There is nothing that makes a house feel like a real home more than the sense of personal security, comfort, and safety that it provides to us and to our families. No one should have to live in fear of their safety and well being, but the unfortunate fact is that there are a whole host of different home safety issues or conditions that can easily go undetected. That’s why a comprehensive and professional home inspection is so important.
A home may, of course, look and feel fantastic to the untrained eye. But only a qualified and experienced property inspector can investigate to examine the potential for hidden or disguised risk that may be lurking beneath the surface.
These days, for example, many buyers and investors are taking advantage of lower real estate prices to purchase bargains. These might include foreclosures, REO properties being unloaded by banks and mortgage companies, or deeply discounted houses and condos being sold by homeowners who are under duress due to unmanageable mortgages. But when properties have been left vacant and on the market for a long time, when they have been abandoned by foreclosed-upon residents, or when sellers are strapped for cash then maintenance and safety issues are often pushed aside or completely neglected. An unsuspecting buyer may inherit a slew of unknown and unseen problems that can add untold amounts of repair costs to the actual price of the home – while undermining any potential for equity appreciation.
A qualified inspector will critique the home in a fair, objective, unbiased way but will leave no stone unturned while investigating any potential safety hazard. That may mean checking to be sure that the electrical wiring is up-to-date and that it meets local building and fire codes. An electrical inspection, for instance, includes major components like breaker boxes and will check to be sure that wiring is intact, appropriately insulated, and properly grounded.
But it will also look at seemingly minor things, such as making sure that there are functional GFI outlets near sinks and other sources of water. While these are relatively inexpensive and simple items, they can prevent an accidental electrocution and are mandated by building codes. Sometimes the face plate for the outlet may be present – with the characteristic GFI design and red reset button – but the wiring behind the plate is inadequate. The outlet can look safe and compliant, in other words, while it is actually no different from any ordinary outlet that will not automatically shut off in the event of a dangerous surge of current. Without a proper home inspection this kind of easy-to-miss hazard could go undetected – especially since it is a relatively minor part of the overall electrical system. But despite the fact that it is a smaller detail it stills represents one of the most serious health and safety hazard features – and if overlooked it could lead to a catastrophic outcome.
There are also structural issues – like unsafe chimneys, unstable building foundations, insufficient supportive joists and beams, or poorly designed stairways – that can be hard to spot without expert help from a property inspector. Mechanical problems with systems like stoves, boilers, and furnaces are another category that can make a home unsafe. A tiny crack in the heat exchanger compartment of a furnace, for instance, can leak deadly but odorless and invisible carbon monoxide gas into a house. Every year there are unfortunate and preventable fatalities that occur simply because homeowners are not aware of this lethal threat – but it is a problem that an observant home inspector can catch a majority of the time, so the situation can be remedied.
Not only do these pose a threat to the safety of occupants, but they can also cause the kinds of accidents that injure others and lead to financially devastating lawsuits. If someone is coming up your front steps and falls because of a rickety banister or improperly pitched and measured stair runner or riser, for example, it could have terrific repercussions.
Environmental hazards are another big area of potential health risk, because the presence of such things as toxic mold, radon gas, or asbestos can represent potentially deadly problems. A good building inspector with the proper skills and measuring devices can also determine if any of these pose a problem, while accurately distinguishing between false alarms and actual threats and dangers.
Rather than waiting for such latent problems to turn into unwelcome and unexpected threats to your safety – as well as the safety of family members and precious pets – every homeowner or buyer should have a complete home inspection done by a certified expert.