Inspections For A Buyer

There’s no way around it, buying a home is a big deal. It’s a huge lifestyle purchase and the single largest investment in most people’s financial portfolio. Even for the experienced homebuyer, the process can be a huge undertaking. 

When buying a home, it’s extremely important that you do your due diligence in finding out the condition of the property. As I already noted it’s a huge financial investment and can end up being a money pit if you don’t take the proper precautions. Spend the money on inspections now so you don’t end up spending much more money on repairs later. 

It’s very common for homebuyers to get a general home inspection done on the property they’re purchasing. This is great but home inspectors aren’t specialists in any area and they are simply looking at the general overall condition of the property. They will also make suggestions on bringing in specialists to look at problem areas that they note. Remember, during the home inspection period you have the ability to negotiate for repairs, credits and even void the contract and walk away from the deal while retaining your earnest money deposit. 

Below is a list of different inspections that you may want to consider during your home inspection period. Depending on the market, some of these you have time for and some of them you don’t. Always consult your realtor on what your options are. 

Beyond the General Home Inspection

Radon Inspection: Radon is a gas that comes out of the ground and is linked to causing cancer. The EPA estimates that 1 out of every 15 homes in the US has radon levels that meet or exceed the EPA level of 4.0 pCi/L. These levels are considered to increase the chances of lung cancer. The test takes around two to three days and costs $100-$200. If the levels are found to be at or above 4.0 pCi/L then remediation is suggested. This cost of remediation can range from $1,200-$3,000. 

Well & Septic Inspection: These inspections are often done by separate companies. The well company is inspecting the condition of the well and the potability of the water. The septic company is checking the condition of the septic system, when it was last pumped, if the tank is the right size for the house, etc. Both of these inspections should be completed by a license professional if there is either a well or septic. 

Chimney Inspection: If the property has a wood burning fireplace, a level two cleaning and inspection is a must in my opinion. This is where they clean the chimney so they can get a good look at the brick and mortar and then run a camera up through the chimney to view it. There is almost always something wrong with the chimney or a part of it and can oftentimes run into the five figure repair range. This is an easy negotiation to get the sellers to repair or provide a credit. The cost for this is somewhere in the $300-$400 range and is something that I wouldn’t pass up. 

Roof Inspection: Depending on the size of the roof it can be an extremely costly repair/replacement. When buying a home, always ask the age of the roof. If the sellers don’t know, check in the tax records on when they purchased the home. If they bought the home 20 years ago and they don’t know the age, it’s older than 20 years. You won’t forget paying for a roof replacement. Either way, it may be beneficial to have a roof inspector give you an assessment of the condition of the roof and a replacement cost range so you know. Your realtor should be able to help with the replacement cost range as well. 

Lead Based Paint Inspection: The government banned the use of lead based paint in 1978 but homes built before then can contain it (even some built after). The older the house, the higher the chances are that it has lead based paint. During a lead based paint inspection, the inspector will look for loose paint chips as well as take swabs which can be evaluated in the lab. I’m not going to get into all the risks of lead based paint but I promise you that you can spiral out of control in a lead based paint web md type internet search. Been there, done that. It is important that you read the full lead based paint packet provided by your realtor and gain a proper understanding of lead based paint before even starting your search. 

Wood Destroying Insect Inspection: This is the quickest of all inspections that I’ve been a part of. The inspector is checking the interior and exterior of the property looking for signs of infestation or damage by pests. The most common being mice, termites and carpenter bees. In most contracts that I’ve seen, the seller is responsible for any repairs found from Wood Destroying Insects. This service costs around $45 and isn’t something that I would pass up. 

Electrical Inspection: Electrical and lighting equipment in homes is the 4th leading cause of home fires. An electrical inspection not only checks for ungrounded outlets, double tapped breakers, exposed wires, etc. but also can educate you on the overall wiring of the house. Older homes especially can present some really interesting problems when it comes to wiring. 

HVAC Inspection: This is one of the more expensive components in the home. An HVAC inspection can not only tell you the overall condition of the system but can also tell you how the current owner has been maintaining it. Simple things like changing the air filter on a consistent basis can make a huge difference in the overall lifespan of the unit. Beyond the inspection portion of the home purchase, it’s probably a good idea to get on a maintenance plan with an HVAC company while you own the home. 

Asbestos Inspection: Before 1980, a lot of building materials including paint, roofing, tiles, insulation, etc. in residential homes were made with asbestos. Exposure to damaged or disturbed asbestos can cause a laundry list of short term and long term health issues. Home inspectors cannot say for certain if a material has asbestos or not. That can only be determined in a lab. However, they are trained to point out materials that may have or generally do contain asbestos. If this is brought to your attention, I highly suggest that you have it professionally tested. If asbestos is found, there are options for containment and/or remediation. Either way, you want this completed by an “asbestos licensed” professional. Back to my comment earlier with lead based paint, you can get yourself lost in a web md type internet search on asbestos. Again, been there done that. 

Mold Inspection: Mold can cause a laundry list of health issues often including upper respiratory problems. Mold inspections can be done visually, with air sampling and also thermal imaging devices. The air sampling can take a few days. A comprehensive mold test can range from $400-$800. If your home inspector finds areas where mold may be an issue, it’s highly suggested that you have a mold test completed. 

Plumbing Inspection: A plumbing inspection can check a number of things including connections under sinks, water shut-offs, etc. Most of these can easily be checked by the home inspector. The one area that the home inspector can’t see is the sewer line. This is where you’ll need a plumber to run a camera from the house to the street to check the condition of the pipe. What you want them to look for are any leaks, potential leaks or stoppage points. The replacement of this line can be extremely costly. 

Foundation or Structural Inspection: This inspection is done by a licensed structural engineer which can be costly and difficult to schedule. The structural engineer is looking for existing structural issues which can cause sagging roofs, angled floors, foundation cracks, etc. In most cases your home inspector will point out locations that may be of concern. At this time you can bring in the structural engineer. 

Pool and Hot Tub Inspection: This inspection is going to cover the pool liner, plaster, electrical wires, pumps, heaters, etc. It should even go as far to inspect gate locks, pool covers and other safety features. 

Whoa! You just spent a ton of money on the inspections for your home. That’s one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is that you just potentially saved yourself a lot of money on future repairs and a lot of sleepless nights. In any situation, I always suggest that you consult your realtor on which inspections are going to be right for you. Bottom line, if you have the time, it’s never going to hurt you to get them done. 

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If you have specific questions or would like to set up an in-person meeting to discuss your scenario, please call or email me directly at 703-915-2244 / [email protected]. If you enjoyed this post and would like access to more of my articles/videos, visit the video/blog section of my website at: and follow me on social media @jcurrygroup.

Jason Curry
Licensed Realtor: VA & DC
J Curry Group at KW Metro Center
2101 Wilson Blvd #100
Arlington, VA 22201

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About the Author

Jason Curry, founding owner of the J Curry Group, based in Arlington, VA, has a long record of successfully guiding his clients through the home buying and selling process. He epitomizes integrity, energy, hard work, and creative service in every detail of your residential real estate transaction and he has represented sellers, buyers, and investors. Jason is annually a top producer in the area and is respected among clients and colleagues. Jason specializes in applying his expertise and market knowledge to residential properties that consistently exceed the personal and investment goals of his clients. He recognizes the importance of customer service in the real estate industry, and has developed systems and processes to ensure pleased and profitable clients. Grateful for an amazing group of neighborhood friends and contacts, Jason makes sure that new residents are welcomed in a way that has become customary in the Northern Virginia area. Jason is a lifelong resident of the DMV and is a proud alum of George Mason University where he earned his Bachelors degree.