SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Buying a home is one of the most important decisions many people will make in their lifetime, and for some, it is considered the American Dream.
However, before getting the white picket fence checked off of a lifetime bucket list, it is important to do what some homebuyers are not doing — have a home inspection done.
According to a Forbes poll, 85% of those who participated said they did or would cut their cost by not having a home inspection done if they purchased a home at a higher price than they expected.
Retired Assistant Fire Chief and General Manager of Prism Home and Building Inspections LLC Mike Grossman spoke with WSAV News 3 about the importance of getting home inspections that could avoid catastrophes for families. Grossman has nearly 30 years of experience as a firefighter, inspector, educator and investigator.
The importance of home inspections
Home inspections are important, so you have an opportunity to know what you’re buying, what you’re getting. There’s several reason why you should get a home inspection, first off, so there’s no hidden surprises when you move into a home.
Buying a home is probably the single largest investment that people make in their lifetime. A home inspection is a real small investment so that you can make a more informed buying decision.
The purpose of a home inspection is so you can understand the home’s overall condition better and determine what repairs need to be done immediately, what can be done soon and what can be waited on.
Avoiding costly problems
Any time you get into something structural, it can be very costly — new home construction, too. We find a lot of errors that are in new homes. Not necessarily workmanship errors but workmanship oversight or cutting corners, so that’s important.
Identifying roof issues is important, the age or how long it might last you. Electrical, same thing. A lot of older homes in Savannah, 200-, 300-year-old homes that have been updated over the years and/or maybe the updating renovations were not done necessarily up to code or to standard. but at the time that it was done was probably code then.
We find a lot of times that people who flip houses, there’s a YouTube video for everything. They watch a YouTube video and think, ‘Well I can rewire my house, or I can do this or that.’ We find a lot of stuff where they really put lipstick on a pig. They did the nice things. When you go into a home, you have emotional blinders on. So, you bring a home inspector in, who is a third party, nothing to gain out of it, they’re just there to advise you and they get into the nitty-gritty.
In all of the recommendations that we make, we want you to have licensed contractors. So, for instance, in the state of Georgia, certain trades are required to be licensed, like electricians, plumbers, HVAC technicians. All those people should not only have business licenses, but they should also have licenses in their respective trades, which holds them to a certain level of accountability to be up on standards and codes and do things appropriately.
A lot of times when we go out there and we do our inspections, we can spot what was done by a licensed electrician or a licensed plumber and so forth, compared to somebody who did that YouTube video.
A lot of times, people buy a house and they’re in a reactive maintenance mode, ‘Something breaks, I fix it, if something breaks, I’ve got to get someone out to take care of it, repair, replace it.’ Really, there’s a lot of proactive maintenance that needs to happen or responsive maintenance where, for instance, your HVAC systems should have that serviced for at least twice a year.
Common issues of newer homes
We find a lot of issues sometimes with the way it was framed, just poorly attached, not leveled, the wrong types of tresses or the work not according to the design or blueprints.
We also find HVAC systems that are not installed properly. In order to save on manpower and on materials and labor, they will put in a system and not design it or put it in the way that would be most effective or efficient in heating and cooling. Also, incomplete or incorrect installations of appliances. You as a new home buyer may not know that at all, you may not realize that.
We find some wiring issues, typically with houses that weren’t wired properly or switches that don’t work properly.
If you’ve been through the new home-build process, you know some of these builders are in a hurry to get things done. They’re building dozens of homes at the same time and the big drive is to just get it done by a certain date on the calendar. So, they make you empty promises, they say, ‘Don’t worry, just close tomorrow. As long as you close tomorrow, our maintenace department will come back in, or our warranty department and they will fix those issues for you.’ Well, having been there myself, that isn’t the case. A lot of times that’s the struggle, it’s getting them to come back.
What happens is, I’ve inherited their problem. That happens whether I’m buying a new, or an old home. As a home inspector, we don’t want you to inherit someone else’s problems, unless you are buying to renovate.
Just because you’re buying a new home, it isn’t always perfect. We definitely know that on a slightly used home or a fixer-upper.
From a home inspector’s standpoint, what could cause a home explosion?
Any time you’re dealing with natural gas or propane gas, you can have circumstances where that can cause you an issue. You need to have some sort of ignition source. A spark from turning on a light switch, or a spark from an electric water heater kicking on, any of those various things could happen, it just needs to find the right source.
If you’re buying any type of home that has natural gas or propane gas supplied, and propane comes from installed cylinders whether it be in above ground or below ground, you’ve got the tank itself, and then you’ve got the piping network, and that can be flexible or rigid piping that goes to the various appliances and systems that you have, whether it be a gas furnace, a water heater, a stove, a cooktop, a fire place.
Natural gas, then comes from a natural gas supplier through a gas meter, and then, once again, rigid and or flexible piping throughout the house. So, imagine if you have leaks in that tubing, or at the meter, or a malfunction of that appliance, you can have gas leaks, whether it be propane or natural gas. And all it needs to do is have the right level of concentration in the vapor and an ignition source to spark and cause an explosion.
There’s a lot of water heaters in garages around here, and that’s okay. For years you used to have to elevate a gas water heater in garages because you had that pilot light that’s inside that water heater at the bottom and that vapor, you could have an ignition source that could cause that vapor to ignite if you’re not careful.
So, back in 2009, they added to the codes that electric water heaters should be elevated in garages as well. The reason being is if your car is in the garage and you have gas cans for lawnmowers and other equipment in garages and that gas vapors down low, and every time that water heater kicks on it creates a spark inside. And if vapors are high enough, to the level of that water heater, you could in fact cause some sort of explosion, or gas-fed fire.
So, now, all water heaters in garages, unless they are intrinsicality sealed, are required to be elevated at least 18 inches off the garage floor.
Getting a home inspection every few years
I think that it would be good for people to have a home inspection at least every three to five years, unless they’re really good about their home maintenance. Pay for a home inspection and have them come out and go through the house with you and have them point out things that you may or may not see.
Not everyone is that good at maintaining their home and there might be things that you didn’t realize.
We address safety issues, but we also make recommendations for improvements to your home so that it can reduce deterioration, prolong design service life, or at least try and get the full service life out of it.