Home Inspections – Comparing Notes

Picture showing existing ceiling
Picture showing existing ceiling
Shannon #2 Ceiling Joists Exposed
Ceiling Joists Exposed

Prior to purchasing real property (aka your home!), most buyers choose to hire a home inspector to perform a limited examination of their prospective home. I recently had the opportunity to see how home inspectors conduct an inspection … on two different homes in D.C. While the method and steps taken at each home did not vary widely, the inspection results certainly did. So, for today’s post, I’m going to share with you some random and not-so-random thoughts I had about the home inspection process and the quality (or lack thereof) of the home renovations subject to inspection. And, in case you are wondering, each home inspection averaged around $450.

Home #1 – Brentwood

Before beginning his inspection, an inspector may check to see what permits have been pulled on a particular property (e.g. building, mechanical, electric, plumbing, etc.). In this case, the owner renovated his home without pulling any permits. While the permit process can sometimes be time-consuming, permits and follow-on inspections serve a purpose: permits can be pulled by licensed professionals only (except for the building permit in cases where the homeowner is acting as his/her own general contractor) and inspectors verify the work being done is completed to code. So, what did the inspector find?! Most noteworthy – in a not so good way – were a PVC pipe used for the basement bathroom that just happened to have been routed outside the actual home (cold weather = freezing pipes) and a HVAC unit that was too large for the actual size of the home. You may think bigger is better, but in the case of HVAC systems, the inspector explained, if a unit is not sized correctly a smaller system is actually ‘less bad’. A unit that is too big heats and cools a home too quickly (short cycling), leading to moisture issues as well as other problems you can read about here

Home #2 – Petworth

Structural issues, generally speaking, are a huge red flag for homebuyers. Even when embarking on a renovation project, the budget needed to fix what lies below the home’s surface or within its walls, can be cost-prohibitive. In this property’s case, cracks in the sidewalk and a deep dip beginning at the property’s center led the inspector to believe that the home may have been subject to a water main leak. Broken water mains have been known to flood homes with mud and cause streets to crumble. Add to this an addition that had never been secured properly – neither to the ground nor the existing structure – and a joist (what’s that?) that had been cut into and therefore compromised, this house was not priced to take into account its many structural woes. 

p.s. Following these home inspections, I’ve decided to inspect my own home (Shannon #1). You see, when I purchased my first property — and even now my second – I purchased a blighted property. In this category of home-buying, (1) a home inspection would have made me a less competitive buyer (think: the more contingencies you have as a buyer to opt out of the home purchase when the seller wants to sell immediately, the less likely you are to be the successful home bidder) and (2) it was very clear that both properties were in dire need of rehabilitation. Now that Shannon #1 is mostly complete, it’s time to find out how my home renovation compares to those I’ve so far observed in D.C.

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