Here in Central Ohio, we're finally getting some winter weather. Maybe. It's raining as I'm writing this article on February 2, which makes me doubt that we will get as much snow as people seem to think, based on the number of bread loaves left at the store. But even though the weather outside is frightful, many people are still buying and selling homes. So, can you get an inspection during the winter?
The answer is: "Absolutely!" But there are some things that might be a little different about a winter home inspection.
First of all, if there is snow coverage, that might make it hard to see some components of the home. The roof is the obvious one, but depending on how deep the coverage is, exterior foundation walls, downspouts, and even parts of the siding may not be visible. On the bright side, if there is significant snow coverage, your inspector may actually have an easier time identifying leaks within the home's attic. Most roof leaks are not obvious from the outside. They are a lot easier to find on the inside of the attic. When there is a lot of water on the roof (such as when snow is slowly melting), it can be much easier to figure out if there is a leak and where it is coming from. Foundations can usually be checked more easily on the interior than the exterior, as well. Snow doesn't make those two major components as hard to inspect as you might think.
Additionally, most inspectors will be happy to come out to finish the inspection if the snow melts during your inspection period. I've done this many times, and in fact did it this morning. Your inspector probably won't charge you for that second visit, since it isn't your fault that there was snow. Right? The second hindrance that comes up with winter inspections is checking out the air conditioning system. Running an AC unit when it is too cold outside can damage the unit. Some inspection companies will perform a limited test, where they turn the system on and check to see if it activates and if it seems to be removing heat from the home. Unfortunately, that is not a very accurate method of determining if the system is actually functional. In fact, all it tells you is that the system turns on. Most of the time, when your AC isn't working right, it isn't because it won't turn on. It is something else reducing the efficiency. Other inspection companies won't activate the AC unless the exterior temperature hits a certain point during the inspection, or leading up to the inspection. Those who choose this path are actually following industry guidance here, so don't be alarmed if they don't turn it on. They can still visually examine the unit but, let's face it, you just can't know the full condition until springtime. There is actually another way in which inspecting the home during the winter is good: if your inspector uses thermal imaging, it makes it easier to find locations of energy loss. The bigger the difference between the exterior and interior temperatures, the more clearly it will show up in thermal imaging. This is obviously true of summer heat, as well, but we're looking for the bright side of winter here. It may come as a surprise, but often what you think of as bad weather actually makes our job as inspectors easier. Even if it is a little less pleasant than usual.