Inspection of Your Lake House and Dock

By Frank Eaton

When you are thinking about buying a lake property, always get a professional home inspection before purchasing the house. Not having a professional home inspection can be the costliest mistake you ever make, sticking you with a huge financial burden and ongoing headache for years to come.

The inspector must be state licensed. Home inspections can reveal hidden problems and conditions of the house the seller either doesn't know about or isn't telling you. The home inspector gives you a detailed, written report. Home inspection reports frequently recommend adjustments, repairs, or replacements.

You can find local home inspectors listed in the Yellow pages. Or ask builders, contractors, real estate agents, attorneys, and other professionals involved in real estate to recommend a home inspector.

WARNING: the real estate agent selling you the property may recommend an inspector. Be aware that the real estate agent works for the seller and has a financial incentive for the deal to go through. Therefore, you may want to avoid hiring an inspector recommended by the seller's agent.

You should accompany the inspector as he goes through the property room by room, area by area, indoors and outdoors during the entire inspection. As he inspects the home, he will point out to you his findings so you can see for yourself the condition and problems.

During the home inspection, foundations are checked for cracks. A cracked foundation is a sign the house may be settling on its foundation. Severe settling or shifting off the foundation may put the house in danger of collapse.

Electrical power and circuit boxes are inspected to make sure power is adequate for AC and modern appliances. Many older homes, especially bungalows, have old electrical service that does not provide enough power; also old wiring and antiquated circuit boxes can be a fire hazard.

Have the home inspected for termite infestation and wood damage. Termite damage may be widespread throughout the structure, and if it is, it must be repaired. Extensive termite damage can run into the thousands of dollars to fix. If you spot it in the inspection, you can make this repair a condition of the sale. If you spot it after you buy, you are responsible for the cost of repairs.

Moisture can travel through the soil between the lake and the house, causing damp basements resulting in mold. Mold poses a health hazard to humans, not to mention weakening your walls and support structures.

Your home inspector should check for mold. If there is mold, have a qualified contractor remove the moldy wall and ceiling panels completely. If it is not removed carefully, the mold may become airborne and spread invisibly throughout the home.

Conduct radon tests in the basement, or crawl space. Radon can cause breathing problems. Radon tests consists of leaving a canister of granular activated charcoal open for 3-7 days to absorb any radon gas in the area of the house; then seal the canister and send it to the recommended lab in the kit for analysis. The results are mailed back to you within 1-2 days. You can purchase radon test kits at builder supply outlets or on the internet.

The home inspector checks to make sure there are the required number of smoke detectors and that they are working. Sometimes, all you need is a fresh battery. You can purchase smoke detectors at home builder supplies or retail outlets.

If there is no sewer hook-up, the house will likely have a septic tank. It must be inspected to ensure that it has been serviced recently and that no waste is leaking into the soil and leaching into the lake.

Frequency of septic tank inspections are determined by the county. Have the septic tank pumped out every 2-3 years. This prevents backups and runoffs into the lake. You could be fined for leaking septic tank runoffs into the lake.

An underground oil tank is a huge liability, because if it is leaking and has contaminated the soil, it must be cleaned up at the owner's expense. Have the tank inspected prior to home purchase. If there's a problem with it, have the home owner clean up at his expense before you buy the home. If he will not agree, move on. Even better, have the underground tank removed and replaced with above ground oil tanks.

Have the inspector check the slope and terrain of the property for proper drainage away from the home. Grading helps prevent water from entering the house during excessive rain. Soil built up to slope downward away from the house can help keep basements or crawl spaces dry.

Inspection should include the dock to make sure it is not sagging or in bad condition. Docks are expensive to rebuild or replace.

Many home buyers skip home inspections, viewing it as an added expense. Or they really want the property, so they skip the inspection and make a quick offer to grab the house before other buyers can. This can be a costly mistake that plagues you for many years. ALWAYS hire a home inspector and get a professional inspection report.

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