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        posted
        I expect to be moving to SC or GA shortly, which means buying a home. I know that a standard home inspection can miss costly defects (e.g., pipes that vent into walls, hidden electrical boxes, etc). Is there any "manual" or tutorial that shows a practical way to do a more thorough home inspection? Is it possible to look at public records to see the specs on an existing home? I'd like to be as well prepared as possible. Any advice would be much appreciated.
         
        Posts: 91 | Registered: Nov 06, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of Jaybee
        posted Hide Post
        You could call your (new) local building code department and ask for the records of any permits pulled. However, this would only show the things that were done correctly. Any 'shady' construction that may have occurred would not have been done under a permit & inspection system. Your best bet to find out as much as you can about the construction of a house you are interested in will be to hire a professional to look it over.

        It's important to note that I did not say hire a home inspector.

        As to home inspections, I have my own biases with them so I'll just list the facts that I have observed from years of being a general contractor:

        1. These days, any real estate transaction is going to have a home inspector involved. If you are buying, your financial institution or your real estate agent will have connections to several home inspectors and should be able to recommend one.

        2. A home inspector will not miss very much. If anything, they are more prone to 'find' things that they list as problems that are not really an issue. Most home inspectors work from a check list - this list will cover just about every area of a home.

        3. At the same time, most home inspectors (in my experience) know little, or anything about construction. While their lists of the observations they have made about a house will be very accurate, any conclusions made as to how severe these problems are or how to go about repairing them should be left to a construction professional.

        4. On the plus side for you as a buyer, a home inspector is much more likely to note a problem area that is really OK as compared to missing a real problem completely.

        5. Overall, for what you are looking for, a home inspector will be the best, first route to take to find any potential problems. Just remember that if you are to continue with the process and look into repairing any of these problems to find a different home repair person or contractor to estimate and repair any problem areas. Do not - ever - let someone who was originally hired to give an unbiased home inspection continue on with the repair process. This is a total conflict of interest and can be considered business fraud.


        Jaybee
         
        Posts: 10428 | Location: Knoxville, Tennessee | Registered: Sep 27, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        a diligent home inspector will be able to throw up red flags on visible flaws. one who used to be a contractor may find more of them because they have more experience with what is likely behind the walls in a given area, knowing how the construction is done there.

        they will not see dangerous splices or abandoned, hot wires inside a wall. won't see if the galvanized pipe is about to rust out. won't see cob-job framing.

        in a lot of ways, you're going into a home purchase blind. there were a lot of sloppy products, especially in the 80s like plastic stucco and the first and second generations of crimp-on plastic plumbing, that can cost close to the price of a house to fix. and an inspector can't see those issues.

        they can inform that a certain product has risks, if they are well-trained. but in the end, you have to bust holes for a total inspection. which nobody does, and nobody is going to buy in on.

        there are a couple of certification operations for home inspection. see if your prospective inspectors are certified, and make sure the one you hire isn't rushed, has his ladder and deer-shining flashlight, and get some references from several years ago.


        sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
         
        Posts: 5820 | Location: North Burbs, MN | Registered: Mar 14, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        Thanks very much for the information. Do you know if a house's specs are on file in any local office? If, for example, specs show that studs are 24" instead of 16", the roof is 3/8" plywood instead of 1/2" or 5/8", they sided over foam board and house wrap instead of sheathing, these would be indicators that the builder put his money into the cosmetics that sell a house (cabinets, countertops, etc) rather than into the structural integrity of the house. They don't necessarily mean the house is "bad," but, to me, they would be red flags. Does that make sense?
         
        Posts: 91 | Registered: Nov 06, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        in my community, you have to file two sets of plans with the inspector before building. this doesn't mean they keep them.

        a commercial building, more likely, and a set has to be filed with the fire department as well. those might be referred to on a fire call.

        all you can do is call up and ask.

        a house studded on 24 with 2x6 is as strong or stronger than a 16 with 2x4. the 2x6 walls would have better insulation. the key to me would be whether they used solid sheathing (OSB, plywood) instead of funnyboard, for solid sheathing would hold siding nails better.

        This message has been edited. Last edited by: swschrad,


        sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
         
        Posts: 5820 | Location: North Burbs, MN | Registered: Mar 14, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of Jaybee
        posted Hide Post
        It's doubtful that anything more than basic plans will remain on file for residential. Certainly not any detail like you are looking for. What is on file will vary greatly by location so as said above, you'll just have to ask.

        In our city, you pay a plans review fee when you pull your permit. They refuse to take or even look at any plans, you just pay the fee. Go figure.

        Most of what you are trying to find out can be discovered by a knowledgeable construction taking a first-hand look.


        Jaybee
         
        Posts: 10428 | Location: Knoxville, Tennessee | Registered: Sep 27, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        Thanks, again, for the information.
         
        Posts: 91 | Registered: Nov 06, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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