Do not buy a house without these 5 inspections
So a year ago I purchased a house boat. Okay, not knowing anything about house boats I figured, no big deal I’ll just look around and see what I see, start the engines and drive it. Boy, was I sadly mistaken. Soon after I bought the boat, I found out that the generator was bad, the engines have a life expectancy of less than 5 years, and the hull had to be de-barnacled. It’s all the stuff that you can’t readily see or don’t know to do that can really suck you dry monetarily if you’re not prepared. And if you do not have an agent truly looking out for your best interests, you would never know to ask to have things such as these to be inspected. Trust me, if I would have known about all the unseen issues, I would have kept looking. But the boat looked so pretty on the outside… but mechanically, that was not the case.
Houses are no different in comparison. There are still “other” inspections which should take place even if you are not “pushed” into doing them by your agent, you still need to ask for them. God knows they won’t suggest them.
I’ve been inspecting for 23 years in Los Angeles and its surrounding areas. Over all the years in this business there has been one thing that never ever changes. Real estate agents will never push to have individual inspections performed so it’s up to you. The things that seem to bite you in the butt are the things that you can’t see during your routine inspection or are outside the scope of the typical inspectors protocol. Things such as roofing paper, chimney flues, sewer pipes, septic tanks and to a lesser degree, heat exchangers within furnaces. The one thing that all of these individual systems have in common is that non of them can be effectively inspected or evaluated because they are not fully visible to your general home inspector unless he has special tools and knowledge of such systems which some inspectors do.
1- The Sewer pipe
There are few systems within a house like the sewer pipe which if or when replacement is necessary, packs such a punch. The main sewer line isn’t a system when compared to the chimney for example, where if damaged, you can do without it’s contribution to basic living until you can afford its repair. No, the sewer line if damaged, means you and your family are using the gas stations facilities until you get it repaired or replaced. The sewer line inspection requires a plumber who uses a special sewer camera. I’ve been on inspections where damage to the sewer line exceeded $75,000. Now, not is not a typical situation, however, it suffices to say that the average repair or replacement hovered around $10,000. In my opinion, it does not matter if the house is 2 years old or 200, always get the sewer inspected.
2- The chimney flue
Chimneys come in all shapes and sizes. There are masonry lined and unlined, factory built, Rampart General Precast, gas appliance wood stove and the list goes on… With each individual system the chimney contractor must be intimately familiar with the manufacture if applicable and codes associated with that specific system. There are systems such as Rampart General Precast systems where a single hairline crack in just the right location with in the fireplace will render the entire chimney system non-useable. Chimneys are one of two systems which require the use of a special camera to view the interior of the system in this case, the flue liner. If the house you plan to buy has a chimney, get it inspected. Chimneys can be fire hazards if there is unseen damage within. The most expensive repair I’ve seen for a chimney system topped $25,000 but most system repairs average around $7500.
3- The roof paper
If you live in California you’re probably used to seeing tile roofs right? I mean they’re everywhere out here. The house you plan on buying may even have one, so if thats you, listen up. Concrete tiles are not what makes the roof water proof. Thats the job of the roofing paper under the tile. That paper by-the-way, typically only lasts anywhere from 25 years and in some cases up to 35 years. If you are buying a house and it has a tile roof that is either new, or over 25 years… GET IT INSPECTED. A new roof means that structural engineering was necessary to accept a new roof load. A new repaper job on a house which is 2000 square feet can top $12,000 easily and quickly, depending on the roof size, layout and material.
If you are buying a house with composition shingles, a flat roof, metal roof or wood, you are still not off the hook. My advice is find out how old the roof is or appears to be. If the roof is newer ask for permits. If there are no permits then get it inspected. There are cases where even composition shingles can look new but actually be seconds or defects. Never rely on the home inspectors opinion, get another independent inspection from a professional. Roofs are no joke and tend to get expensive quickly.
4- Heat Exchangers
The heat exchanger is where the furnace produces heat, more or less. Combustion takes place in this compartment and air passess around the heat these exchangers and then into the building through a duct system. If there is damage to the heat exchanger such as cracking, the occupants can potentially be subject to extremely hazardous carbon monoxide poisoning. Having a HVAC contractor evaluate your furnace no matter what age is imperative. That said, it’s typical of old furnaces to have these issues, but not totally unusual to see it in newer defective units. New furnaces can range from $2000 – $6500. The inspection is around $250.
5- Swimming Pools
Ahhh, it’s 101 in sunny California, and you can’t wait to close escrow so you can finally get into that pool. Who doesn’t like swimming right? Yea, and who doesn’t like being electrocuted? Wait, HUH?? Electrocuted? Sure, thats what you can potentially expect as a worse case scenario if the right person isn’t inspecting your swimming pool. Let me break it down… There are so many components that make up a swimming pools system. The shell, the equipment, plumbing and the electrical system. Issues associated with swimming pools can range from a cracked shell, leaking within the shell at any number of inlets, returns or cracks, undersized components such as in older systems, underground pipes leaking, missing bonding grid and undersized equipment. Because swimming pools are made up of so many individual systems, lets just stick to the two main potential issues in my book, and those are electrical hazards and structural damage.
When you buy a house which possess a swimming pool, make sure you hire 1) a Los Angeles swimming pool inspector and 2) a Los Angeles leak detection company. Do not only rely on the home inspector for this unless the inspector is also a swimming pool contractor of some sort. Most home inspectors are okay at going through the system if they took their time (and know what they are looking for) but its hard for some of these guys who spend only 2 hours on a 3500 sq foot house when in fact the pool alone can take up to an hour or longer. A swimming pool inspector will know what areas to focus on that will be either be a financial burden or health hazard to you or your family such as a missing bonding conductor or pool light GROUND FAULT protected circuit. Because swimming pool inspectors don’t normally perform leak detection, this is another inspection you should get. Leak detection can cost between $150-$450. Swimming pool inspections are around $300. Here are some more costs which you may incur; damaged pump/motor $1800, new heater $2700, new filter $1200, missing bonding conductor $3500-15,000, new light and GFI, $900-$1200.