The exterior inspection is a major section of a home inspection and usually begins with the home inspector walking around the exterior of the house and noting the following item: fence, grading of the soil at the foundation, sprinkler system, statues, ponds, electrical outlets connected to the house, electrical house at the backyard, location of electrical panel, location of main electrical service from the utility, pool location, additional storage buildings, and any other unusual additions made after the original construction.
Fence: Usually the home inspector will walk the fence line and check for loose posts, broken boards and the general condition of the fence. If there is a pool or other water feature the will be an inspection for safety items like springs or other self closer to keep the gate shut and are secure. When there is major fence damage some buyers will contact a fence company to get a quote for repair or ask the seller to fix without a quote. Sometimes the buyer wants to install a custom fence that is an upgrade of the current style of fence to rock, redwood, etc. Usually the buyer will talk with the Realtor and come up with a plan with what items to ask the seller to repair, ask for a discount on the price, or a percentage of the repair cost.
Grading: There are many cosmetic concerns with grading that buyers usually think about like how the backyard looks the type of landscaping, and patio area for a barbeque set. With the home inspection the home inspector is looking more for the water flow away from the foundation area. The grading should slope away from the foundation area and there should be no evidence of water collecting or damage from water issues due to poorly designed landscaping or clogged drainage. Many times the gutter system is removed due to a new roof being recently installed but the gutters are missing. In some cases this can cause water to collect around the foundation area and cause settlement to the entire house. There have been many cases where there are two identical houses side by side. One house has major foundation settlement issues and the other is fine. The only difference between the two that is visible from the outside is that the one with no foundation problems has gutters and a properly graded and installed drainage system at the backyard. While the house that is next door has no gutters at the back yard roof area, evidence of prolonged water collection at the foundation area, and poor grading. So grading and drainage is not just a cosmetic issue but a very integral part of the home inspection process.
Sprinkler System: Is the grass green? Are the shrubs and trees in good condition? Are there any sprinklers that are spraying on the house that could cause water damage? Is there any water damage on the side of the house? Has an above ground system been installed in a non-professional way that could be a tripping hazard for adults or a danger to small children?
Statues are not a feature at many houses. When they are left for the new owners they can be a safety hazard for small children. Some children have been hurt when climbing on statues that are not secured and tip over.
Ponds: Even small ponds can be a safety hazard for small children. Occasionally a do-it-yourself homeowner will install a pound right next to the foundation. Foundation issues can occur due to water leaking under the foundation area and settlement of the entire area of the house near the pond. Expansive stucco cracks on the exterior, difficult opening windows and doors, and expansive cracks at interior drywall can be evidence of foundation issues and can warrant further inspection of the foundation by a foundation repair company.
Electrical Outlets at House: Exterior outlets should be GFCI protected for safety. Future upgrade is recommended on houses that were not originally built with GFCI outlets at exterior locations.
Electrical Outlets at Yard Area: Quite often additional features are added by home owners such as barbeque areas, ponds, statues, and gazebos. When these new electrical services are installed they need to be done by licensed electricians so that the outlets are GFCI protected and installed to current safety standards. It is not unusually to find entire backyard electrical systems run on extension cords that are hard wired into a removed non-GFCI protected outlet.
Electrical Panel: Zinsco panels at the minimum should all be inspected by an electrician before close of escrow. The aluminum bus bars are not fully visible unless the system has been powered off and the breakers removed for further inspection of the panel. Many electricians will immediately recommend replacement of the electrical panel stating “Insurance companies recommend replacing Zinzsco panels.” There are also other older panels that need further inspection by a licensed electrician or replacement before close of escrow.
Electrical and Phone Lines from Utility: Are the lines too low? Are they too low over a pool or other water feature? Are the electrical lines outdated? Do they run through trees? Do the utility companies need to be contacted to trim back the trees?
Pool and Accessories: We recommend all pools and accessories inspected by a professional pool inspection and repair company before close of escrow. Most home inspectors just do not have the experience needed to provide an extensive pool inspection. Many home inspection companies will charge $150 to $300 just to inspect the pool system only to give a short list of noted items and “contact pool inspector before close of escrow for cost of repair.” We have found that money and time can be saved by calling a pool inspection company first.
Additional Storage Buildings: Are they professionally installed? Is there an electrical system installed? Is it attached to the house? Does the building cause and drainage issues?
Unusual Additions: Obvious home owner additions? Safety hazards from location of gas power heater near a bedroom?