Doing a home inspection tomorrow, what are some tips?
April 15, 2016 5:55 PM   Subscribe

We finally got a bid accepted on a house here in Seattle. We'll be going through the house with an inspector tomorrow. Any little-known or often missed pieces of advice? Anything you wish you had asked your inspector?

The house was built in 1963. The roof is only 2 years old and the water heater and furnace are less than 10 years old. The inspector we're using has very good references and online reviews.

So far I've been told to check for any old oil or septic tanks in the yard and ask about load bearing walls we might want to tear down.

Anything else?
posted by lattiboy to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Write down what they say regarding long term maintenance. I wish I had written down some of what they said.

Also if they suggest a sewer scope, I would strongly encourage it.
posted by nickggully at 6:11 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best advice I ever got is that you are not buying the house for the insides, but for the foundation, the roof, the electrical and the plumbing. So make sure your inspector goes in the basement or under the house, into the attic, looks at the foundation, checks on the electrical etc. These are the things that will cost the most. Also a new roof doesn't mean its not leaky.
posted by Toddles at 6:49 PM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

if you are so inclined and have a boiler suit, ask about accompanying the inspector into the crawlspace and attic. the inspector will be delighted to share their specialized knowledge, you'll actually see what the report will describe, and you can make your own assessment of the inpector's acuity and thoroughness.

I did not do this on the house we eventually bought, but did do this on two prior inspections on houses we were considering bidding on. One of these inspections revealed that the house had previously burned to the foundation joists, had the joists removed and flipped to place the burned portions face down, and was then rebuilt arop the reused timbers. The sellers were completely unaware of this, as the fire had occured prior to 1940.

This was problematic for me as it seemed to violate chain-of-disclosure but the inspector spent some time helping me to understand it was legit given that the structural members were't compromised (they weren't) and that the construction atop them was effectively a new house that had never had a fire. It was pretty interesting.
posted by mwhybark at 7:04 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Our inspector video recorded the entire thing, which is fantastic for going back to to check things about maintenance or to see exactly where he was pointing when he said a tile needed sealing, or whatever. And for things like when he said, "see that? That's what hidden water damage looks like. That over there looks similar, but actually it's been fixed and sealed and shouldn't be an issue. And here's how you can tell the difference."

It might be worth asking if yours minds you following them around with a handheld video cam. Otherwise, definitely at least take photos of everything to go with the notes you make.
posted by lollusc at 7:23 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Seconding the sewer scope.

Also, drainage is a big one. Make sure you understand exactly how the house deals with rain. Verify that there aren't any missing downspouts, that they're set up to move water away from the house, and that the gutters aren't loose or leaky. Also, make sure that the *neighbors'* downspouts aren't pointing in your direction. In addition, you'll want to use multiple senses for any evidence of dampness in the basement.

We were fortunate to have our inspection right after a rainstorm, so we could see exactly where the trouble spots were. Our inspector happened to be wearing socks with no shoes, and with her toes!!! detected water in the basement carpeting that I'm certain would have been missed for many months otherwise.
posted by oxisos at 7:35 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Three things I wish my inspector had done:

1.) Turn the faucets on and see what the pressure is like at all sinks (then see how long it takes the hot water to get there).

2.) Run the toaster and the microwave at the same time - see if any fuses blow.

3.) Check under all sinks to make sure there are no slow leaks.

4.) bring a hair dryer with you and make sure all electrical outlets are operational.

My house is almost 76 years old though, so ymmv.
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:20 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

Have the water tested if there's a well. I bought a house on a lake and had the house water tested and the lake water tested.

The lake water turned out to be almost clean enough to be drinkable. The well water was... not so much, and the sellers had to remediate the well prior to sale.
posted by slateyness at 9:28 PM on April 15, 2016

Ugh, it's late, sorry, I meant four things. Also nthing eveyone saying that you should record the inspection on video if you can. Also ask to be shown where all the utility cut offs are and things like your drain-waste vent line and your furnace vent.
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:32 PM on April 15, 2016

You managed to get an inspection contingency? In Seattle? Damn.. Nicely done.

In a house of that vintage, in addition to visually checking for an oil tank, you'll want to call the records department of the Fire Marshal's office [(206) 386-1450] to see if they have a tank decommissioning report on file. (Not finding one doesn't really mean anything, because they only have residential records from 1997 onward, but having one turn up is a definite comfort.). You'll also want to make sure there's continuous PLIA coverage for the period prior to decommissioning.

It's pretty late in the game for this, but if you have a chance, I strongly encourage you to get a copy of Seattle Homes by Jim Stacey. It's from 1998, so the parts about construction regulation, the market, etc., are way out of date, but it contains an invaluable 100-point inspection checklist, complete with diagrams. It'll really help you understand how houses work.

Good luck tomorrow!
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 10:52 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

And ditto getting a sewer scope. IMO, not having one is pure madness.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 10:56 PM on April 15, 2016

Nthing sewer scope and for sure checking water pressure and outlets - we had several outlets that passed inspection but couldn't actually manage to charge a Sonicare toothbrush or even a phone.

Also, not inspection-specific, but if you have any inkling of converting from electric to natural gas, check ahead of time what the situation is like in your neighborhood and if you'll have to pay $ or $$$ to install a line. We live in a neighborhood of Seattle with mostly ~1950 original homes and most are electric. We converted to gas fairly easily, but I know it's not that way in all areas. Worth checking into if it's a consideration for you for heating/appliances/cooking.
posted by DuckGirl at 12:20 AM on April 16, 2016

Bring your own flashlight -- the inspector will have one, but it is useful to have your own for peering into crevices and crawlspaces. The one on your phone will work if that is all you have.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:50 AM on April 16, 2016

This is just a little thing and maybe this isn't as much of an issue in Seattle but we just went through a home inspection in Minneapolis, and failed to check the outside water connection because "it's still off for the season." Except that it turns out that it doesn't work, and now we don't know if we have a cracked pipe in the basement ceiling.
posted by cabingirl at 5:09 AM on April 16, 2016

As a person who spent $25,000 on replacing the sewer line and the landscaping over it....GET THE SEWER SCOPE!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:18 AM on April 16, 2016

> 3.) Check under all sinks to make sure there are no slow leaks

Our inspector turned on our shower and saw a small puddle of water slowly forming at the base of the bedroom wall behind the shower. The shower pan was leaking, and the owner got it fixed.
posted by davcoo at 2:15 PM on April 16, 2016

Thanks all.

Inspection went swimmingly. Three hours, the guy went in the attic and the crawlspace, tested every outlet for polarity and voltage, did water pressure tests, walked on the roof, checked the whole foundation, and both electrical panels. I took a bunch of pictures and asked about long term maintenance.

In the end, he said it was in the best condition he'd seen a house of that age. Turns out the (now departed) owner was head of maintenance for a number of large buildings while living in the house for 30+ years. Everything was to code and the few small things on the list are all "handyman" type repairs (some outlets had incorrect polarity, some mild rot on decorative wood, a small crack in the fireplace).

Should close this week.....
posted by lattiboy at 5:54 PM on April 18, 2016

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