Grand County Real Estate: Tips to aid in house inspections |

Grand County Real Estate: Tips to aid in house inspections

Almost five million Americans are expected to buy an existing home in 2008. Volatile prices, record numbers of foreclosures and an uncertain economy make this an uneasy time to enter the homeowner market, which is why it is even more important that homebuyers are aware and informed before signing their name on the dotted line.

Although licensed home inspectors may provide a detailed analysis of many aspects of a house, experts agree buyers should not let the inspector go it alone. “Be sure to accompany your home inspector to see problems first hand,” said Ray Palermo, director of public relations for Response Insurance. “Take notes and ask questions about mechanical operations and emergency shut-offs so you can familiarize yourself before you have a problem.” Several of the most common issues to watch for include the following:

– Maintenance: Observing an overall pattern of poor maintenance is often a signal of trouble. Crumbling masonry, makeshift wiring, peeling paint, cracked cement surfaces, broken fixtures and appliances may indicate that other, important items have been neglected. Ask about life expectancies on major appliances, HV/AC and the roof.

– Electrical: Electrical service that is inadequate to meet the demand of the household can cause wires to overload and start a fire. Older homes in particular tend to have electrical service patched together and added on as the demand grew. Today’s lifestyles place additional demands on home electrical systems not anticipated when first built, including computers, microwave ovens, larger refrigerators, air conditioners, more lighting and entertainment centers.

– Roof: Old or damaged shingles, improper flashing and broken gutter and drainage systems can all contribute to roof leaks and water damage around the house.

– Heating systems: Old and inefficient heating systems, old ductwork, malfunctioning thermostats and controls can pose costly problems throughout the heating season. Blocked chimneys and poorly vented heating systems can pose a health threat to occupants.

– Plumbing: Faulty and inefficient fixtures, lead water pipes, non-compliant gas lines, inadequate or old waste pipes, and a mix of incompatible piping materials can present problems. Water heaters should meet the needs of the occupants.

– Structure: Foundation walls, floor joists, rafters, windows and doors and skylights should all be examined for cracks and air/water leakage. An improperly graded property that slopes toward the home may result in water penetration in basements and crawl spaces, as well as damage to foundation walls.

– Insulation: Inadequate or cracked caulking around windows and doors, and insufficient wall and attic insulation drive up heating and cooling costs. However, over-sealing a house can cause excessive interior moisture.

Additional tests: Separate inspections for termite infestation, asbestos, radon, well-water contamination, and other potential hazards are often advisable. Additional information on this and other homeowner safety topics is available at the Response Insurance Safety Information Center Web site:

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