Most participants in a real estate transaction are aware that inspections are a normal part of the process. Indeed most transactions include a termite inspection, a general home inspection, and a roof inspection. And if there is a pool, there is normally a pool inspection as well. And the importance of having these inspections can not be overstated. It is important for all participants that the condition of the property be ascertained, and that the buyer gets a clear idea of exactly what they are buying. And while these normal inspections are a well established part of the process, there are several other inspections that are available as well. Some are situational, and some are a good idea in most circumstances. Here are some other inspections that you might want to make part of the process:
Solar Inspection. If the property has a solar system to heat the pool or to generate electricity, it is a good idea to have the solar system inspected as part of the transaction. Be sure the solar company is qualified to inspect the system and undertake the repairs. Solar inspectors can be somewhat difficult to find and schedule.
Chimney Inspection. A chimney inspection is conducted by a licensed chimney sweep, and I generally recommend them, especially on masonry or brick fireplaces. The biggest threat is broken flue tiles and/or cracked chimneys, which present a fire hazard and can require a $2000 to $3000 repair. On newer non-masonry fireplaces, the most common issues are related to separation of the panels or pre-mature aging of the refractory panels, both of which competent home inspectors will comment on. The other common finding is a build up of soot and creosote, a waxy residue that is the result of burning artificial logs such as duraflame, etc. Even newer gas fireplaces should be checked to make sure they can be operated safely.
Furnace and Air Conditioning Inspection. A detailed inspection of the furnace and air conditioning system by a licensed HVAC contractor. They will run the system, test for output and temperature differential, and check the integrity of the ducts, the furnace, and the air conditioning compressor. Definitely recommended on homes with older systems and/or ducts. Better to find out ahead of time if the system is operating efficiently.
Radon Gas. Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is produced by the decay of the earth, and can cause health problems if exposed to high levels over a long period of time. Most of the readings in our area tend to be very low, but if you are concerned about this you might want to consider a radon test. Please see the Environmental Hazards booklet for more information.
Mold Inspection. This is available to you if this is a concern. Most of the time, a home inspector will note any conditions that might be an indication of mold and will recommend a further inspection. If there are no indications of any concerns, and there have been no active leaks or water releases on the property (see seller disclosure statements), then mold is generally less of a concern. But you are certainly free to order a mold inspection, even if there are no outward indication of potential problems.
Drainage/foundation Inspection. If there is excessive cracking or indications of drainage or foundation issues such as standing water under the structure, out of level floors, sticky doors or windows, or a musty odor, you should consider having a drainage and foundation inspection, preferably by a licensed contractor or engineer experienced in this field.
Soil/Hillside Inspections. If the property is adjacent to a hillside, it is a good idea to have a soil engineer inspect the hillside for signs of slippage or sliding. Landslides are a significant cause of damage in California, and they are not covered by homeowners insurance.
PG& E EMF Readings. If there are power lines close to the subject property, you can have PG & E come out and do an Electromagnetic field reading for the property. While there is very little information available regarding what is considered a safe level of EMF exposure, it might be useful to have it checked anyway.
Lead Paint Inspection. If the property was built before 1978, you may want to consider a lead paint inspection. The inspector will test for the presence of lead, especially if there is peeling paint or if there has been substantial remodeling involving sheetrock. Please refer to the Lead Paint booklet for additional information.
Asbestos & Other Environmental Hazards. If the property was built before 1978, you may want to inspect the property for the presence of asbestos, formaldehyde, and other hazards. Asbestos is most commonly found in “popcorn” or acoustic ceilings, insulation for the furnace or heating ducts, and older linoleum. Please refer to the Environmental Hazards booklet for additional information.
Sewer Pipe Inspection. On older homes it is not a bad idea to have the sewer pipes inspected with a remote camera. This is especially important on homes built before the 1960′s that may have terracotta pipes that can get clogged, broken, or infiltrated by tree roots.
Getting the property inspected ahead of time can save you a lot of grief, aggravation, and perhaps money later on. You know what they say. “An ounce of prevention….”