Home inspections are a critical part of the home buying process. They allow buyers to see the big picture before they buy and could reveal life-threatening problems like mold or faulty wiring.
Home inspections can also be used as a contingency in a contract, giving buyers a window of opportunity to back out of the purchase without penalty within a specified timeframe.
What Is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is an unbiased, professional assessment of a home’s overall condition. It includes examining the structure and components of the home, including the roof, attic, electrical system, plumbing, fireplaces and interior walls. The home inspector provides a report detailing the findings. A home inspector will point out major problems that need to be addressed and smaller issues that don’t require immediate attention, but should be repaired in the future.
A typical home inspection costs $300 to $500, and is usually scheduled after the seller accepts an offer but before closing. The inspection should take a few hours to complete, and the home inspector will provide a detailed report soon afterward. It is important for the buyer to attend the inspection so that they can learn as much as possible about the property they are purchasing.
It’s also important to understand that a home inspection is not a guarantee of the quality of the home, nor does it determine whether a buyer can obtain a mortgage loan for the property. A home appraisal, on the other hand, does determine the value of a property.
During a home inspection, a home inspector is looking for any issues that could pose a threat to the health and safety of occupants, or that might require costly repairs in the future. That’s why it’s important for buyers to make their offers “contingent on inspections,” so they can cancel the sale if a significant problem is found.
For instance, if the home inspector finds mold in the basement or asbestos in the kitchen cabinets, the buyer can use that information to negotiate with the seller for repairs or concessions. But an inspector will not be able to tell you the risk level of something like radon, which requires special equipment to test for and can cause cancer.
Likewise, an inspector will not be able to address any minor issues that don’t present a serious risk or need for immediate repair. These include things like peeling wallpaper, small cracks in walls and floors and outdated appliances. Home inspectors may also not be able to inspect swimming pools or hot tubs, as they typically need specialized equipment to evaluate their condition.
What You Can Expect From a Home Inspection
A home inspection is a valuable tool for buyers, providing them with the information they need to make an informed buying decision. It gives them peace of mind knowing they’re not purchasing a money pit, and it allows sellers to address issues before they’re discovered by a new owner.
A good inspector will provide a comprehensive report on the condition of a home’s major systems and components, including the structure, roof, attic, electrical, plumbing and heating/cooling. The report may also include an estimate of the remaining useful life of these items. Typically, the report will be extensive and contain checklists, summaries, photographs and notes.
During the home inspection, the inspector will walk through the property with you and explain the findings of the report. He or she will point out things that need to be repaired and offer suggestions on how to proceed. The inspector will not tell you whether to buy the home, nor will he or she recommend a specific contractor for repairs.
You can expect a standard home inspection to take two to three hours for single-family homes and longer for multi-family homes and co-ops. The home inspector will check every room of the house, plus the roof, attic and basement. Typically, home inspectors will not open walls to access areas behind them, but they may recommend additional specialized inspections for radon, termite infestations, lead paint and mold.
When choosing a home inspector, ask your real estate professional for recommendations. They should be able to recommend a qualified professional based on their knowledge of the area and your transaction. Also, don’t be afraid to interview inspectors to get a feel for their expertise and personality. Some inspectors have previous experience in construction, repair or real estate, while others come from all walks of life.
Before the home inspection, prepare the property by making sure all smoke detectors are working and that any pets will be kept out of the way. It’s a good idea to clear out crawl space hatches and move any clutter. If there are locks on closets or utility rooms, you should unlock them so the inspector can get in. It’s a good idea to be present for the inspection so you can hear the inspector describe his or her findings and ask questions.
Why You Should Have a Home Inspection
A home inspection is a chance to learn as much as you can about the condition of a property before making a major investment. It may reveal problems that aren’t readily apparent and can save you from spending money on a property that will not provide you with the level of comfort and security you want.
A thorough home inspection will cover all the important components of a house, including the foundation, roof and the major systems like plumbing and electrical. In addition, the inspector will look at the safety features of the home, such as smoke detectors and functioning GFCI outlets. Depending on what the inspector finds, you may choose to walk away from the deal or ask the seller to make repairs.
It’s not a substitute for a professional appraisal, but it’s a good way to get a sense of what the current state of the property is. A good inspector will use clear and concise language, both in person and in the written report, so that you can understand what they have found.
When you attend the inspection, take notes and listen carefully to the inspector’s comments. This will help you understand what the problem is and what it might cost to fix it, if any.
If you aren’t able to do the work yourself, the home inspector will likely recommend professionals who can do the job. This can include electricians, plumbers and contractors. You may also want to hire a professional mold, pest and radon inspector.
The inspector’s report will identify any significant issues that you should address before purchase. This can be a good basis for negotiation with the seller, and it can also prevent you from buying a property that will require major repairs down the road.
A home inspector can’t see into the future, so problems that arise after a sale aren’t necessarily a deal breaker, but they will need to be addressed as soon as possible.
It’s important to remember that a home inspection isn’t a warranty. The inspector’s findings will be documented in the written report, but the buyer is responsible for arranging and paying for any necessary repairs and maintenance.
How a Home Inspection Works
Home inspectors evaluate the condition of houses from the foundation to the roof, and they can spot problems with electrical systems, plumbing, and the structure itself. During a home inspection, a buyer can find out whether the house they want to buy is in good condition or if it needs significant repairs. This information can help a buyer decide on whether to proceed with the purchase or negotiate with the seller.
Generally, a home inspection occurs after a contract for sale has been signed and is completed before the closing date. In some cases, buyers may choose to perform their own inspection or add an inspection contingency to the sales contract that allows them to walk away from the sale if the home doesn’t pass a professional evaluation within a certain time frame.
A buyer can also ask for a price reduction or credit on the purchase if serious issues are found during the inspection. In some instances, the seller might agree to hire professionals to make the required repairs.
It’s important to know that home inspectors aren’t able to discover everything. For example, a crack in the foundation that isn’t visible unless the house is being excavated would only show up on a dig report. Additionally, a home inspector cannot see through walls or other obstacles. Depending on the situation, it’s possible that termite damage, mold or asbestos could go undetected.
The length of a home inspection depends on the size of the property and its overall condition. It can take a few hours to complete, as the home inspector has to carefully examine every area of the house from the top to the bottom and test each appliance. It’s usually best to attend the inspection so you can get a first-hand look at the issues that the inspector points out.
Sellers can also benefit from a home inspection. Especially in an older building, renovations done prior to selling the house aren’t always up to code and can lead to expensive repairs down the line. If a seller hires an inspector to assess the home, they can pinpoint needed upgrades and upkeep necessities and avoid surprises during negotiations with potential buyers.