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Constants: Timing and Age

Regardless of what sort of house you have, two factors affecting home inspections remain constant: the timing of your inspection, and the age of the home.

1. Timing: Victims of Mother Nature

Temperature and weather can play a big factor in your inspection. For example, a drought may not be the optimal weather condition in which to discover a potential or active water problem in the basement. After all, it is hard to determine if a glass has a leak when it is empty. However, if it has been raining for a week and the basement is bond dry, there is a good chance that the basement is safe from active flooding. Keep the weather in mind and plan your inspection accordingly.

2. Age: Historical or Hysterical?

To determine the age of the house, start by checking the title, asking the former owners or querying the real estate agent who found it for you. Also, check to see if there is an inspection date on the electrical panel, stamped under the toilet tank lid, or stamped on a brick on the house. Of course these dates may simply indicate a remodeling date, but they offer some clues.

Born Yesterday

With new homes, you are justified to expect a finished product with little or no problems. Minor items that commonly need repair in a new home include:

These items are usually repaired by the builder, though some builders may request that you wait for the one year walk-through for drywall point-up. Minor settling, tape and nail pops, and other drywall imperfections are normal. On the other hand, a new house should not show any signs of foundation settling, water infiltration, severe drywall settling, severely damaged materials, erosion, improperly functioning appliances or mechanical components. Many times, the builder should assume all liabilities and warranties for the house and its components. A recently renovated building may be inspected for traits found in a newer home.

The Early Years

A house that is 2-10 years old may begin to show minor wear and settling. Most foundation settling will usually have occurred by now. However, if a drainage problem is left unresolved, further settling may be a result. By now some maintenance will be required, such as caulking, painting and annual mechanical maintenance. The house should be structurally and mechanically sound. These are some normal conditions expected in a house of this age:

Any severe structural problems may be covered under the home or builder's warranty.

The Terrible Teens

A house that is 11-20 years old may begin to show minor wear and settling. You may need to repair or replace some components, such as those affected by minor rot, peeling basement sealant, failing appliances, HVAC, shingles, siding, caulking, cosmetic surfaces, minor plumbing, concrete chimney caps, and other items. If the appliances are original, they may be nearing the end of their life. A shingled roof's normal life span is 15-25 years, though this may vary. The house should be in sound structural and electrical condition at this age.

Middle Age

As a building ages, it is normal to expect settling in areas such as the foundation, floors, walls, roof, ceilings, and other areas. Some inherent conditions due to age are normal. You should expect to upgrade some components even before their life expectancy is reached, and even the best-cared-for house will need some repairs. Lead paint and asbestos may be present in the buildings of this age and may need to be removed. Owners of a middle-aged house just need to understand that this is not a new building, and the honeymoon is over.

Historic Buildings

Owners of an historic building should be fully aware that their homes could suffer severe settling or have outdated building techniques and components. Mortar may be failing and fireplaces may not be safe to operate. Settling, plaster failing, binding doors, inadequate electrical and heating components, and inadequate R-value for insulation and windows are common with buildings of this age.

Summary

The above examples are broad generalizations chosen to provide an idea of acceptable conditions for variously-aged buildings. Some older homes may be in pristine condition, while newer structures may age poorly due to various factors. The sole purpose of this synopsis is to underscore that signs of aging in buildings are expected. Much of what you discover will not necessarily be the catalyst for an immediate repair.

Useful Tips: Why Get an Inspection? | Constants: Timing and Age | Preparing for Inspection | Aluminum Circuit Wiring | Environmental Concerns | All About Mold | Caring for Your Deck