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Ask McEnearney: What Should I Expect From a Home Inspection?

This week’s Q&A column is written by Ann McClure of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant market news, contact Ann at 301-367-5098 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Inspecting? What should I expect?

Answer: Home Inspections. So beneficial — even in a very tight inventory market. I get it, sometimes to get a house a buyer might feel they have to waive the inspection. However, I would encourage this buyer to still do a home inspection, post-closing or at least have some experts out to check major systems (HVAC, roof, chimney, electrical and plumbing). Making the most of this time and these experts is key to successful home ownership.

Buyers, this is your opportunity to learn about your future property — the biggest investment you will likely ever make. Won’t your parents feel better knowing you inspected? All kidding aside, home maintenance is critical to both enjoying where you live and your prospects for resale down the road.

An inspection may also reveal current defects or, at the very least, items needing attention in the future. For instance, did you notice the tell-tale signs of water intrusion along the baseboards in the lower level? Or the mold-like substance on rafters in the attic? Are these signs of a current issue?

Inspectors are great resources for prioritizing projects: Needed updates, ideal upgrades and critical maintenance. Take advantage of their knowledge — learn where to spend money and where you may be able to wait, at least for now. You may even learn of alternate solutions you might not have considered or even known about, otherwise. What? You can open those painted windows with a pizza cutter? And, sealing your air ducts can increase the energy-efficiency of your home by how much? That might really save on your energy bills! You’ll find out, if I install a UV light on the furnace, does it really help with allergies and other bacteria?

Get your questions answered… Why is carrying the water away from the house so important? Why does your gas furnace need a certain amount of air flow around it? Why are the expensive furnace filters maybe sometimes not as good as the cheaper ones?

What if you are buying a new construction property? Many times, I have heard of buyers forgoing inspections on a new home, but experience has taught me, just because a home is new does NOT mean it is defect-free. I once saw an independent inspector find an issue with a gas furnace that both the builder’s inspector and the county inspector missed, that could cause a potentially deadly carbon monoxide issue!

A good home inspection offers a baseline. God forbid you have an insurance claim — at least you would have written documentation of the condition your home was in should you ever have to prove it. Like the Farmers Insurance commercials, but with my twist, “Inspectors, they know a thing or two because they’ve seen a thing or two.”

Let’s play devil’s advocate… Suppose you spend several hundred dollars and have a great home inspection and very few issues are found. No, you didn’t waste your money! Congratulations — you were just validated! You made a sound investment. Isn’t that peace-of-mind worth a few hundred well-spent dollars? Your realtor must have taught you well!

Buying a property “AS IS”? Don’t you still have to know what IS is? Learn about the home and its issues and then decide if you still want to move forward. Perhaps there’s a cracked foundation. Just like leaving spoiled milk in the fridge — it won’t get any better if you just leave it. Depending on how your contract is written, you may be able to void following an inspection, so you don’t have to inherit someone else’s problem.

Sellers, you’re not off the hook. Ensure a good selling experience… Have your HVAC serviced and change those filters! Get a roof certification. Have your chimney cleaned. Check the sump-pump, clean your gutters, check your ice maker and furnace humidifier — these are frequently a homeowner’s “problem children”.

Before listing, make a list and have a handyman take care of any minor, long-overdue maintenance. Once you have a contract, be sure to clear paths to panels, HVAC, water heater and crawl spaces (inside and out) before an inspection.

Finally, just because you had an inspection doesn’t mean all issues will be found. I would average that about two-thirds may be discovered, because an inspector can’t tear open the walls (though they may use infrared and moisture meters) and they can’t pull up the flooring, etc.

Remember, depending on the terms of your contract, the process following the inspection is a negotiation between buyer and seller. Just because an issue is found does not mean the seller will address it. Knowledge is key — learn about your home, prioritize your projects to create a plan for action, and take pride in your investment. It’s money well-spent.

Ann McClure is a licensed real estate agent in Virginia and Maryland with McEnearney Associates, Inc. If you would like more information on selling or buying in today’s complex market, contact Ann at 301-367-5098 or visit her website

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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