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Only those with a home inspection certificate should undertake home inspections. However, there are times when it simply isn’t possible. Perhaps you have to close the deal soon, and there’s no qualified home inspector available on short notice, or maybe the property is such a good deal that even if the building ended up being a tear-down, you’d still come out ahead.
There are several reasons why you may want to forego a house inspection by a home inspector. While this is never advisable, you may be able to conduct a home inspection on your own. If you decide to go ahead, there are several key areas you can check before confirming the condition of home inspection has been met or even decide not to include it on the property’s offer. If home inspection is an area you’re passionate about, you could also consider taking a course and potentially earning a home inspection certificate.
Those who have taken a home inspection course and run a business, have all the tools available that help them look behind walls and under surfaces without damaging anything. In doing a home inspection yourself, you may be at a disadvantage without devices like moisture meters, infrared cameras and gas meters. However, you can still access some of the standard tools you’ll need.
Pull together a flashlight, overalls, screwdriver set, ladders, tape measure, utility knife, thermometer, soft/lightweight plastic ribbon (to check airflow), drop cloth, pliers, coveralls, gloves and a tool bag or box. You’ll also want to have a digital camera if the one on your phone doesn’t take high-quality pictures. Be sure to add a clipboard with notepaper as well.
With these tools, you’ll be inspecting all the systems of the building: electrical, heating, plumbing, interior, exterior and roof, basement. To do this, you’ll need to enter areas like crawl spaces and attics while also poking around under sinks, in access hatches and through all rooms. If you’re claustrophobic or have a fear of heights, it’s best to have someone else perform the home inspection for you.
Every home – even a new one – will have some issues. It may be minor things like trees that need trimming so that they don’t hang over the roof, chipped tiles or doors that stick. There may also be major issues like a rotting roof, shifted foundation or water damage in the basement. Acknowledge the age of the house, the level of “standard living” wear and tear and any issues that may have previously been pointed out. A building described in its listing as a “fixer-upper” is going to have many significant problems. Regardless of the state of the house, it’s your job (as it would be for someone who has taken a home inspection certificate course to treat the building with respect.
The goal is to leave the house exactly as you found it. So it’s important to be careful. For instance, you may want to use a drop cloth if the access to the attic is above the carpeted area to prevent dirt and insulation from falling onto it. Wear boot or shoe covers if you plan to wear your footwear inside and clean up any mess you may make. Some home inspectors carry a mini vacuum in their toolbox for this reason. Even if there is more destructive damage, such as a hole in the drywall, you use your flashlight to check or take a picture for your report. Your job at this point is only to report what you see.
Rely on your senses. How do things look? Does the basement smell mouldy? Do the pipes squeal when you turn on the water? Without advanced tools that certified home inspectors employ, you’d need to put your faculties to good use. Use your sense of smell, touch, sight, and hearing to detect if something is wrong.
Is there a knocking sound in the pipes? Do any of the rooms smell damp and mouldy? Is there standing water in the driveway that runs under the garage door? Push on fence posts to check for stability and inspect any outbuildings. Look for pooling water in the yard or near the house (this can be an indication of a drainage issue) and check for indicators of rot like dirt pushed against the house above the concrete line. Take pictures and make notes of everything.
Inside, continue with the crawl space and basement. Continue to take pictures, as the camera may pick up what the eyes can’t detect. You’ll want to look carefully at both the walls and floors of these areas as they can indicate structural issues as well as water problems. Take notes of any cracks and deposits of concrete rubble. Look for water stains, small lines of sand or dirt and other indicators of water ingress.
In the attic, tie a piece of flexible tape to the end of your pen and hold it in the airflow near the vents. If it doesn’t move, it could indicate a lack of airflow, and while an attic shouldn’t be a wind tunnel, it should have air movement. Take note of any rodent droppings, signs of leaks or damaged trusses.
Turn on all appliances, lights, faucets and HVAC components. Look for leaks in all accessible areas (or signs of leaks), ensure electrical fixtures and appliances work as they should and double-check that there is no “rotten egg” aroma around gas appliances. Also, open all doors and windows to ensure functionality.
Take time to look at the electrical panel. Check for any visible signs of defects or damage. How old is it? Have new breakers been installed? Like everything else, this step is crucial as well, and you may want to do a thorough inspection.
Although you may be able to go ahead with the home inspection, without the benefit of a home inspection course, you won’t have all the answers. But you can still ask questions about things that don’t look right. Your realtor will be able to advise you as to whether you should consider the property or pass up on it.