Goodspeed: Always get an inspection before buying a home

LINDA GOODSPEED
CORRESPONDENT

QUESTION:I’ve been told that when you buy a home, you should always ask to see any building permits to make sure that any renovation to the home was proper and up to code. What if the owner says he did all the work himself and didn’t need any permits? This makes me suspect. How can I tell if any renovation on the home was done satisfactorily and up to code if no building inspector signed off on the work?

ANSWER: The best way to judge the condition of a home, including any renovation work, is to hire a qualified home inspector. In fact, you should make the purchase of the home contingent upon receiving a satisfactory home inspection.

A home inspector will carefully go through a home examining all of its systems from the foundation to the roof, wiring to plumbing to HVAC, looking for both visible and hidden problems, as well as any other issues that may arise down the road.

Your home inspector’s report will give you a good understanding of your home and the quality of any work that has been done to it over the years and whether the work is up to code.

You mentioned that a homebuyer should always pull any permits for work done on a home. Not a bad idea. Many municipalities have records of improvements that owners make to their homes. But just because the owner pulled a permit for a project does not guarantee the work was done well.

Even if the municipality’s building inspector came out to inspect the finished project, it may have been just a visual inspection certifying the work was completed, but not attesting to its quality.

And as you mentioned, owners do not always pull a permit for a project, so there may be no record of a home improvement. That is why you always want to get a home inspection even on a brand-new house.

Always accompany the inspector so you can ask questions. If you still have questions or doubts, ask a contractor to come through the house and give you advice on the work and what needs to be done to correct any problems going forward.

Linda Goodspeed is a longtime real estate writer and author of “In and out of Darkness.” Email her at: lrgoodspeed@comcast.net.