What to Expect When You’re Inspecting

First, let’s bring things up to speed…

Andrew and I are currently living in Ewing, New Jersey; a small town right outside of the state capital, Trenton, which is about 45 minutes north of Philadelphia, PA. We have been in Ewing for about 1 year via Collingswood, NJ; a sweet and adorable small town right outside of Philly on the Jersey side of the Delaware River where we lived for 2 years after graduating from college.

Andrew and I had been looking to move again since we had both accepted new jobs in areas that are closer to the shore. We didn’t think buying was an option, but we sat down with a loan officer and found out that was totally going to be possible!

Andrew and I hunted for houses throughout the month of June and we put an offer on the our house in Hazlet, NJ {home of Sammi “Sweetheart” of Jersey Shore fame; let the eye-rolling ensue} at the very end of June. After a little back and forth and really sticking to our guns on an offer price, the seller accepted.

We had our home inspection done a few weeks ago and we are now negotiating, with the sellers, the items from the report that they will/won’t fix. This has been the most nerve wracking part of the entire experience because, as I mentioned in our previous post, the sellers are doing a lot of guesswork because it’s an estate sale (their parents’ home). Which brings me to the gist of this post; what to expect when you’re inspecting…

As a general rule of thumb, when you’re purchasing a house, you simply must have a home inspection. It is not required, but it’s the best $500 you’ll ever spend. Well, in our case it was about $500 ($470 to be exact). I think that’s rare though. Some inspectors were charging $600, $700 or more. We got a great deal and an awesome inspector at that. {Big ups to our man Joe!} No matter what the price, though, it’s worth it. You’ll understand why as you read on. Also, when selecting an inspector, find out what’s included in the cost. We needed a full home inspection, a radon test and a termite test. These 3 inspections were included in the price of $470. Some inspectors had a sort of a la carte menu of services, which could have ended up costing us a lot more after adding up the total.

Once you select your home inspector, you’ll schedule a time for them to do the inspection. Your Realtor will be present and the seller’s agent may choose to be present as well. In our case, the seller’s agent was present. This has its pros and cons. The seller’s agent was able to answer some questions we had, but at the same time, she gave us a lot of false information because she just wanted to paint a rosy picture about everything… “Oh yes, this is a non-load-bearing wall, so you can just tear it down whenever you want.” Our home inspector was able to pull us aside and set the record straight (it was a load-bearing wall and, either way, you can’t just pull a wall down that easily). Needless to say, their agent’s credibility went right out the “tilt windows” (she claimed they were tilt windows, but all we had to do was open them to find out they weren’t. Silly thing to make up, really when you think about it).

You’ll also want to consider what you’re getting for the price. Our home inspector was very thorough. He spent over 2 hours inspecting the entire property from the roof, all the way down to the basement. We asked him tons of questions. He was an incredible resource for us. Naturally, being first time home buyers, hearing all of the things that were “wrong” with the house was pretty overwhelming. He reassured us that our inspection actually wasn’t so bad at all. Remember, your home inspector is there to find problems; they’re going to find problems! When all was said and done, these were our main concerns:

Possible abandoned oil tank – there was an oil tank switch in the home, but there were absolutely no remnants of an oil tank. If an underground oil tank is present and abandoned, you’ve got big problems on your hands. Big, ex$pen$ive problems! The seller was eventually able to confirm that there was, in fact, an oil tank at one time, but it was above ground and had been removed over 30 years ago. Just to be absolutely certain, we ordered a sweep of the property (cost $275) to inspect for any abandoned, underground tanks that our home inspector was not able to readily detect during the general home inspection. The home inspector is trained to assess the overall condition of a property. He/she may often recommend hiring a specialists to do some further investigative work.

Vermiculite in the attic – You can read all about it here (good readin’)! Vermiculite is a type of insulation and some vermiculite that was obtained from a particular mine in Montana and sold in the United States from 1919 to 1990 was eventually found to be contaminated with asbestos. Only some of the vermiculite in this mine was contaminated, but this still affects many homes and buildings today. So we ordered a separate test (cost $125) where our inspector took a small sample of the vermiculite and sent it out to a lab to be tested for asbestos.

Aside from these two major issues, there were several other issues that were serious, but would never become a horrifying expense. And you DON’T want to inherit a horrifying expense. Remember, the results of your home inspection can allow you to break free of your contract and walk away from the deal all-together. Better to find out when you’re only a few hundred dollars in the hole than when you’re having your yard excavated for an abandoned oil tank (that’ll cost ya)!

This is a pretty long story, but longer story short, the results of the asbestos test came back to us in about 1 week’s time and there is officially NO asbestos in the vermiculite! The oil tank sweep was ordered on a Tuesday and completed that Thursday – no abandoned, underground oil tanks! As for the other issues I mentioned, among them were a deteriorated chimney and an open vent pipe.

Chimney and waste vent pipe from home inspection report

We are now in the process of going back and forth with the seller to negotiate these items. We requested they fix about 10 separate issues, of which they have already fixed 4 (and they are attempting to fix a few more). So they met us more than halfway and we are still trying to get them to fix an electrical issue (reversed polarity – could permanently damage electronics plugged into the affected outlets). Other than those issues, there are a few on our list of requests that will probably inhibit the seller from obtaining their certificate of occupancy (C.O.), which certifies their compliance with any building codes and other laws set forth by the town. At the time of the C.O. inspection, the seller will most likely be forced to fix some of these unresolved issues.

So we spent $870 to have a complete home inspection, radon test, termite test, asbestos test and oil tank sweep. It seems like a lot of money for a few lousy pieces of paper, but to be completely honest, I am more excited about these pieces of paper than picking paint colors right now (and believe me, I’m pretty excited about picking paint colors). Now we have our peace of mind and the documentation to prove it! This will so come in handy when we go to re-sell. We had some pretty serious, potential problems on our hands. We had many conversations about what we would have done if an abandoned oil tank or asbestos were found, and most of the time we concluded that if the seller didn’t fully rectify the issue, we were going to walk away. We are just thanking our lucky stars now that it hasn’t come to that (yet)!

Bottom line: a home inspection is key. No matter what the cost.