A home inspection is a series of standard checks regarding the mechanical functions and general condition of a home. Essentially, buyers want to know if there are any serious faults with the house that would break the deal. Often the issues are small, fixable, and negotiable with the seller. Some of the most common things that a certified home inspector will check include safety issues – does the home have working smoke detectors, ground fault interrupters, safety glass in bathrooms, and uniform steps; drainage issues in windows, gutters, and flashing; and the general working condition of the HVAC. There are also standard checks on plumbing, electrical system, roof, and structure that may require you to hire someone more specialized for consultation. But what typical issues might an inspector miss that may not be his or her fault?

Partially blocked or damaged sewer line. The inspector is present in the home for several hours and will run water during that time. It simply may not be enough time to show evidence of a partially blocked or damaged sewer line. And scoping a drainpipe is not generally a task included in home inspections.

HVAC that will fail any day. Air conditioning may work fine on a moderately hot day during the inspection. But there’s no way for the inspector to tell if the stress of a much hotter day will cause it to fail. An inspector may be able to find signs of wear and tear, though cannot always predict how much life a furnace and AC has left in it.

Cracked heat exchanger. A crack in the heat exchanger of a furnace can be a potential danger in the way of carbon monoxide poisoning. The exchanger is not generally checked during an inspection, so it maybe worthwhile to contract an HVAC contractor to test it if it’s an older unit.

Electrical issues. Home inspectors are limited in what they can test in the electrical system. For example, if a receptacle isn’t grounded, an electrician will have to find the disconnect.

Structural issues. An inspector can do a visual inspection of the roof and knows how to look for typical areas of concern. However, he may not be able to tell how bad the problem is or how much repair will cost. In such a case, a roof contractor is needed for consultation. Also, an inspector can find suspicious foundation cracks, but may not be certain how serious they are to the structure. In such cases, you may need to consult a structural engineer.

Leaks. The most common leaks are found under cabinets of kitchen and bathroom sinks. Bumped drain traps are often the culprit. But inspections are often done in vacant homes where actual water spots have dried up and don’t give the telltale signs of a leak. And also, there may be no sign of water leaking through the ceiling until a few weeks after you’ve moved in.

Real Estate Term of the Week

Heat Exchanger: A device used to transfer heat from one fluid to another without direct contact of the fluids. Heat exchangers usually maximize the transfer of heat by maximizing the contact surface area between fluids, as when the warmer fluid is passed through a series of coils or thin plates. A furnace’s heat exchanger is a set of tubes or coils that are looped repeatedly through the air flow inside your furnace for the purpose of heating air. Simply put, the furnace heat exchanger is the part of your furnace that actually heats the air.

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