How to Get the Most Benefit from a Home Inspection
HOME INSPECTION, GET THE MOST FROM - CONTENTS:
How to get the most from a home inspection. What is included in a home inspection? Who should attend the home inspection? What home inspection services should I order? How much does a home inspection cost? Home inspection standards and ethics. In the Questions & Answers we include a FAQ about the perils of "rushed" home purchases & worries about incomplete mold inspections.
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This article gives tips on getting the most from a licensed professional ASHI (or other association) home inspection,
who attends, what services to order, handling conflicts of interest, real estate agent attendance, property owner attendance,
water and septic testing, termite reports, lead paint, radon, other advice for home buyers about attending the home inspection and
choosing tests and services, and some typical fees.
Issues of home inspection ethics are discussed.
Here are some details that will help a home buyer make the most of the home inspection process.
What is Included in a Professional Home Inspection
The Home Inspection:
the inspector will examine (essentially visually) the physical condition of the building and its mechanical systems and
at other conditions that may affect the building (such as site drainage) and will provide a written report.
A Written Home Inspection Report:
There is too much information, some of it possibly involving significant cost or important safety findings,
for any professional to provide an "oral only" home inspection. The inspection findings must be provided
in writing. We use the Home Reference Book which is delivered at the end of the inspection.
Other inspectors may provide a typed narrative report or an annotated "checklist" report. Any report form
can be acceptable provided it is clear, thorough, and sufficiently detailed.
Watch out: A so called home inspection "report" which is a simple
"ok" or "not ok" checklist, or a sort of "inventory" (Asphalt shingle roof, vinyl siding, concrete block
foundation) is really just an "inventory" of building material types. As an inspection for costly or dangerous defects such a report is totally inadequate and does not meet the standards of practice for the profession.
All home inspection findings will be written in your report.
What the inspector tells you orally at the inspection must agree exactly with what's written in your report,
and vice versa. If you receive an oral warning of something costly or unsafe, that information should
appear clearly in the written report too.
Ancillary tests which are not required by the home inspection standards of practice may nonetheless
be offered by your inspector, such as water or septic testing, or a termite or radon inspection or test.
These are discussed below.
Time and Attention at the Property:
You should accompany the inspector (me) and look, listen, and ask questions.
Be prepared to spend 3-4 hours at the property. Be sure your real estate agent knows how long
you expect to be at the property and that they let the property owners know as well.
The time required to inspect a building is not fixed. But if I were inspecting an easy one-family house
in good condition, and if I were working alone, with no one to ask questions or chat with, it would
still take me at least 2 1/2 hours simply to direct my attention to every item and system on a building that
needs my consideration.
If I allow for the presence of my client who will have questions or who needs to
hear explanations, the process is easily 3 hours or longer for a detailed, thorough, inspection.
The time required to inspect properly depends
not only on building size but on the age and complexity of the structure and its mechanical systems as well as the
ease or difficulty of access to various systems and components.
But if your inspector is scheduling inspections at odd times like "11:15 to 12:10" or if the inspector
is spending an hour and a half at a property, unless it's a very small and simple structure, you might
wonder what shortcuts are being taken.
A home inspection fee: Fees for the inspection and any other services
are usually payable at the site, usually by personal check. An invoice will be provided.
Readers should be sure to see HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU PAY for PROFESSIONAL SERVICES? where we explain the costs of hiring a too-cheap home inspector or any other service.
Follow-up consulting: In our professional home inspection or environmental inspection and
testing practice, there is no fee for follow-up questions in clarification of the inspection report. In fact we like you to call to
ask questions - it increases the value of our service, and the feedback makes us better at our job.
Some inspectors feel differently and may discourage follow-up conversations or email. An inspector who
knows your property and who is committed to protecting your interest should be willing to discuss the report
or even future problems that may come up.
Typical Home Inspection Ancillary Tests, Services, Fees, and Suggestions for Each Service
For the Hudson Valley Area of New York State here are some local recommendations and suggestions
Radon testing: call RTCA 800 457 2366 and order two radon test canisters -
you can place them in the home, and retrieve them 2-5 days later for a reasonable and very low-cost radon screen -
it's a money issue as well as a potential if less common health issue - cost $40. for the 2 canisters including the lab fee.
You want to see the results as less than 4.0 pCi/L of radon in air.
At the site I'll make suggestions about canister placement.
Basically the two cans go side by side in the lowest habitable area of the home, 2-3 ft. off of the floor,
not by a window, door, fireplace, or dead air space.
Water testing: while I can provide the service of collecting water samples, often a direct call to the
lab for that service is a better idea.fter we see conditions at the home and after we discuss some water test options,
you can call Smith Labs in Hyde Park to
have the lab come directly to the property to collect water samples - depending on what tests you elect to have performed.
(845) 229-6536 -
I recommend a rather extensive water test when buying a home, followed by annual checks for bacteria and
I would not rely on the UV system without monitoring and further testing.
Some typical water test fees are shown at
Cost of Water Tests - Typical Sampling and Lab Fees
Septic inspection, loading and dye test - should be performed, and I can provide this service during the
inspection (Typically $175.).
This is a hidden, buried, but costly and important system to try to evaluate, with the understanding that no inspection or
test can be exhaustive. Information about inspecting and caring for septic systems is at
The Septic System Information Website.
Additional instructions to prepare for septic loading and dye testing:
We do NOT want the seller to have the tank pumped prior to our inspection and testing as this would prevent a system loading test and prevent any possible test of the absorption system or leach field.
I may recommend that the tank be found, opened, pumped, and inspected by a septic pumping company AFTER our loading and dye test, depending on what we learn about the system.
Septic System Questions to ask the seller in advance - we are interested in but do not rely on these answers.
The questions are deliberately a bit vague and open ended so as to permit provision of whatever info the seller can and
Where is the septic system?
what is installed [concrete or steel or home made tank, seepage pits, leach fields, galleys, drywells, etc.)
what is the service and repair history of the system (pumping, repair, replacement of components)
If the seller does not know some of these answers that's perfectly fine. I'll provide my opinion at the site and in a separate
written inspection and test report mailed to you after the inspection.
"Termite inspection:" properly called a "wood destroying insect infestation report":
I can provide this service at the inspection and can provide the separate WDI form that your bank will require ($80).
Lead Paint inspection and testing: for houses built before 1978, you should assume that lead paint is present, more so on an older house as it would be unusual
for this not to be the case unless all old paint has already been removed or the building was never painted.
Lead paint is a potentially serious health hazard, especially to children or during renovations, but an old house is should not be stigmatized
compared to its peers on this issue (since it's not much different from its peers), so this is not usually a point of negotiation
between buyers and sellers. A little on lead hazards is at http://InspectAPedia.com/Environment/Environment_Building.php
in the section on "Lead" -
you may want to use a lead testing professional to screen the house to prepare a lead abatement
plan but I'd wait to see the general condition of the home and wait to see that the purchase is otherwise secure.
Environmental issues in general: a home inspection is not focused on environmental conditions and those hazards are
excluded from the standards of practice. Further, a home inspection fee in no way reflects the costs and fees involved in
environmental site surveys. However, I will po
int out to you certain obvious conditions if I happen to spot them during a
home inspection, such as asbestos heating pipe insulation, pipes probably related to a buried oil tank, or a lead water
entry main line. In exchange for this benefit from your home inspection you will have to agree that you're not holding the
inspector responsible for having performed any sort of environmental survey at the property. Clients with special
environmental concerns should review our Environmental Services
Assure access to the property when scheduling a home inspection
In addition to confirming the inspection appointment with the property owner or real estate agent, please be sure that someone will be available,
usually the realtor, to let us in to the building at the time and on the day of the inspection. As a courtesy, be sure the realtor/seller are informed
that our inspections are typically 3 1/2 hours in length, may be longer, and won't be ended until you, the client, are finished asking your
initial questions at the site.
In discussing the inspection with the realtor or owner, make sure that all of the mechanical systems are
turned on and working, such as heat, electricity, air conditioning. If any systems are to be left shut off or areas are to be inaccessible or locked,
the inspection will be limited. Discuss these limitations with your inspector.
For example, an expert home inspector may spot evidence of a history of plumbing leaks at a
fixture even if water to the building is shut down. But other critical data, such as fixture flow and drainage adequacy can't be
assessed if there is no water.
The buyer(s) should attend the inspection and should stick closely to the inspector to observe, hear explanations, and ask questions.
The more eyes examining the property the better.
If you must bring children to an inspection, be sure you bring along another adult who
can watch the kids so that you can watch the inspector.
The property owner has every right to be in the building and/or have someone present during the inspection, probably a real estate agent,
to be sure that nothing untoward is done to the property by the visitors, and perhaps to answer questions that may arise.
But some inspectors (including me) feel that it's
much better for you the buyer if the seller and realtor do not actually accompany the inspector during the inspection. Bring along a book or
magazine for those parties in case they forgot their own.
Normally the real estate agent is, by law, working for the interests
of the property seller.
If the agent accompanies you on the inspection you are not in control of information that you've paid-for, and you're
making a gift of it to the seller who may use it to negotiate against your interests.
However to protect all parties to the transaction,
the inspector should be expected to answer direct questions from third parties, such as "did you say the house needs a new roof?" and more
important, if immediate life/safety hazards are observed by the inspector, s/he is obligated to inform all parties concerned.
The Ethics of Handling Conflicting Interests at a home inspection
There naturally conflicting interests between the needs of a buyer who wants to understand as much as s/he can about the repairs,
maintenance, and improvements
a property needs and the needs of a seller who is nervous that a buyer will be dissuaded by these items and who does not want to
be bothered by buyer-requests to fix or give allowances for this or that upcoming or past-due repair. The existence of conflicting
interests in a transaction is natural. There is nothing unethical about the existence of such forces.
However what is done about conflicting interests is either ethical, unethical or perhaps even illegal.
A few of the potential ethical issues are explored in these notes.
For example, a home inspector who has a relationship with a real estate agent (perhaps paying for referrals) is
engaging in a conflict of interest - one cannot serve two masters at once if the two have conflicting interests.
Furthermore, such inspector-realtor relationships are not disclosed to the inspector's "client" - the home buyer. The buyer has a right
to know about such a relationship, and might want the right to choose a different, unaffiliated inspector.
Engaging in a conflict of interest is unethical.
To be clear, and to disagree with a few aggressive business people in
the real estate and home inspection fields:
there are no cases in which the rules of ethics do not apply.
A businessman, a real estate agent, a home inspector, a buyer, or property seller, does not have the option
of "turning off" the application of the rules of ethics.
There are no cases of "it's just business." There are business practices. Some of them are ethical. Some are not.
The real estate agent will often want to follow the inspector, to rebut conditions the inspector points out or simply
just to hear the inspector's findings. And certainly, the inspector and buyer should not be up to anything devious either.
But a buyer, who is paying for the professional inspection and thus
is paying for information about a property, has the right to control the dissemination of that information.
A listing or selling agent (other than a true, contracted buyer's agent) who obtains the inspector's findings will be
expected to use whatever s/he learns in negotiation to obtain the best price for the seller.
A property buyer who has hired a building or home inspector has the right to be able to accompany the inspector,
to receive and control the use of information produced by the inspection, and to inspect the property without the company of
a property seller or agent who have conflicting interests.
The purpose of a home inspection is to accurately and without bias, discover and report on the condition of a property. The purpose of the inspection
does not include participation in negotiation about the property price. An inspector who offered to assist in negotiating the price of a property would be one
whose findings and judgments would no longer be credible or unbiased.
A home inspection is not a "deal killer." A careful inspection of virtually any property will reveal repairs, maintenance, or improvements needed. But it would be unusual for
the repairs needed at a property to be so extensive that one should question proceeding with the purchase. So inspection findings should not
jeopardize the purchase of a home.
Rather, it is important for the buyer to have some sense of the priorities of repair and the probable ballpark
costs involved in those repairs necessary to keep the property safe, to keep the mechanical systems working, and to stop any significant ongoing damage.
Who Should Get a Copy of the Home Inspection Report?
All parties to the real estate transaction deserve to be treated with the utmost respect, courtesy, honesty, and fairness. While this is
likely to be the intention of all of the parties, on occasion I see the anxiety and pressure of this low-frequency high-fee transaction resulting in
questionable behavior which may even go so far as to be harmful. Usually but not always, the harm is to the property buyer. "Harm" in this case includes:
Seller/selling agent obtains buyer's paid-for information for purposes not understood by the buyer at the time: to negotiate against the buyers' interests in
the transaction. [Most common]
Seller/selling agent deliberate obfuscates, obscures, or understates costly or dangerous property conditions [Common]
Buyer exaggerates the probable cost of defects or repairs in an attempt to negotiate a lower price. [Unusual]
The people who have hired the home inspector get the report.
The inspector is prohibited by ethical practice and in some cases by legal
case law, from giving the report to any third party without first obtaining explicit instruction to do so from his/her inspection client. The client
has the right to receive first, read, investigate further if needed, and then control the subsequent release of information that client has paid-for.
However certain inspection findings should be disclosed to all parties promptly.
If the inspector detects conditions which appear to be an immediate, serious threat to the building occupants or to the property
(such as an open septic system tank or a gas leak) the inspector should advise the appropriate parties immediately.
While actual cases of fraudulent representation of home inspection results by a buyer to a seller are quite rare, to protect a property
owner/seller from such instances, an inspector should be willing to answer specific questions from the property owner or realtor about what the
inspector has reported on a property. This does not mean answering "what did you find" questions from a third party. It means answering a question like
"Did you say that the roof needs to be replaced immediately?"
Tricky things for a home buyer to look out for in home inspection reports
Almost-hidden report release permission: Home inspection contracts which include a check box authorizing the inspector to release reports to third parties without
further permission from the client. Some home inspectors use their inspection report to market their services to real estate agents in order
to seek referrals from those agents.
If my report is going to serve as a sales tool to agents, you should wonder if I'm glossing over
building defects to please sellers and agents. A few inspectors present this checkbox to their clients but fail to explain that they will
use this permission to give the selling parties first access to, and control over the client's paid-for information about a property.
Who sees the report first? Using the "check box authorization" cited above, some inspectors pass their inspection report
first to the agent and subsequently, perhaps even through the agent, to the buyer. If my report goes first to a party who does not have
my clients' interest as a legal and foremost obligation, whose interest am I really serving?
Oral reports differing from written ones: A few inspectors may tell the client one thing and write something different in a report.
The written report and oral report must be essentially identical to avoid misleading the parties involved.
My policy is that no inspection report and no lab report will be released to any third party unless my client specifically asks me to do so. The
release request must be initiated by the client, excepting the safety or clarity concerns cited above. The written report and the oral report
say the same thing and present the same level of repair priorities and ballpark costs.
Respect the property sellers at your home inspection
Be particularly considerate of elderly sellers and occupants:
the sellers might have lived their entire lives in a building. Or a spouse may have died, leaving a sad and anxious partner.
Moving can be very distressing, especially in such cases as these.
Be considerate of the seller's feelings: don't make disparaging remarks about decor, finishes, etc. in front of a property owner
Do not handle, open, or otherwise poke into the sellers' or occupants personal belongings. Focus on the physical condition of the
building and its systems, not on the art work or gun collection.
Don't track mud onto carpets
Don't let pets escape.
Move carefully around fragile items - don't break anything. When in doubt, don't touch!
Reassure the seller that you love the property and intend to proceed with its purchase.
The inspection is to assist you in understanding
what's needed and how to care for the property.
Naturally any inspection finds things that need attention. In more than 30 years of building inspections we have virtually never found a building that did not need any attention on any topic or component whatsoever. More important is that you find out the identity and priority of attention of the costly, dangerous, or urgent repairs that are needed to protect the property and to make it safe and its systems functional. .
You will need to read and understand your inspection report
before you return to the seller or agent with any questions or concerns.
How to be prepared for your home inspection
If you're buying a home and have scheduled your home inspection, here are a few tips for
the inspection itself"
Expect to take time, not to rush through the inspection - don't schedule your inspection when you have to rush out to another
appointment, or when you are sick or otherwise distracted - there is no fixed inspection duration, but typically this is a 3.5 hour procedure,
or longer on an older home,
depending on how accessible and straightforward various areas and topics are for inspection purposes.
buildings with multiple living units,
multiple heating or cooling systems, complex structures, complex mechanical systems, or simply uncommon defects may take extra time to
Bring a bright flashlight so that you can join the inspector in examining dark areas, corners, and niches.
Wear sturdy shoes and clothing so that you can accompany the inspector in comfort and safety. One of my clients
didn't want to join me in the basement of her new home because she was wearing high heels and a tight skirt. The basement
had things that she needed to see.
If the weather looks cold or rainy, dress appropriately and perhaps bring an umbrella. As an inspector
who cannot tolerate the cold, in winter weather I make a point of wearing long underwear, a heavy sweater,
and a warm jacket and hat so that I can inspect the building exterior without being distracted by the cold.
Arrange a baby sitter for your kids, or if they must come along to the inspection, bring along a second adult
to watch them so that you can give the inspection your full, concentrated attention.
Other family members may want to attend your home inspection. I've always welcomed a larger audience, under the
theory that the more eyes the better. But if other participants prefer to discuss aesthetic topics like curtains or
paint colors, or the new deck you plan to add, that chatting should be deferred so that we can focus our attention
on the present conditions of the building.
You can make notes if you like but it's not required - all findings will be in your written inspection report
Using a camera to take photographic notes is a great idea, but usually, attempts to video record your home inspection are a bad idea:
Fooling with the video camera means not paying attention to the inspector
Don't burden or distract your inspector by asking him/her to "repeat it for the camera"
How to Make Best Use of Your Home Inspection Report
When to discuss report findings with others
Except for unsafe conditions which might be pointed out by the inspector, do not attempt to negotiate or even discuss specific
building defects with the seller or realtor during a home inspection.
You, the buyer, need to collect all of the information about the property
that you can, read through the inspection report, and understand your priorities of repair or significant cost items.
Jumping the gun by
discussing any specific finding during or immediately at the end of the inspection risks confusing everyone as you may later realize that
something else is more important.
How to read your home inspection report
Read the report through carefully, noting
the report summary of costly or obviously dangerous conditions at the property
the report detail, noting unsafe conditions, areas at extra risk of hidden damage
the report detail by subtopic: Roofing/Flashing/Chimneys, Exterior, Structure, Electrical, Heating, Cooling, Insulation and Ventilation, Plumbing, Interior - and paying note to the "time frame" notations which will show you which observations or conditions are marked
"0" need prompt attention (marked by a "0" in the "Time" column)
"**" marking things which present an extra level of safety concern
"HD" items presenting an extra level of risk of hidden damage
"Significant" items which are most likely to involve a significant expense (more than $500. in the near term).
Most line items on the Home Reference Book report pages have at the left a number that directs you into a
more detailed explanation of that topic, additional reading if you like, or you can call me with questions if you prefer.
The information in the "Home Reference Book" included with the home inspection report is based on research of authoritative building information sources, but it
cannot be exhaustive as if we even attempted that level of detail, the book would be too big to carry much less read.
But beware, construction has many people who have strong opinions but who may not have ever read even the instructions on
the box of the product they're installing. Home inspection ethics require that the inspector have no financial connection
with any repairs or improvements to the property - a step which helps protect you from conflicts of interest.
How to Set Building Repair Priorities: How to manage the large number of home inspection "findings" without being overwhelmed
Sort all of the inspection report findings into these categories:
Essential expenses: Items for which the building is in control of your repair or improvement money
Dan's "3 D's" - these are items for which the building is in control of your money in that you need to address these
Dangerous items: unsafe steps, rails, electrical wiring, chimneys, etc.
Damaging items: conditions which are causing active, ongoing, costly damage to the building
Don't work items: items which you need for a habitable building but which are either not working at all (e.g. toilets not flushing),
or which are not working at a reasonable level of reliability such that a reasonable and prudent person could expect to live
in the building and rely on the item (e.g. a steel heating boiler with severe rust and corrosion).
Deferrable expenses: Items for which you are in control of your repair or improvement money
Everything else. These are items for which you are in control of your money.
For example, "adding insulation" may be highly desirable and may reduce your heating bills,
but adding insulation, adding central air conditioning, putting a roof over a deck, are perhaps desirable improvements
but when you do them is your choice.
The building won't be deteriorating - you won't be losing what you've just
purchased - if you defer such expenses.
Home Inspection Exclusions
Reader Question: 11/11/2014 Anonymous said: What are areas of limitation for a home inspection?
What are areas of limitation for a home inspection?
Good question, Anon.
Home inspection limitations are generally spelled out in the standards of practice to which the individual home inspector subscribes. Those may be standards published by a professional association such as ASHI (The American Society of Home Inspectors) or by the licensing agency - typically a state or province in which the inspector practices. (A few states have no licensing nor standard for home inspectors).
The standards of practice are a *minimum* standard to which the inspector must perform and are generally in my OPINION very thin - not very demanding. The inspector is permitted to exceed these, and most do, depending on their individual level of expertise. There are some inspectors, especially high-volume fellows, who use the "standards" and their exclusions to perform the absolute minimum required.
There are also "de-facto" standards of care that can sneak past these minimum levels of performance.
For example some standards exclude the reporting of aluminum electrical wiring, but if an inspector has been exposed to information about that hazard, or if s/he *should have known* about the hazard (e.g. through seminars, publications, and general technical education that include that topic in both basic and advanced training) then an inspector might be held liable for failure to report such hazards, might defend by showing his/her published standard, and might or might not be succesful in that defense, depending on the judge and attorneys and their astuteness.
for examples of standards that include discussion of home inspection exclusions.
You'll see that generally the inspector is not expected to report things that are not visually apparent and is not expected to go into nor operate any place or system that s/he in her/his judgement has reason not-to (such as unsafe) but such extra exclusions must be reported to the client.
Question: how do I figure out the risks if I'm buying a home with a moldy attic?
My wife and I would very much love your input if you could possibly spare the time. If not, totally understand. Very best to you. If so, great! Here you go…
I’ll try to be brief in this email, or feel free to call my cell. In short: We are in escrow on a home purchase, the building inspection identified fungal growth in the attic, and so we hired a specialist to perform environment testing (his report is attached). The assessment of the attic is no surprise (pretty obvious that area needs to be scrubbed/remediated). But what about the spore types and counts in the rest of the home?
The Basidiospores range from 2k (per M3) to 11k. Spooky to you or no big deal? I have just spent hours on your excellent website and learned lots, but my learning included the fact that these singular air sample ‘snap shots’ can be highly unreliable (spore counts can fluctuate vastly over time). Also, the attached report compares to the outside as a ‘baseline’ but I learned from you those outside comparison can also be highly unreliable (the outdoors were blanketed in snow at the time of his sampling, fyi).
Here’s my laymen’s thought, your reaction please:
1. Spore Type: The type of spores on this report do not appear to be the scary ‘toxic’ variety? That right? They all seem to be more of a nuisance variety (i.e., allergy symptoms). Do I have that right?
2. Spore Count: Regarding the concentration, the total counts may not be that much of a concern either? Maybe? The lower floor is 13k (all spore types) but as I read the information on your website that count seems to be just barely in the ‘high’ range (the 13k – 50k Nat. Allergy Bureau, pretty broad range). Right? But, as you point out on your website there really is no scientific standard ~ the ranges and opinions vary. Ugh.
My bottom-line question to you: does the attached report concern you? What do you advice? Should we run away from this house and not look back, or what? Now I don’t want to talk myself into buying a house we’ll regret later, but it seems perhaps the report is not much of a concern. I’m thinking I should perhaps take these next steps. Your reaction please:
1. More testing: I guess I should have this enviro specialists gent come back out to the house for more testing? Paying him more bothers me, I admit. But this time his goal would be to help identify the source of growth inside the occupied areas? Fyi, the inside of the home is beautiful, totally remodeled. No sign whatsoever of fungal growth (visually or odor). Maybe the growth is inside the wall maybe.
2. Attic remediation: We will absolutely plan to remediate the attic fully, either require the seller to do it before close or they can credit us an amount for us to take care of it.
Just an fyi, but to add to my panic here: this home is being purchased through section 1031 ‘exchange’ funds which includes a rather breakneck timeline. I am required by IRS regulations to identify the home I plan to purchase by Dec 13th! My wife and I thought this was that home, but if it’s not we feel panicked for finding another home with no time!
Again, I have no idea if you have time to help me or any interest. If you can help us, so greatly appreciated! We would be very grateful for your input via email reply or feel free to call my cell: - B.F., Sacramento CA
Reply: the perils of rush-rush home purchases, the buyers who buy them and the inspectors who inspect them
I agree Bill with two key observations that you cite regarding "mold testing"
" ‘snap shots’ can be highly unreliable (spore counts can fluctuate vastly over time). Also, the attached report compares to the outside as a ‘baseline’ but I learned from you those outside comparison can also be highly unreliable (the outdoors were blanketed in snow at the time of his sampling, fyi). "
I add that a snow blanket obviously puts a damper on outdoor airborne particles - it was a nearly completely meaningless comparison.
The danger of incomplete inspections and unreliable mold tests
I add that "basidiospores" (read "mushrooms") is a very broad category and though not scary, also not helpful; I'd be more interested in why there was so much mold, where it is located, what caused its growth, and what other fungal growths (visible or hidden in reservoirs like insulation, ceilings, walls) are more significant and perhaps more harmful.
A trivial example (I am NOT asserting that your building has this problem): harmful Aspergillus sp. spores may be present in large quantities over a surface but not readily airborne until growth conditions such as indoor humidity change. So an air test might completely miss such a hazard, or if it captured evidence, that evidence might be subtle and easily skipped or missed by a profit-driven real-world mold lab who doesn 't think about the significance of Aspergillus spore chains.
I cannot infer from your message that the attic mold found is the most important or only problem in the home, don't know that a competent and thorough inspection was ever performed, and that there may not be more significant leaks and perhaps mold or other problems lurking in the home.
We don't know why there was "attic mold", don't know that the more harmful attic mold was the mold that was sampled (there is never just one kind of mold present in a building), and don't know that there was not a more important but hidden reservoir such as wet drywall below moldy insulation - which is possible depending on why the attic was humid or wet and why the mold someone presumably saw was observed in the first place.
Momentum Carries Many Real Estate Deals
With respect, it is just not reasonable to rush to a major purchase such as a home, running in the style realtors would prefer - dashing as fast as you can towards the home, shouting "I WANT IT, I WANT IT" and throwing your wallet and checkbook ahead of you as you run. Real estate agents and sellers, of course, love that sort of momentum as it avoids the pitfalls and threats of buyers' remorse.
The purchase of a home is, as you know of course, significant as also can be costs involved if you have not satisfied yourselves that you've examined what you are buying thoroughly enough that the risk of a big troublesome surprise (which can never be zero) has been reduced to an acceptable level.
Perils of Pauline and other Rush Purchasers
I emphasize that last-minute rush-rush inspections, consults, and tests on buildings, precisely because of the rush atmosphere, are the classic descriptors of a deal that later leaves people upset or worse. The very requirement and atmosphere of rush-rush too often means half-baked, half-thought, or even if well-executed, poorly read and understood inspections, tests, and results of an effort to evaluate a building and its systems.
It is for this reason that I have learned to never accept rush-panic assignments except where there is clearly a threat to human life.
OK so what now:
If as seems likely, you will not be able to complete a thorough inspection and evaluation of the home prior to your decision to purchase it, then at the very minimum you should assure that there has been a truly expert, competent, un-biased home inspection by a serious professional, someone who is not working for realtor nor seller, who actually inspects the property, gives real detail not a mere checklist of what kinds of materials are present, and who can, by inspection, identify for you the known major expenses you are likely to face.
Without that step the risk is a "capture error" - you become so worried about attic mold that you fail to attend more immediate, costly, or dangerous conditions in the building.
Then you can calculate the actual cost of the home to see if it makes economic sense for you. Add up:
Purchase price + cost of required repairs (see the article above where I discuss Dan's 3 D's that define essential repairs on buildings)
Add legal costs, homeowners & liability insurance, costs to turn on utilities, title insurance, title registration, moving costs,
Add the cost for known essential up front repairs that were identified by the inspector
Add and be sure that you have access to another 10-30% (of the base price) in line of credit, family funds or other sources that you could tap should you discover a major expense that if not addressed would cause you to risk losing your investment.
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