What to Look for When Doing a Home Inspection
A home inspection formally documents your home’s current condition, and doing it yourself is a relatively quick and easy alternative to bringing an inspector should your insurance carrier require one. A normal inspection should take you about half an hour at most. There are even apps for your smartphone that can help you complete the task in a formal manner.
What Is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection checks the home’s condition, including its structure, foundation, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical. While home inspections are usually used to help you make an informed decision when buying a home, they can also useful when helping your broker find a home insurance policy that best suits your needs.
An insurance home inspection usually considers your home’s:
- Other structures
- Windows and doors
- Surrounding grounds (including pools)
Why Do Insurance Companies Require Inspections?
Some insurance companies require a home inspection before or after issuing a policy, especially when the home is considered “older”. This is to make sure the home meets underwriting requirements. It also documents the home’s condition before the policy takes effect to help limit the chance of fraudulent claims for damage that already existed. The inspection may also reveal some repairs that need to be made in order for your home to be eligible for insurance.
Some companies will allow you to do this inspection yourself, as long as the results are properly documented, and may be tied to a specific timeline related to the policy’s effective date for new home purchases which may be different if you’re signing up for a policy for a home you already live in.
Here’s what to look for when doing an inspection yourself.
- Take exterior photos in daylight.
- Take a clear photo of the manufacturer’s label on the electrical panel.
- Don’t climb anything to get a photo of the roof. From the ground, take a few steps back to make sure the roof is visible in your shot.
- If you can’t access parts of the property (e.g., the attic) or the photo isn’t applicable, make note of that.
To complete your inspection, you’ll need to take photos of the following.
All four sides of the home to show the roof and ground
This documents your home’s exterior, including its roof shape, gutters, and foundation. You always hear a picture is worth a thousand words, and it’s true: an insurer can tell the home has settled if porch steps are leaning, there are gaps around window and door frames, or the chimney is cracked.
For your roof, keep an eye out for lifting or curling shingles, discoloration or granular loss, and missing tiles. Note: Don’t get on the roof to take an inspection picture.
A furnace usually has a life of 16 to 20 years. If yours is past its prime, it might need to be updated to ensure your home’s safety.
Pool (if applicable), along with every gate / latch that secures the pool
Because pools increase the risk of an injury happening on your property, insurers want to check that they are properly secured and not standing empty. If you do have a swimming pool, it might be smart to increase your personal liability coverage.
HVAC condenser outside the home
An air conditioning unit typically has a lifespan of 12 to 15 years, and its serial number will show how many years of use it may have left.
Sheds and outbuildings, if applicable
Your home insurance policy includes coverage for other structures on your property. We usually recommend insuring your other structures at about 10 percent of your dwelling coverage. So, if your house is insured for $200,000, you’ll typically have $20,000 in protection for your garage, fence, etc.
All plumbing, including under all sinks and toilet shut-off valves
This will help document the type of piping you have and whether there are any hidden leaks, sediment build-up, mold, or rust.
Electrical panel and the manufacturer label
Older electrical systems can be a big fire risk, which is why we check both the panel and the manufacturer. Knob and tube wiring, for example, is usually ungrounded and can cause electric shocks. Or, when circuit breakers trip on certain electric panels, they’ve been known to overheat and cause fires.
Water heater and the manufacturer label
Tank-style water heaters usually have a lifespan of 10 to 14 years, whereas tankless water heaters may last about 19 years. This photo will let us know how much life your system has.
Source: Kin Insurance