What to Expect From a New Jersey Home Inspection

Buying a new home is exciting and stressful.  Once you've found the house you love, being prepared about inspections will help make the purchase process much smoother.

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Nothing causes more stress in the purchase process than inspection issues.
Here are key points to understand about inspections and inspection issues.  Understanding these up front will make your purchase process easier.

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What is the purpose of the inspection?

1.  The inspection serves two purposes for the buyer. The first is to give you a clear understanding of the condition of the house and what sort of maintenance you will need to be undertaking as an owner.  The inspector will make suggestions to you about where he/she sees maintenance issues and recommendations for how to address them.

2. The second is to ascertain if there are hidden defects that a buyer wouldn’t see while walking through the home.  Unless a home is new construction there will be normal wear and tear. 

Inspections are not intended to give the buyer a carte blanche to ask the seller to address all of the wear and tear issues or to recoup money from the purchase price.

Rather, the inspection is intended to help a buyer determine if there are failures or significant issues in the mechanical, electrical, structural, or environmental aspects of the house, e.g. is there a crack in the foundation?  Is there an oil tank buried on the property?  Is there knob and tube wiring?  Has the roof begun to leak?  Does the air conditioner not work? Is there asbestos? These are legitimate concerns that either have to be addressed to the satisfaction of the buyer or will give the buyer the opportunity to walk away from the purchase. 

Smaller failures that could turn up in an inspection and should be addressed by the seller include things such as a toilet that won’t flush, stove burners that don’t turn on, a short in an outlet, a window that won’t open. 

Things that are not legitimate asks are water heaters at the end of their life but that still work, an old roof that hasn’t leaked, cosmetic concerns like scratched floors,  scuffed paint, minor cracks in the paint, and other clear wear and tear issues that you can see when you walk through a house on your own.

The Inspector
Think of the inspector as the general practitioner.  He/she has a general understanding of home construction and knows what to look for.  If he/she finds evidence of something that may be a concern, he/she may recommend that a specialist be called in for a closer look.

This could include a Level 2 chimney inspection, an electrician, a roofer, an engineer, a sewer scope or whatever issue may need a deeper look.

What to expect during the inspection
We recommend that you be present at the inspection to hear first hand from the inspector as he/she walks through the house.  Allow 3 to 4 hours for an inspection.

Termite damage
The inspector will also conduct a wood-boring insect inspection.  In New Jersey, sellers are required by law to remediate any wood-boring insect infestations and repairs.

The inspector will also place a radon canister in the basement, where it will remain untouched for 2 days.  If radon is found to be present, it can be remediated through a ventilation system.  Radon is naturally occurring, and a ventilation system is very effective.  They are common in our area.

Lead Paint
In our area, where homes are older, it is almost certain that a home will contain some trace of lead paint.  Lead paint was widely used before it was outlawed in 1978.  The recommendation for the remediation of lead paint is to paint over it.  Trying to remove lead paint would be a nearly impossible undertaking, as it requires removing any surface that has been painted, including woodwork, walls, ceilings, etc.  Unless a surface is actively pealing, the risk is negligible.

If you have concerns about lead paint, we recommend that you limit your home search to homes built after 1978.

Oil Tank Inspections
For much of the last century, oil was the major source of fuel for home heating in our area.  At this point, a majority of homes have converted to gas, but there is still concern about oil tanks.

Often a home owner is not aware that there is an oil tank, usually decommissioned, buried somewhere on their property.  Oil tanks have only become an issue to be addressed in the past ten years or so, as homeowners have discovered that decommissioned tanks may have leaked years earlier contaminating the soil.

We recommend hiring an oil tank specialist to conduct a tank sweep during your inspection.  We suggest this be done even if the current owners did a sweep of their own at some point. 

The inspector will look through the interior of the house to see if there is evidence that a tank was ever in use, and will also do a scan of the entire property to look for old hidden tanks.

We always recommend that, should a tank be found, the sellers remove it and test for oil leakage.

If the home still uses oil, we recommend that any buried tank be removed and a new, non-corroding one be placed above ground.

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Your inspection report
Finally, do not be surprised when you get your report and it is very lengthy and filled with dire concerns with every aspect of the house you are about to spend a huge amount of money to buy.  Take a breath and understand that inspectors are giving you a thorough picture of the condition of the house, including maintenance that you will need to do once you are the owner, and of course this is New Jersey, a very litigious state, so you get the idea.

Your agent will help you determine which issues must be addressed, which would be nice-to-haves, and she/he will help negotiate with the sellers' agent and attorney to get to a win-win solution that makes everyone feel good about the sale and purchase.  The idea here is not to see the sellers as an adversary but as partners in the transaction.