Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Your Guide to Home Inspection Preparation

I know, I know...hearing about my house-hunting adventures is probably getting a little old.

Just indulge me. If we buy this house, it will all be over in about a month. Inspections begin in less than 36 hours. The clock is ticking. My blood pressure is rising. And I am responding in my usual manner: CONTROL everything I CAN control.

Your Guide to
Home Inspection Preparation
In Three Easy Steps
(note: most advice is taken directly from
The Virgin Homeowner by Janice Papolos)

Step 1

Gather together the following: A loose leaf notebook and dividers, blank paper with holes punched, brightly colored tags with strings on them, and the book The Virgin Homeowner, by Janice Papolos, which I reviewed below. Also get your camera, and if your camera is not digital, some film. If your potential-house has any special conditions, such as a pool, get some study materials on that as well. And finally, on an optional basis, get sticky tabs of some sort to mark important information (see below).

Read The Virgin Homeowner. If you don't have time to read it all, read the section on home inspections. If you can squeeze it in, try to also read each section on the major components of a home: heating and cooling systems, plumbing, etc. But definitely, definitely, read the section on home inspections. Preferably, read this before you hire an inspector. The book will have more detailed guidelines.

If you have picked up a supplemental resource, such as my book on pools above, read up. If you don't have time to read it all, read enough to get basic familiarity with the system and its major components, to develop a list of starting questions, and to get some basic vocabulary. If you don't have time to read that, skim through it to get what you can.

Step 2

Get out your notebook, dividers, blank paper, and if you have them, your sticky tabs. Make a label for the loose leaf notebook if desired. I chose to affix my sticky tab dispensers to the notebook and to make a color-code index. My sticky tabs are post-it flags I can use to draw attention to anything I write about work that needs to get done on the house. Each color represents the time period in which the task needs to get done:

  • Within 6 Days
  • Within 60 Days
  • Within 600 Days (~2 years)
  • Later than 600 Days, On a Regular Schedule Such as Annually, or "Not Needed but Maybe Someday"

Then, create dividers of your choice related to subject matter that will be covered in the home inspection. Mine are:

  1. Bathrooms, Kitchen, and Plumbing
  2. Electric
  3. Heating and Cooling
  4. Appliances, Warranties, and Utilities
  5. Fireplace, Fire Protection, and General Safety
  6. Roof, Foundation, and Basement
  7. The Healthy Home: Ventilation, Pest Management, and Toxins
  8. General Interior
  9. Garage
  10. General Exterior
  11. Landscaping, Exterior Water Systems, Driveways, and Walkways
  12. Pool

I also chose to use this notebook to store all documents related to the purchase. If you do this, bear in mind that you may need a loose leaf notebook fitted for legal sized papers, as papers you sign at the closing may be legal size. Additionally, you may have to upgrade to a thicker notebook depending on how many papers you acquire. Based on our first home purchase experience, I am guessing that a 1.5 inch notebook would have been the minimum needed. I am hopelessly hoping for fewer papers this time around. My last tabs are:

  • Referrals, Pre-Closing Papers, General Documents, Etc.
  • Finance
  • Closing Papers
  • Other
In each section of the notebook, I placed approximately three blank pages for note taking and drawings during the inspection. Notice that I chose dividers that have a "sleeve" for storage. Keep in mind that your inspection isn't just a time to make sure "everything is up to snuff" and to come up with some negotiation points for a reduced price. This is your chance to become fully acquainted with your potential house and to become educated about its condition and care. It is also a time to create your list of work that needs to be done on the house, and set priorities. And finally, it is your chance to document details that are important in the condition of the house.

Bringing a camera to the inspection is a good idea. You can take pictures to document, to help you remember certain details, and to generally admire, among other uses. If you can, place a "time and date stamp" on the photos so you remember when you took them. Slip the photos in the sleeves. You can use the sleeves for other items that come your way during the inspection, and later on, who knows, you could even use it for paint chip samples (just keep in mind that the inspection is the WRONG time to be thinking about selecting paint colors).

Step 3

Mark three brightly colored tags for major water shut off locations: the main water, the hot water, and the outdoor sprinkler system water. Again, an inspection is a chance to get ready to care properly for your potential-home. You are paying an inspector not just for the details on the condition of your home, but also for education on how to care for it.

I also am bringing extra tags to my inspection in case I want to mark anything else I am likely to forget. For example, I may want to mark switches on the furnace that will guide me in its operation.

And that's basically it. Now you are ready for your home inspection.

By the way, the usual rate for a home inspection ranges from around $200-400. In my area, the average price hovers around $300. However, we are paying $495. This is because the inspector we interviewed about whom we felt most confident, and who promised us the most generous amount of time for the inspection, smf who seemed most adept at educating homebuyers (and even turns down home inspections when buyers can't be there), and who is a member of the "American Society of Home Inspectors" (ASHI) charges that much.

Unfortunately, I also learned today that pool inspections can be quite pricey. For a complete pool inspection (visual examination, leak test, and dive), I was quoted $790 today! That's approaching double the cost of my home inspection, so I am not sure what I will do about that!!?


seppie said...

omg, if this isn't proof that we are sisters, nothing is. In the next couple of days I'm posting my moving tips on my blog, and I bet you will laugh when you see the similarity.

Masasa said...

That's funny. I'll look forward to your tips. Are you moving?

By the way, I forgot to mention that the little post-its you can see inside some of the sleeves are questions I already have.