Home Insurance Inspection: How to Prepare
Buying a house can feel like you’re having to jump through hoop after hoop. You’ll need to buy home insurance coverage buy before closing on your home. And before that you will probably need a home inspection to qualify for homeowners insurance.
Why Insurance Providers Inspect Homes
Insurance companies give themselves deadlines of up to 90 days once a policy is signed to decide whether a home requires an inspection. If yours needs to be inspected, they’re looking for any potential problems and avoid a lot of claims in the future.
A variety of factors have an impact on the outcome including the size, location and age of the house. The most common purposes for an inspection are to appraise the home’s replacement cost and to determine if there are any pre-existing risks that need attention. Note that a replacement cost is not the same as market value, which is tied to how much you pay for the home. Replacement cost is the amount that would need to be paid to rebuild the home in the same location, size, construction quality—all at today’s costs.
Can You Get a Policy Without an Inspection?
In some cases, home insurance can be bought without an inspection, especially if the home is not very old. Some will accept an appraisal in lieu of an inspection. Appraisals are usually mandatory when applying for a mortgage or when selling a property.
What an Inspector Checks
With a home inspection, the insurer looks for a house’s potential liabilities not found on the original application. Typically, this includes checking the condition of the:
- Fire alarm
- Windows and doors
- Anti-theft devices
- Fire extinguishers
- Property that surrounds the home
The Exterior Inspection
Outside the dwelling, the inspector measures the dimensions of the property. One reason for measuring is the inspector knows it’s fairly common for the information they were given to be wrong or non-existent. The inspector also asks the homeowner how old the roof is and inspects the downspouts and gutters.
How to Prepare for an Exterior Inspection
Walk the property and look for anything amiss. You’ll want to identify potential liabilities, things that could result in someone being injured. Do your own inspection of:
- Roof including chimneys and skylights
- Remove twigs and branches
- Note any damaged, loose or sinking shingles
- Check ventilation for damage
- See if there are any missing bricks on the chimney
- Gutters and downspouts
- See if the gutters are attached well
- Remove any debris that is or could cause blockages
- Eaves, facia and soffits
- Make sure they’re in good condition
- Surfaces and finishes
- Look for cracks
- Search for any signs of mold or mildew
- Garage and driveway
- Note if the driveway has cracks
- See if the garage is in good shape
- Balconies and railings
- Look for any cracks
- See if the railings are in good condition and attached securely
- Outdoor living areas like patios and porches
- Make sure the cement areas are in good shape and not likely to trip anyone
- If you have an outdoor kitchen, give it a thorough safety inspection
- Exterior doors
- Check to verify that doors are not warping
- Look for cracking, dents or scratches in the door’s surface
- Inspect any glass for cracks
- Determine if the door is hung straight, with no gaps
- If the home’s foundation has cracks it could be difficult to get homeowners insurance
Before your interior inspection, walk through your home and write down any irregularities you see. The inspector is likely to look at the basement and attic, fixtures, windows, stairs, cupboards and so forth.
How to Prepare for an Interior Inspection
- Walls and ceilings: Look for any signs of water damage, decay, mold.
- Extinguishers and detectors: Check and change batteries in fire and monoxide detectors and make note of the fire extinguishers’ expiration dates.
- Fireplaces: If there are any fireplaces in the home look for telltale signs of back-drafting, with smoke stains on the areas surrounding the fireplace. This indicates that smoke in the fireplace is blocked and instead goes out into the room instead. Check the flue and damper to see if they are in working order.
- Plumbing: Look for signs of leaking such as mildew, mold or water damage.
- HVAC: Give your heating and air conditioning systems a once over and see if there are any exposed wires.
- Living areas: Inspect your family room, bedrooms, game room and the kitchen. Check the windows and look for spots where air gets in and make sure the window locks work. Also keep an eye out for things like damaged or warped wood flooring, incomplete crown molding and so forth.
- Attic and basement: Check the attic and basement ventilation, water damage and any kind of pest or rodent infestation.
- Duct work: Ducts, such as lint ducts in the laundry room, need to be cleaned out periodically.
Wind Mitigation Inspection
This is where the inspector decides if your house is sturdy enough to withstand strong winds and storms. This type of inspection is common in coastal areas in the southeastern states, which sees several hurricanes every year.
How to Prepare for a Wind Mitigation Inspection
If the home is located in hurricane or wind country, keep this potential issue in mind as you inspect the roof, windows and skylights. You may not have the knowledge as to the exact materials and how to recognize them. The inspection goes over windows (impact resistance), roof-wall attachments, roofing materials and more.
Homes 30 to 40 years or older typically undergo this kind of inspection. Expect the investigator to focus on:
How to Prepare for a 4-Point Inspection
We have gone over all of these points in the exterior and interior sections.
Full Home Inspection
This inspection is for the times the insurance company wants to dig deeper than a 4-point inspection.
How to Prepare for a Full Home Inspection
The “above and beyond” aspects of a full home inspection are more expensive and time-consuming and therefore not conducted often. The investigator takes deeper dive and ascertains whether lines are properly straight with no bowing. All of this and more, on top of the more typical exterior and interior inspections.
- Architectural features
- Structural integrity
- Windows and doors
- Appliances review
When the professional inspection is complete, the inspector puts together a report documenting notes, photographs, receipts, and more. The report also contains an assessment of lifespan of major systems and equipment, as well as recommendations. You’ll be given a deadline by which time you should have repairs completed.
Your insurer will go over the report with you, explaining the problems and suggest how to fix them.