“I knew this was ‘the house,’ ” says Moore, a 21-year-old chiropractic assistant, after looking at more than 100 homes on the Internet and eight in person. She and Moneypenny, a 25-year-old concrete finisher, loved the charming details of the 1955 house, which has three bedrooms, a fireplace, hardwood floors and an enclosed porch. “It’s very quaint and cozy, and even had a good yard for our dog.”
Knowing that empty homes have their own set of potentially expensive issues, Soeder insisted on a home inspection for Moneypenny and Moore. Sure enough, the two-and-a-half-hour examination of the home revealed details that neither they nor their Realtor had suspected:
A crack in the cinder-block foundation, so faint the buyers missed it, was enough for the inspector to recommend a second opinion. A foundation expert visited and said the crack was caused by the house settling, but was nothing to worry about.
One section of the sidewalk was raised about three-eighths of an inch and another was cracked.
The central air-conditioning, although perfectly functional, was 15 years old and might last only another four to five years.
Armed with the information contained in the 30-page report from their inspector, Rod Whittington, they decided to move ahead with their offer and closed on the house in November.
“Getting a home inspection is probably the second most important thing, after securing a home loan, to the new buyer,” Tisler says. “Many people say they can’t afford a few hundred dollars for a home inspection, but then they come back to us later for a $40,000 loan to fix something they didn’t know about.”
“If you don’t run water through a system, you have to worry about leaks, or proper drainage due to back-up problems,” Whittington says. “If the plumbing is not properly drained, water left in pipes in the walls can freeze, burst the pipes and cause leaks. Seals around bathtubs can dry out and cause leaks later.”
When a house is locked tight, the simple lack of air circulation can cause mischief.
Shawn Sebring, president of the North Central Ohio chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), says more and more inspections are done on properties that have been vacant for a year or more. Sebring does about 400 inspections a year with his father, who started Sebring Home Inspections in 1979.
“One of the things an inspector does is to give you an expected lifespan on the parts of a home,” Sebring says. “A hot-water tank lasts about 10 years, but we see them older than that and still working. So the inspector can warn you that the tank is not likely to last much longer, even though it appears to be working fine.”
Sebring says that bank-repossessed homes have their own special considerations.
Is it worth it?
“You often can buy a great property from a bank that you wouldn’t be able to afford if you were buying from a regular owner,” she says. “But everything depends on condition.”
But bank-owned properties are often vacant longer than a year because they have to go through the courts and foreclosure process. When this is the case, a good home inspection is doubly important, Soeder says.
“If you haven’t owned a home, you might not know about changing furnace filters, or where the main shut-off valve for the water is,” he says. “You see the clients go into information overload. They come in thinking about paint and carpet, and you’re telling them about furnaces and roofs. I try to keep them as clear-thinking as possible, to give them a little of what people who are familiar with home ownership already know.”
Home, Sweet Home
Chris Moneypenny and Jennifer Moore were lucky. Because of Whittington’s inspection, they learned their home, although empty for a year, was well cared-for. Soeder praised Whittington’s thoroughness.
“Rod checked out every wall socket for polarity, and found two not working in the basement,” she says. “Although the insulation in the attic looked good to the buyers, Rod knew it was old and should be replaced in a few years. He ran the faucets in every sink in the house to check for water pressure and drainage.” When Whittington was done, the buyers even knew to keep an eye on a bead of tar between the driveway and home foundation, which was fine but would be problematic if allowed to leak.