Before making an offer on a home, most people hire an inspector to check it out. Some inspectors will perform cursory checks for basic environmental concerns, but most don’t. The smart house hunter will also engage an environmental and pest specialist to perform an additional inspection, looking for some very specific hazards:
- PESTS: Most pest inspections focus on wood-destroying insects such as carpenter ants and termites, but rodents can be just as damaging. Rodent waste carries dangerous bacteria and viruses. Common areas of infestation are basements, ceilings and garages.
- MOLD: Attics require more than just a glimpse with a flashlight. A good inspector will actually climb in and perform a thorough check. I’ve been in many attics that had no visible evidence of mold from the hatch; only once I got inside did I see the extent of the problem. Basements, too, should be checked throughout for mold or water damage, as they’re the area most likely to experience water infiltration.
- RADON: Most inspectors test for radon. If yours tries tells you that you don’t need to because of the location of the property, ignore them. While radon is less likely in some areas, is not specific to any area and can literally be present anywhere. The only way to know for sure is to test.
- ASBESTOS: If the house was built prior to 1972, there may be asbestos in the house. It was commonly used in floor tile, ceiling tile, siding, plaster, pipe wrap, duct seam tape, transit piping, and vermiculite. While asbestos is only a issue if the fibers become airborne, having a professional tell you where it is and the condition of the material is crucial to maintaining your family’s safety.
- LEAD-BASED PAINT: Lead-based paint may be a problem if the house was built prior to 1978. While it was used everywhere in the house, common areas were on the exterior, windows, and doors. Most people are concerned with exposure to lead in infants—and rightly so. But adults can also experience problems if they inhale dust from lead-based paint. Again, the only way to ensure your family’s health is to get an inspection and know what you’re dealing with.
Some of these hazards for are only visible to the trained eye or to someone who knows where to look. But all of them are capable of causing significant structural damage, expensive repairs, or even health issues if untreated. Finding a professional certified in these areas is always the best bet. After all, you don’t want to end up owning a serious problem along with the house of your dreams. Happy house hunting!