Using Home Inspections to Your Advantage

by Matt Myers

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Whether you are moving into or moving out of a home, your home inspection report is a tool that will be of great value to you. If you think about it, you have paid someone to do a fairly comprehensive diagnostic test on your home, and their results are yours to keep. This article is designed to educate both home buyers and potential sellers (and homeowners, too) on how to make sure their home inspection is used to their advantage.

Home Inspection Checklist for Homebuyers
First off, if you discover something about a home during the inspection that makes you uncomfortable about purchasing this home, make sure this matter is resolved in some fashion before signing your life away. However, once all that paperwork at closing has been finalized, now is the time to take care of all the small problems listed in the home inspection report.

The best time to handle these projects is before you move in and while you are moving and setting up your new home. Once you are settled and old routines are in place, you are less likely to pursue projects that are potentially disruptive to your daily flow, and some issues on that report require immediate attention.

Exterior Home
Foundation: Are there cracks? Is this because of settling or some more serious problem with the soil or the structure? You might need to have an engineer shore up sags in the foundation or steps.

Roof & Gutters: Your roof needs to be in good shape to keep out the elements and keep your energy in. If it rains and snows heavily in your area and this roof is more than 10 years old, a new roof is in order. The energy savings will help to offset the cost.

If your gutters are clogged, your gutters and part of the roof might come down. Make sure that the gutters and downspouts are securely attached and free of debris. We have gutter cleaning contractors across the country that can help with this.

Siding: If you have siding that requires painting, take care of this during the summer. If you have natural wood siding, it needs to be treated every 4-6 years. If there is any loose or hanging siding, have it repaired before the weather affects it any more.

Windows: If the windows haven't been replaced in more than 20 years, they likely need to be replaced. If they are younger, they need to be caulked before winter hits every year to keep them running at the highest efficiency. Think about window tinting or other window treatments to help cool your home from the sun's rays. Treatments will also preserve the color of the floors and furniture.

Interior Home
Electrical: If the inspection report says that you need more load to handle the tvs, computers, printers, and other electrical items, do this as soon as possible, especially if this is an older home.

Heating & Air: Have the filters changed on both systems. It's not a bad idea to do this twice a season, but they each need to be changed once a year at minimum. If the heating unit is nearing or past 15 years old, its efficiency is likely to be terrible. Make sure to replace this before the height of the season so that you won't be left in the cold.

Ducts & Vents: Have the ducts cleaned at least every other year, but this process is inexpensive enough that it won't hurt to have it done every year.

Make sure that the attic has proper ventilation. This is a key element to good energy flow through the house. If heat is escaping into the attic during the winter, you are losing expensive energy and reducing the life of your roof.

Water Heater: The limit on a hot water heater is around 15 years. If yours is reaching or past this age, have it replaced. If you are looking to save money over the long haul, consider an energy efficient model.

Smoke Alarms: You just can't test these often enough. The conventional wisdom is that you cannot smell smoke in your sleep so you need a smoke detector/alarm to alert you. Always make sure the batteries are up to snuff. If you can't reach some of these, hire a handyman.

Insulation: Proper insulation matters most in the attic, since poor insulation can also damage your roof. Insulation can always stand to be added, and definitely should be added if it has been more than 6-7 years since insulation was last added or you have seen a steady rise in your energy bills over the last few years.

Everything else is cosmetic. There might be stains in the carpet or holes in the walls, but that can be fixed or negotiated before closing. It is your job as the buyer and the owner to make sure that the house is solid from a structural and systems standpoint. This protects you and your investment.

This home inspection checklist also works for sellers to prepare their homes. So rather than having egg on your face when an inspector reports on obvious problems, you should tackle these problems head on. A home inspector in Denver once said "I've inspected over 5000 houses, and I've yet to find a perfect one." So by no means do you have to spend thousands to get a clean bill from the inspector, but these are some key points you'll want to address before anyone shows up with a clipboard.

For more info on the importance of home inspections, check out what HomeAdvisor's expert David Lupberger has to say:

Matt Myers is a freelance writer for the home maintenance and remodeling industry. Formerly a contractor specializing in deck building and casework, Matt has written over 500 articles for both homeowners and contractors.