Does my property need a specialized home inspection?
A common misconception buyers sometimes have about general home inspectors is that they can diagnose and suggest repairs for any and every problem in a home. A general home inspection can uncover common deficiencies like drainage problems, roofing issues or poor ventilation. During the inspection, general home inspectors can point to signs of issues like mold, pests or structural instability, but they cannot officially diagnose those conditions. Similarly, they cannot inspect certain features on the property such as pools, septic tanks or wells because those features are not part of the standard general inspection report. For properties with any of the above listed deficiencies or features, an additional, specialized inspection is often recommended.
What kinds of specialized inspections are there?
Any feature or deficiency that can exist on a property that is not covered under a typical, generalized inspection probably exists as a specialized inspection. Common specialized inspection types include:
- Sewer scope inspections
- Septic tank inspections
- Chimney inspections
- Structural and foundational inspections
But many more inspection types exist, and some of them might be hyper-specific to your location or type of property. For instance, earthquake preparedness inspections are needed in communities near fault lines. Lead paint inspections are needed in any property that was built before 1978 that hasn't already remediated instances of lead paint. Some states with anti-pollution initiatives even require environmental tests for poisonous substances. Consult with your agent about what is required or recommended for properties in your area.
Which specialized inspection does my property need?
It is easy to determine the need for some specialized inspections. For instance, obviously only properties with pools require a pool inspection, and a property without a septic tank wouldn’t require a septic inspection. But some signs aren’t so obvious, or need an expert eye to point out.
Here is a breakdown of common signs which indicate your property needs a specific type of inspection:
Signs your property needs a sewer scope inspection
Many of these signs will be visible to a buyer on a walkthrough of the property, but sometimes can be waved away as minor issues. Try visiting your potential home more than once, to be sure that mysterious brown puddle in the yard isn’t a permanent fixture. And definitely don’t hesitate booking a sewer scope if you suspect anything amiss. Putting these fixes off can just lead to a crappier situation later.
Your property’s sewer system and pipes should be inspected if:
- The property was built before 1980, and has never had a sewer inspection performed.
- A foul odor emanates from toilets or sinks.
- The toilets have a noticeably low water level and/or the sinks drain slowly.
- Backed-up sewage is pooling in the home or yard.
Signs your property needs a termite inspection
Termites are a dangerous pest that can destroy the very bones of your home by eating it’s wood structures from the inside-out. But the tell-tale signs of these little insects can go unrecognized by untrained eyes.
Your property should be inspected for termites if:
- There is visible crumbling, buckling or damage to floors, walls or any other wooden structures.
- Wood features sound hollow when tapped.
- Vein-like, brown markings, called mud tubes, are visible on the foundation of the property.
- Floor tiles have loosened due to moisture.
- There are remains of termite wings, carcasses and six-sided pellets called frass (it’s termite poop!) on the property.
Signs your property needs a structural inspection
Sometimes the signs of structural instabilities are obvious. If you can see the roof of your property sagging, you obviously want to investigate that, right? And sometimes entire neighborhoods will require the same kind of inspection due to the age of the homes or environmental factors, like shifting ground causing damage to foundations.
Your property should be inspected for structural integrity if:
- You are made aware by your agent or the seller that the home suffered damage in a prior natural event, like a flood, earthquake or hurricane.
- There is noticeable damage or deficiency to the property, such as a sagging roof, cracked foundation, bulging walls, sloping floors, or windows and doors that don’t open and close properly.
- The property’s location is known to have environmental contributors to property damage, such as sinkholes, shifting ground, flooding or high winds.
Signs your property needs a mold inspection
Especially prevalent in wet and humid climates, mold can be a serious breathing hazard with permanent effects to your health– besides just being gross and smelly! Mold is also indicative of ventilation or plumbing issues, since it arises when moisture is trapped within the property. Mold can also rot wood, leading to structural damage. The good knews is if you can see the mold growing in green, blue, white, gray, or black “blobby” stains already, then you don’t need to do a mold inspection and can instead hire a mold remediator to clear up the issue.
You should have your property inspected for mold if:
- The property is in a wet or humid climate where mold is a common issue. Examples include Florida, New Orleans, and the Pacific Northwest, among others.
- Problems with ventilation or water damage are already indicated on the property, since these conditions are conducive to mold growth.
- There is a persistent musty, dank smell in the property.
- The property was unoccupied for many months or years.
- The property was previously treated for mold. Mold is a tough issue to completely beat, and often recurs.
Signs your property needs a radon inspection
Radon is a colorless and odorless gas emitted by decaying deposits of uranium in the ground. Long-term exposure to the gas can cause health issues– in fact, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smoking individuals. The gas can penetrate wood, sheetrock and cracks in concrete, polluting the soil, water and air of your property.
You should test your property for radon if:
- The property is located in Zones 1 or 2 of the EPA’s Map of Radon Zones.
- The foundation has a dirt floor or an exposed crawl space.
- The foundation has cracks, gaps or other openings, which could let radon enter more easily.
- The property sources water from an underground well.
Signs your property needs a meth inspection
Perhaps a homeowner's worst nightmare, meth inspections are required when it is suspected (or confirmed by local law enforcement) that methamphetamines were produced on the property. As any viewer of Breaking Bad knows, several toxic chemicals are used to make meth. Cooking one pound of meth yields 5 to 7 pounds of chemical waste, which, due to the illicit nature of meth operations, is never properly disposed of. These chemicals can seep into the walls and floors of your property and stay there for years, damaging your health and making your home uninhabitable.
You should get a meth inspection for your property if:
- You were made aware the property was used to produce meth in the past.
- Yellow or red chemical stains are present on surfaces.
- There are burn pits or destroyed vegetation in the yard.
- Burn marks and rust are present on fixtures throughout the home.
- A sweet, bitter or “burnt popcorn” smell pervades the home.
How to find a qualified inspector to perform a specialized inspection
Some general inspectors have the experience and qualifications to perform certain specialized inspections, and will offer that service for an additional fee. But it’s extremely rare, if impossible, to find a single inspector who can do every type of inspection. It’s highly likely that you will need to find a second, or even third, inspector to perform specialized inspections.
You could search on your own for the right person, but Inspectify already has a number of credentialed specialists ready for you to book. Simply choose which specialized inspection you need, and we’ll show you the qualified inspectors in your area.