Home Buying a Home Home Inspections: What You Need to Know

Home Inspections: What You Need to Know

by Eric Rothman
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What to Expect When You’re Inspecting

It’s finally happening. You’re a first-time home buyer and you are taking steps towards purchasing the house of your dreams! You’ve made your offer, and the seller has accepted. Only a few things stand in your way now, one of them being a home inspection.

As a buyer, it is in your best interest to get an extensive, thorough home inspection to ensure that your new property won’t cause you any problems down the road. Although everything may look fine and dandy, you don’t know what issues might be lurking behind closed doors.

So what does every home buyer need to know about home inspections? We’ve compiled the essentials here, so when it comes time for your inspection, you’ll know what to expect.

Know the Facts

As a prospective buyer, the onus is on you to have the home inspected. Although inspections are recommended, they are usually not a requirement unless it’s a condition of your mortgage. A thorough home inspection can save you a lot of future headaches, and it’s a worthwhile investment for any home buyer. To get the most out of the process, it helps to do your research beforehand. Be prepared, be inquisitive, and pick your team carefully. 

When to Inspect

The ideal time to have a home inspected is after you make a successful offer but before you close the sale. However, there are circumstances where you might want to order an inspection prior to making an offer. The seller must agree to a pre-offer inspection, and this is usually a sign that they’re highly motivated to sell. On the other hand, negotiating an as-is offer on a home is best saved for the savvy negotiator, someone who has at least an idea of what work needs to be done. If you are a first-time home buyer, you might be better off making an offer and then following it up with an inspection.

Select The Right Person For The Job

You want to hire someone who is experienced and well-educated in their field. If you don’t know where to start, try asking friends and family for recommendations. You can also ask your real estate agent, but keep in mind that real estate agents are determined to make the sale, even to the buyer’s detriment. One inspector recommends that “you isolate the home inspection from the real estate transaction.”

You can also find a lot of resources online. Try researching local professionals’ websites and check online reviews on multiple platforms to compare notes.  Depending on where you live, your state may or may not have licensing requirements for performing home inspections. If a license is required, it ensures that you receive the best and most professional service from your inspector. If you live in a state that doesn’t have these requirements, look for associations that hire exclusively licensed inspectors. Conveniently, there are aggregator sites like InterNACHI that list licensed home inspectors by location. 

Anticipated Cost

What can you expect to pay for a home inspection? Though the range is relatively broad, it depends on the inspector, the company, the amount of work to be done, and the size of the property. Generally, you can expect home inspections on a small condo to cost a few hundred dollars, while an older detached home can start at around $500 and go up from there. The cost increases proportionally to the size of the house and the complexity of the task.

As with most things in life, when it comes to home inspections, you get what you pay for. Since you want the best for your property, this is one area where you don’t want to skimp. Mistakes or missed issues can be costly down the line, so it’s better to invest now.

What Will a Home Inspector Do For You?

A home inspector will examine the structure of the house, both inside and out. The scope can include the roof, deck, chimney, and foundation. Inside, they will conduct a tip-to-toe investigation of the walls, windows, ceilings, attic, floors, and doors. They’ll also check out your plumbing, HVAC, and electrical.

You can also request that an inspector performs specific additional services, such as inspecting your garage or other structures separate from the house. There are also inspection services for things like the presence of radon or lead paint, extermination, and natural disaster evaluation. These, however, may require a different professional and are likely to incur additional cost. 

What a Home Inspector Won’t Do

Be aware that even the best home inspector can miss things that are concealed. Since inspectors aren’t permitted to do any damage inside the house they’re inspecting, it’s difficult to know what may be hiding out of sight. There’s no foolproof way to know what’s going on inside the walls and floors, short of tearing things apart. However, inspectors are trained to spot visual indicators, sounds, and smells that may point to a problem.

Should You Be There For The Inspection?

Absolutely. You can learn a lot by being present during an inspection. You’ll also be prepared and know what to expect in the future if you ever plan to buy another house. Ask lots of questions. It’s important to be knowledgeable and thorough in your own right, even if you have a highly competent inspector. However, as with any service provider, remember to be polite and respectful of their time. 

What Comes Next?

Request that your home inspector sends you a copy of their report when they’ve finished the job, and make sure you read it thoroughly. Be practical when it comes to the amount of work that needs to be done on the house. Don’t let your emotional attachment to the house overwhelm your judgment. Eventually, those rose-colored glasses will have to come off. 

In the end, if the house comes with too much baggage, you have every right to walk away. If, however, the house truly is right for you, fantastic! The inspection gives you a jumping-off point for negotiations about changes, upgrades, or repairs that need to be made. 

During negotiations, be sure to prioritize your list of requests. Emphasize the big repairs and be prepared to take care of the little things yourself.

In conclusion, buying a home is one of the most significant purchases you will make. Being informed about the inspection process will help ensure that your investment is worthwhile.

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