One of the most important aspects of any residential real estate acquisition is the pre-purchase inspection. Here, you want to be as thorough as possible; even the simplest problems could mean the difference between positive cash flow and negative equity, or even loss of life in some cases. For these reasons, it’s always best to contract a qualified professional inspector, ideally one who carries errors and omissions insurance, should they happen to miss something costly.

While home inspections typically cover a lot of ground, the six key aspects of a pre-purchase inspection entail ensuring the home is free of termite damage, structural problems, electrical system issues, leaking roofs, plumbing system problems and HVAC concerns.

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In extreme situations, termite infestation could well mean tearing a house down completely. While this isn’t typical, the possibility exists, so you want to make sure a potential investment property is termite free. The good news is most termite cases are treatable and the seller generally pays. However, the other side of it is termites tend to come back, so if they’re there, it’s likely to be an ongoing problem. For this reason, you want to make sure your inspector has termite expertise.

Similarly, structural problems can be the source of a lot of red ink. Cracked walls, doors that won’t close and bulging floors are all signs of potential structural damage. Much of this can usually be traced to uneven foundation settlement, which can be caused by a number of issues. Faulty construction is one, but improperly compacted fill soils can undermine the integrity of a foundation as well. Good inspectors pay very close attention to this area. Left untreated, structural problems only get worse.

Minor electrical problems can be a mere inconvenience, but major electrical problems can result in fires, severe injuries and/or even death. Either way, the last thing you want to do is put a tenant in a home with faulty wiring. A significant internal problem could necessitate tearing out walls to conduct repairs. This is something you absolutely want to know about before you agree to purchase a property.

leaky roof can do a lot more than just get your hair wet. Water can be incredibly destructive. Some of the consequences of a leaky roof include structural deterioration, insulation damage and mold, as well as fire and electrical hazards. This issue can be difficult to discern at a glance, after all, the overt signs can usually be painted over. Your inspector must be adept at recognizing the clues and following leads.

Similarly, plumbing problems also carry the risk of serious water damage. They can also cause health problems. Mold and hazardous spores love warm, moist places. Once permitted to propagate, they can become airborne and lead to respiratory issues for the occupants of the home. If it can be proven you knowingly placed a family in a home with these issues, you can be held liable.

It’s also illegal to place a family in a home with no heat. A/C isn’t required, but heat is. Every good inspection should ensure the HVAC system is operating at peak efficiency. You’ll also want to make sure the system is as energy efficient as possible. Critically, the HVAC system can be a source of potential health issues from factors such as faulty gas lines, dirty filters and other hazards.

It’s imperative to make sure any inspector you hire is well versed in these six areas at minimum, not only because these areas can lead to severe health issues or catastrophic property damage, but because a thorough pre-purchase inspection should cover far more than the six key aspects listed above.

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