Fixer Upper or Money Pit?
You can't judge a book by its cover and you can't judge the condition of a home just by how it looks either.
Ask any real estate agent that has been in business for a while the most unusual tale they can share about a home inspection. The stories will run the gamut. Most of us have seen it all or just about seen it all. I've seen old houses almost come thru inspections clean with flying colors and nearly new homes that had thousands of dollars in repairs to be made. Some of us have also seen some really gross and creepy stuff, too.
Remember the Polaroid instant cameras? That's how I explain home inspections to most buyers. A home inspection is basically a snapshot of the condition of a home at the time of inspection. It doesn't guarantee that something won't break in the future but it does give insight into the current condition of the home, past issues that may have been remedied and issues that may cause further damage in the future if they're left untreated.
Home inspections are invaluable for most buyers. Imagine, the home inspector is going into a home and giving the systems a thorough working over. They will be condensing weeks or months of discovery a homeowner would have to do to find defects, into a few hours of inspecting. All of the appliances are run, the water and drains are run are run, all power outlets are tested, the air conditioner and heater are tested, and much more. If a person weren't to get the property inspected they may not know that the heater isn't functional until winter rolls around.
It could literally take years for a home owner to discover that an outlet in a guest bedroom wasn't working or that a GFCI outlet was wired incorrectly. It's one of the more common defects that turn up in home inspections. Sometimes the outlets are wired wrong or corrosion inhibits them from functioning properly. Finding out that a GFCI outlet is wired incorrectly can be deadly. The outlets are made to "trip off" if there is moisture or contact that grounds the electricity. Properly working GFCI's alone would be worth the price of a home inspection, especially if you're on the wrong end of that wayward current.
Even if you're buying a short sale or a foreclosure you should get a home inspection. Sure, the contract that is being used is probably an "As-Is" contract but that doesn't mean "As-Is and held hostage to a house full of unknown defects". Be certain that you take the opportunity to determine the condition of the home you are trying to purchase and make sure you're getting what you paid for and that the systems in place function. If there are repairs or replacements to be made you'll be able to add up expenses and costs to make sure that you won't be biting off more than you can chew.
Keep this thought in the back of your mind; new doesn't mean defect free. Even brand new homes can have items pop up on a home inspection. Just because the home has the "new car smell" doesn't mean mistakes weren't made and defects aren't present. A home inspector can do a thorough exam of a new home and even help create the "punch list" that is given to the builder or developer to finish up the loose ends, touch up paint, adjust cabinet doors and replace cracked switch plates.
The builder warranty often expires after one year. Wouldn't it be better to discover and repair warranty related items within that period and avoid having unnoticed issues turn into expensive problems down the road?
There have been circumstances where buyers had inspections on new product and found that a gutter, running the span of several yards only had two screws securing it to each end of the home. It may have been an oversight at the time of installation but it could have ripped the gutter right off the house when a classic Florida afternoon storm decided to drop a few inches in the matter of an hour or so.
I've also heard of odd mix ups where hot water was plumbed and running through a toilet. Considering most of us don't usually take the opportunity to determine the temperature of the water in our potties, it could have cost the home owner a lot of money in heated water that was simply flushed away.
Besides the overall structure and systems of a home there are other inspections such as termite and wood destroying organism inspections, mold inspections, radon inspection and any further inspecting of a specific defect that is discovered on the initial inspection.
If the air conditioner isn't performing to specifications or the roof may be showing signs of excessive wear or leaking it may be time for more specific inspections by calling in licensed contractors that specialize in roofing or air conditioning. Sometimes it's best to have an expert double or even triple check something that looks fishy.
Remember, having defective or faulty items turn up on an inspection report isn't the end of the world. Many of the common items that are seen on the inspection reports are usually minor. Even when the issues are larger and more costly it is better to know up front than to have the problem surprise a new home owner months down the road.