How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
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What causes a house to fail a four point inspection?
Thursday, December 31, 2020
Although homeowners often have to pay for it, a four point inspection report is actually a tool for an insurance underwriter's use, to check for problems in an older home that may cause future claims. It is based on the condition of these four major components: roof, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems. Each insurer has their own standards, so there are some things that one company accepts, but may be required to be repaired or replaced by another insurer. For example, a water heater older than 18 years is rejected by some insurers, while others draw the line at 30 years old.
While there are no published standards, certain deficiencies are required to be repaired by almost all companies to get insurance. Here’s our “Top 10” list:
1) A roof with any leaks at all, or an older roof, typically over 20-years old for a 3-tab asphalt shingle roof, for example. An estimated additional roof life of 3-years is the usual minimum standard for a roof to be acceptable. See our blog post If my roof is not leaking, why does it need to be replaced? to learn more.
2) An electric panel with screw-in type fuses, or an amperage rating too low for current loads, or any of several older brands that have been determined to be defective (Federal Pacific, Challenger, Sylvania, Zinsco). Go to Why is a fuse box/panel an insurance problem for homebuyers? and Why are Zinsco and Sylvania-Zinsco electric panels a problem? and Why are Challenger electrical panels not insurable? for more details.
3) Older knob-and-tube wiring that’s still “live.” Our blog post Is knob and tube wiring illegal? has more on this old wiring type.
4) Exposed, amateur electrical wiring, especially open electrical splices or unprotected NM-cable. For a list of some of the electrical safety defects we look for, go to What are the most common homeowner electrical wiring mistakes?
5) Newer 3-slot type electric receptacles connected to old wiring that does not have grounding. See What is a false ground, bootleg ground, or cheated ground receptacle?
6) An older or leaking water heater. Our blog post Why is an older water heater an insurance problem? has more on this.
7) No installed heating system. Window a/c units or plug-in portable heaters are not considered “installed.” Go to Does my house need a heating system to pass a four point inspection? for details.
8) Any evidence of plumbing or a/c condensate leaks, or other water intrusion into the home, even previous ones. An air conditioning condensate leak is a slow, continuous drip that can cause a sizable area of damage and mold before it is observable by a homeowner.
9) Corroded, damaged, or unvented plumbing piping or valves. Also, older galvanized steel and polybutylene (PB) is not acceptable. For details, go to Why is old galvanized steel water pipe a problem for homebuyers? and What does polybutylene pipe look like? Why is it a problem?
10) Deteriorated washing machine supply hoses or unsecured drain hose. Leaks at washing machine hoses and at the standpipe connection are both common and expensive claims that an insurer would like to avoid.
While one company may decline to insure a property until a defect is repaired, another insurer might issue the policy and stipulate a deadline for submitting proof of repairs for the same defect.
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