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There are special considerations to keep in mind when learning how to inspect a house you want to purchase. When you are buying a home, you need to know what you are getting. Whether the seller is responsible for repairs prior to the title transfer or you plan on making the repairs once you own it, a thorough inspection provides you with the information needed to make informed decisions. Some items may be easily seen by the lay person, but you will want a professional inspector to review the home and all its components to get a complete picture. You can use the information to demand repairs, negotiate a lower price or even back out of the deal legally.
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From the street, you might see your dream home. But take a closer look. The roof may have wear or the gutters may be rusted out. Take notice of any large trees that may be leaning against the house or exterior wiring that could lead to significant structural damage. While a seller may give the house a coat of paint prior to putting it on the market, examine the siding and any wooden joints that might show rot or termite damage. A home inspector may go a step further and pull an old plank on the porch back, exposing a colony of unwanted pests and existing damage, but you can learn to see some of the signs including porous holes in wood, brittle pieces and area corners that have broken off. You should also consider the driveway and areas of runoff--will your house have water rushing toward it in a heavy rain or down to the street?
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The best way to learn to inspect the interior of a home is from the bottom up. Start in the basement and look for any mold, mildew or water stains suggesting problems with flooding, unsealed basement floors and water heater leakage. Don't just look on the floor for water damage, walls and ceiling panels that have a "coffee brown" stain to them are highly indicative of previous water damage. Check ventilation shafts to make sure there are no obstructions. Run the heat and the air to confirm that the units work and provide the proper temperature adjustments. Go to the attic and see if the house is insulated. Insulation not only reduces your heating costs but reduces your cooling costs, helping the home retain internal temperatures. An inspector will elaborate on your notes, checking behind panelling for internal water damage, pipe leaks and insulation integrity.
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Structure and Plumbing
Fixing structural and plumbing damage can be tens of thousands of dollars of unwanted expenses. These are the things you really can't see. Doing your due diligence will give you some clues prior to the professional inspection. Know when the house was built and when the plumbing was installed or replaced. Ask the seller what types of pipes the house has and where they extend to. Some homeowners replace the pipes within the house, but don't replace the lines from the house to the sewer, leaving a corroded mess under your lawn, driveway or garden. Homes built in earthquake zones should be examined for proper retrofitting or residual earthquake damage. Chances are you won't be able to see the structural issues, but providing the inspector with all the details you can will improve the quality of the inspection and report.
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Top Ten List of Defects: http://www.inspectamerica.com/html/top_ten_list.html
Housing Fact Sheets via Google Docs: http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:bfqYB42QaYoJ:pad.human.cornell.edu/che/DEA/outreach/upload/home-inspection.pdf+how+to+inspect+a+home&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgJiCim-Ak4FUyx0GqYq83kuFPZzktzBLS5c-zco6uxOYnLxUUqgI2QCrjCOqQQToZqg-HohinSJrpzZYccAmbrDDXbKDX9Dyk0m1JjUAmaAyddr40gX7APx8LJ0-KvBDhiGiXZ&sig=AHIEtbRMvwe8P4FJk4HOPJl6L8GRwQjpHQ
Universal Class Home Inspection 101: http://www.universalclass.com/i/crn/7550108.htm