Home buyers can protect themselves against costly home insurance claims even before purchasing a house. PEMCO conducts thousands of home inspections each year and has compiled a list of the most commonly overlooked problems, which often result in costly repairs or dangerous conditions that could lead to injury.
“For those out looking for a home – especially first-time homebuyers – we want to do all we can to help them find a solid, safe home to buy,” said Denise Mitchell, an under writing expert with PEMCO. “It’s difficult when new homeowners find their dream homes need costly repairs or don’t qualify for coverage with the insurance company they prefer.”
Although this list provides reliable reminders, Mitchell also recommends that home buyers try to purchase a home from a responsible homeowner and have an independent residential inspector assess the structural integrity of the house.
“Even with these checkpoints, there are details that go unnoticed even by the most obser vant layperson,” she said. “Spending the money on a certified residential inspector up front can save thousands of dollars and a lot of heartache in the future.”
PEMCO's top-ten tips
Roofs: Roofs should be checked to see that they were professionally installed according to the manufactures requirements, otherwise any possible transferable warranties will not be honored. Roof flashings are often overlooked as part of the roof system, and are often incorrectly installed, pay close attention to flashing.
Concrete and settling: Search for widened cracks in the foundation and uneven or broken concrete on driveways or walkways. Assess how well doors and windows fit into their frames. All of these can be a signal of settling or earth movement.
Electrical: Have the electrical panel checked to see if it is an outdated discontinued
brand panel that needs to be replaced. If an addition or finishing the basement is being considered, have the panel checked to see that it can accommodate the expected remodel work or if it will need to be replaced, updated etc.
Plumbing: A house with lead pipes needs to be re-plumbed. Plan on replacing all of the following before moving into the house: Fridge ice maker water line, clothes washer line, maybe even sink and toilet supply lines. Consider one of the new water sensor alarms for the home. Water escaping from plumbing systems or appliances is the leading cause of claims for PEMCO.
Heating: Not only is heating equipment a top cause of home fires in the United States, it's a potential source of carbon monoxide, which is a deadly, colorless, odorless gas. Whatever the heat source, the home should have adequate heat to avoid using portable heaters. The home should come with the heating system's maintenance and operating manual. There should be records of the system being ser viced within the past year by a qualified contractor.
Landscaping: Assess the outdoor landscaping. How well it's maintained often correlates with the interior condition of the home. Often, a less-than-quality job of yard repair indicates that other maintenance perhaps has been done at a minimum just to get by.
Soil stability: Gauge the soil stability. Is the house on a slope or near one? Trees and shrubber y can help prevent erosion. Not only do the plants themselves draw moisture out of the soil, but the root structures help bind the soil. A lack of plants on steep slopes may signal that erosion is occurring.
Drainage: Look to see how close to the foundation the gutters/downspouts are directing the rain water. Look to see what the natural water flow will be on the lot: will water drain back towards the house, or away, do sidewalks, patio slabs slope towards or away from the foundation?
Mold: Check for mold and mildew. Search in basements and in bathrooms around showers and toilets for mold stains. Signs include excess discoloration of walls. Tiled and grouted showers and tub enclosures are frequent sources of water penetration into the walls. Often this leads to rot in the structural members behind the surface materials of the walls or floors – and expensive repairs. Mold can be a harmless nuisance, or it could be a health hazard. Toxic mold and mildew have been linked to a growing number of illnesses.
Pools: If the house has a pool, pay the extra money to have it inspected by the home inspector, (it may not be included in the standard inspection) a high percentage of swimming pools do not have proper 'barrier fencing' as required. Unenclosed pools and hot tubs represent a liability hazard and affect eligibility for insurance.