free Homebuyer Express classes. For today, I just want to cover one little item that is a part of that process – the inspection.
Ok, so it’s definitely not a little part of the process. It is terribly important. First, let’s talk about the “Big Three” inspections you as the buyer can order:
Structural/Mechanical – This is really the core of the inspection process. The inspector will look at the entire structure from the foundation in the basement to the attic to the roof (if it isn’t covered in snow and ice). Do the doors and windows all function as they should? Do the appliances and utilities all work? Is there insulation or moisture or both in the attic? Even the exterior of the home, including potential water drainage issues will be noted. This is the big one!
Pest Infestation – There are a lot of different kinds of pests, but the home inspector is not looking for the in-laws unruly children here. The primary targets are termites (we DO have them, particularly in central Sioux Falls) and bats. Aside from making a mess and carrying rabies, it is also a federal crime to kill a bat. Probably want to know about those before you move in. If you are concerned about other pests like carpenter ants, squirrels, raccoons, mice, or whatever, let your inspector know ahead of time to check for those too.
Radon – Radon is a colorless, odorless, naturally-occurring gas that seeps up from the ground into your basement. Oh yeah, and it’s radio active. Identified as the second-leading cause of lung cancer, it has also recently been connected with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Especially high in areas with a lot of granite in the bedrock, it is usually easy to deal with….. if you know it’s there. This is usually listed on the purchase contract as a ‘hazardous conditions inspection’.
While these are the three main ones, there are others that you can order depending on your situation and concerns:
Mold – The result of moisture and the cause of many allergies, mold is definitely something to be aware of. While the easiest test is to take a deep breath and smell for that musty, stagnant smell of your grandparents’ basement, you can have more accurate tests for mold done. These can find mold even if your nose can’t, but can also tell you what kind of mold it is. Just because mold is a dark color doesn’t mean it is “THE Black Mold”.
Lead-Based Paint – Pulled from stores for consumer purchase in 1978, the lead dust can escape the paint and, when breathed in particularly by children, can cause developmental delays. Remember being a kid and, when one of your friends does something stupid, you ask if they ate paint chips as a kid? Yup, that’s real business right from this issue. While not everyone tests for lead paint on pre-1978 homes, it will be an issue especially if you plan on doing any renovations or repairs that will involve tearing into walls and releasing the lead dust. If that doesn’t bother you at that point, maybe YOU ate paint chips as a kid?
Water/Septic – An issue if you are buying in the country, you may want to test your water both coming and going. You want to make sure the water supply is safe and healthy. The basic is a fairly easy and cheap test that you can contact your county health department to have done. On the other end of business, a full septic inspection will be a little more involved. They should fully pump the septic tank, do a visual inspection, and then watch as it refills to make sure the tank and drain field are working properly. If they aren’t, number two can quickly become your number one issue.
Furnace – While most inspectors do a good job looking them over, this is one where you may want to bring in an expert. An improperly functioning furnace can fill the house with carbon monoxide, also known as the ‘silent killer’. If that’s not enough, a clean and well-running furnace is a much more efficient furnace. And finally, you want it running well so that it is less likely to die in the middle of the coldest night of the year, because that’s when it usually does happen.
Thermal Scan – One of the newer inspections out there involves an infrared scan of your home. Rather than a picture of the pretty paint colors (insert sarcasm here if you need to), it looks at where the heat or cool is escaping your home. Some will even use the infrared scanner to identify potential wet areas behind finished walls. It’s an added cost, but could help you save heating and cooling costs as well.
These are most of the inspections that we see. If you have a particular concern about the home, you can reserve the right to do just about any nondestructive testing you like. More important than the ‘what’ is the ‘why’.
The purchase agreements used in South Dakota, and just about every other state out there, state that the purchase of the home is contingent upon inspection results and subsequent negotiations. Translated to normal English, that means that you have the right to back out of your purchase if you do not like the results of the inspection and cannot reach an agreement to remedy the situation with the sellers.
In order to have that right, you must:
- Reserve the right to do inspections on the purchase contract
- Use a licensed inspector (in South Dakota, other states may vary)
- Complete both inspections and negotiations by agreed upon date
Failure to follow any of these means you buy the house as-is or risk significant financial penalties for backing out.
Perhaps even more important than the right to negotiate is the fact that you will know the safety and risks associated with that house before you move in. After all, it is HOME for you and your family, family being you, your significant other, kids, pets, second cousins, houseplants, or however you define your family.
As mentioned before, there is a lot more to buying a home. If you want more information, whether you are ready to buy or not, you can attend free Homebuyer Express classes that the Center for Financial Resources provides. The HERO certificate that you receive at the end of class may or may not be required by your lender to qualify for a loan and may also qualify you for a credit towards your closing costs.
You can find out more and check the schedule online. If you would like a double check to make sure you are financially ready to buy a home, the counselors at CFR can help with that too. You can schedule an appointment online or call 605-330-2700.
Buying a home is a BIG deal. But it doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating. A little education can help your excitement outweigh your nerves.
written by Breck Miller
images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net