The roof looks solid and the house appears well cared for, but there may be problems. Building standards vary by locale and construction standards change.
When buyers think they have found the perfect home to suit their needs, it is the time to contact a professional home inspector to protect them from surprises later on.
"I find things that have been hidden or not built properly," said Mark Simmons, owner of Jam Home Inspections.
"I've seen extension cords used to wire houses and foundations sitting on tree stumps," he said.
He has inspected homes where the contractor has thrown the wood scraps underneath the house -- which creates a termite haven -- instead of hauling them away.
An inspector evaluates the construction of properties from the peak of the roof to the ground, including mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems. The components are rated as acceptable, marginal (something to watch) or defective (must be repaired).
The average home inspection takes an hour-and-a-half. If the client wants the official report right away, then Simmons spends another 45 minutes writing it and printing it out on site.
Inspecting takes him to the rooftop, which can be scary enough, but when he crawls under houses, he dons a dust mask and a Tyvek jump suit.
The worst thing he has found under a house was a heat pump -- the big unit that heats or cools a house. In the summertime the unit blows hot moisture under the house, in the winter it blows cold air under the floor. The danger is that the moisture creates mold and mildew under the floor and causes expansion of the house rafters.
Simmons hopes the black widow and brown recluse spiders will stay in their webs. He has not been bitten, nor has he encountered any animals. And despite the possible hazards, inspecting is a job he likes.
"I hated corporate America and real estate was booming," Simmons said. "I have always owned my homes and been scared at what I found (wrong), so I decided to go to school and make a career out of something I enjoy."
He usually works for the buyer. When he works for the seller, it is because they want to a report of what needs to be repaired and then documentation that the repairs were made.
The biggest job he's had so far took him all day. It was a 7,000 square foot home in Scottsdale. The smallest was a 500 square foot condominium in Page.
Simmons started his business in the Valley, but soon found himself traveling all over the state to give people reports on the condition of their homes and light commercial property.
"Payson was a good central location for what we do," Simmons said.
He is licensed by the state of Arizona and a member of the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
Simmons attends continuing education classes each year to keep abreast of the newest techniques, building products and industry practices.
Jam Home Inspections may be contacted on the Web at www.jamhomeinspections.com or by calling (928) 476-4763 or, toll free, 866-347-2633.