If you are thinking of buying a home that has been vacant for a while, it is absolutely vital that you have it fully inspected before you agree to make the purchase. A home inspector will look for problems like insect infestations, roof leaks, and plumbing issues so you're not left having to make expensive repairs just weeks after moving in. However, a standard home inspection is not always enough when a home has been empty. There are also three "extra" or "add on" inspection services that are worth paying for before buying a vacant home.
Mold in a home can be incredibly dangerous. Some molds cause mild symptoms like respiratory issues and headaches, while others can even be deadly if their spores are inhaled. You might think mold growth in a home would be obvious, but mold often starts growing in areas like the ducts and between the walls.
When a home sits empty for a while, the humidity levels are not as closely controlled as they are when the HVAC system is functioning and someone is living there. Plus, if windows are left open or there is a plumbing leak, moisture can easily get inside. Once an area is moist, mold growth is almost certain to occur.
A mold inspector will take samples of the air and swabs from places like the floor and ceiling to determine if mold is growing in the home. If mold is found, they will tell you how extensive and dangerous the problem is. They can also give you an idea of how much it will cost to remove and remediate the problem so you can make a more informed decision as to whether it's financially wise to buy the home.
Lead pipes were once standard in homes, and in the 1800s and early 1900s, paint often contained lead. There have been changes to building codes requiring that lead pipes be replaced with copper ones and that lead paint be painted over. However, if the home has been vacant for a while and nobody lived there when these changes to the building code were made, there may still be lead pipes or paint in place.
Lead poisoning is a serious matter. You won't instantly fall ill from drinking water that has come through a lead pipe, but over time, lead will build up in your system and lead to issues like high blood pressure, joint pain, mood disorders, and difficulties with memory.
A lead inspector will use a special lead-detecting device to determine whether the pipes behind your walls are lead and whether there is lead in your paint. If lead is discovered, they can recommend measures to remove it or seal it in safely.
Radon is a gas that is found in the rocks and soil in many areas. It can seep up through a home's foundation, especially if there are cracks or weak spots in the foundation. A home that has sat for a while is likely to have increased radon levels because the air has not been well circulated and because small cracks in the foundation have probably not been managed as they've arisen.
Radon exposure leads to an increased risk of lung cancer. It may also be related to other cancers, such as bladder cancer.
A radon inspector can take an air sample and measure the amount of radon it contains. If the home's radon levels are elevated, they will work to determine the source of the radon gas. Typically, you'll need to have the foundation repaired and sealed, and you may need to have a special ventilation system installed to keep the radon at bay. This can get expensive, so make sure you get an estimate before you buy a home.
To learn more, contact a home inspector at a company like Donofrio & Associates.