Like scheduling preventive maintenance on your car or going in for an annual physical for your health, it’s hard to get ourselves to spend money on home inspections unless something’s wrong. The only time most of us get home inspections is when we’re trying to sell our property and the inspections are required as part of the sales process.
However, even though they cost money, getting periodic home inspections can actually save you money. Finding a little leak when it first starts is far easier and cheaper to manage than taking out dry rot or dealing with a black mold infestation. Finding powder post beetles when they’ve just arrived on the scene is a lot easier than rebuilding your den. Here are some inspections to consider. If you need a referral for the service providers who can help you, call your Realtor or talk to your friends and neighbors.
Whole House Inspections
Home inspections identify when things are wrong, not so much when they’ve simply worn out. A home inspector reviews things like electrical systems, assuring that electrical outlets are grounded and connected to appropriate breaker switches. He or she assesses whether the house’s foundation is solid and that the house is well connected to it. The inspector crawls under the house and looks for signs of moisture and climbs up on the roof to check the materials and how they were applied. I recommend having a home inspection about once every ten to fifteen years.
Pest and Fungus
This is sometimes referred to as a termite inspection, but it is so much more. Of course, a good inspector will check for termites, but he or she will also check for powder post beetles, carpenter ants, carpenter bees, dry rot, and more.
Inspectors will take a screwdriver and poke, punch and prod the eaves of your house. They’ll check to see whether the rain gutters are doing their job and if the kitchen ice maker is dripping. They’ll notice whether the wax seal on the commode is broken and if the wooden fence around your yard is attached directly to your siding. They’ll crawl under your house and walk around the perimeter, making note of anywhere they find earth-to-wood contact, creating a bridge for critters to travel from the ground into your home, where they can feast on all manner of wood. I recommend having a pest and fungus inspection every five to eight years, or more often if there’s any sign of trouble.
Typically, it’s best to have a chimney inspection before you use your fireplace or wood-burning stove for the first time each winter. These days, wood-burning stoves are more efficient than in years past, but if you have an old wood-burning stove or fireplace—especially if you burn pine and fir as opposed to oak and madrone—creosote can build up and cause a chimney fire. Pro tip: if you ever have a chimney fire, throw a cup of coffee into the fireplace. The steam will put out the fire.
Although you may have a home inspector look at the roof every ten years or so, you should check the roof and gutters every year. Look for debris, worn or cupped shingles, cracks in the seals around skylights and anything else that comes out of the roof, and any missing connections to the gutter downspouts. And don’t forget to clean the leaves out of the gutters before the first big rain.
On a final note, check the warranty on your water heater. If you have a five-year warranty, the heater will go out in five years and one day. If it’s a ten-year warranty, it’ll be ten years and one day. It’s a little spooky how accurate these warranties are. Be sure to pay attention to yours.
If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.