A home inspection is important for what it can tell you about the home you are about to buy. However, not every finding in an inspection will be cut and dry. There may be features in a home that aren't so well known, or whose impact on new owners may seem insignificant. In reality, it's best to take the advice of your home inspector, especially if he or she comes across one of these potentially costly features.
The water system of a home is obviously a vital aspect that needs to be in good shape to keep a house habitable. This also means that minor problems could add up to major repair bills should you purchase a home with bad plumbing. Since pipes are out of reach behind walls or deep underground, fixing or replacing them is a costly endeavor. Their location also makes them difficult to fully inspect.
One sure sign of bad plumbing can be scoped out in a home inspection, however. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, home inspectors look for a certain pipe material that is prone to failure to determine the worthiness of a home's plumbing system. This material is known as polybutylene, or PB, and is a plastic that was on the market from 1978 until 1995. Due to its low cost, flexibility and ease of installation, PB was a favorite choice for homes built around this period. Unfortunately, by 1995 it was discovered that PB pipes were prone to failure. This resulted in class-action lawsuits that required PB manufacturers to give payouts to homeowners.
While much of the PB on the market has likely been replaced by better materials, there is still a chance that an older home could contain these pipes. In this case, a home inspector may recommend full replacement. Although costly, this choice is far cheaper than the potential damage caused by flooding from a burst pipe.
In a guide on what to look out for in a home inspection, John Coile of The Washington Post encourages buyers to focus on "big-ticket items." These are the issues that have the biggest potential for expensive repairs down the road, and as such they should be dealt with early. Ideally, issues that will require expensive upgrades like these will be used as bargaining chips before the home is bought and the deal is finalized.
The HVAC system is what delivers heating and cooling to a home, and thus is a very important, very expensive feature. According to Coile, an HVAC system older than 20 years is probably on its way out, and buyers should either ask for a concession on this or consider walking away from the property. An old HVAC unit can lead to air quality issues that may prove hazardous to the occupants' health as well.
The roof is another vital and pricey part of the home inspection. While roofs are meant to take a beating, they have lifespans just like any other part of the home. That's why an inspector will make a point of checking out the roof in the safest way possible. Loose or curling shingles are the biggest sign that the roof needs attention. Water spots on the ceiling are also a major red flag that's almost impossible to miss.
With any of these issues, talk to your real estate agent to figure out the best course of action for getting a concession written into the closing deal. If it's a big-ticket item like one of these, chances are it could be make or break for the sellers anyway.