Home Inspections 101

So you have found the perfect home and your Realtor® suggests that you should have a home inspection. When you ask about how much they cost, he or she calmly says “Oh, it’s just a few hundred bucks”…you gasp! The home buying process is starting to get stressful and is already threatening to drain your lifetime savings and now this. You immediately begin to ask if a home inspection is truly necessary and if you could just do it yourself, both of which suggest that you could save a bundle of your hard-earned cash. While a home inspection is usually not required, I strongly encourage every customer to have one completed for every home (including new construction) during the beginning stages of a purchase.

What is a home inspection?

For the purposes of this article, I am referring solely to a basic home inspection; however, there are numerous types of home inspections and I encourage many of them. A few common inspections include a septic inspection, WDO (wood-destroying organism, or termite) inspection, roof inspection, wind-mitigation, four-point, and HVAC inspection. The WDO and septic inspections may be required for certain types of financing, but not all of them. Wind mitigation and four-point inspections can save you significant dollars on your home insurance premiums. Sometimes, the basic home inspection will trigger a need to dig deeper and hire another inspection, such as an inspection completed by a licensed roofer, if the home inspector is unable to provide the detailed information that a licensed roofer could provide.

A home inspection is a thorough examination, completed by a licensed professional that inspects all of the major components of a home. I suggest selecting a home inspector that does home inspections on a full-time basis. This helps to ensure that they have experience and should know what to look for as well as what may or may not be a major flaw as 99.9% of homes will have many flaws. To obtain their license, home inspectors are required to pass an examination and are licensed by InterNACHI, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. While this inspection is very thorough, it cannot necessarily determine all a home’s potential ills. For instance, a home inspector should verify that an air conditioning system is putting out the appropriate cold air, but it may not determine the source of a strange noise, or if it will continue to work properly in the future. Also, home inspectors can usually only determine problems that are readily observable. They cannot account for cracks in the foundation that are beneath carpet or identify roofing issues in areas that they cannot access. The purpose of a home inspection is to identify “deal breakers” of a potential home purchase, not to create a punch-list for a seller to complete prior to closing, although sellers may be agreeable to making some repairs prior to closing.

Why do I need a home inspection?

We have all heard it said that we should never judge a book by its cover and the purchase of a home is no exception. Having a home inspection helps to guard against the emotional attachment that we all (yes, you too) make when considering any major purchase. By hiring an objective third-party licensed inspector, you should receive peace of mind to help you make wise decisions before shelling out big bucks at the closing table. Spending a few hundred bucks now could save you thousands later by discovering flaws that you may have not discovered without it.

Having a home inspection helps you to truly know what you are buying and may help with negotiations should the home inspector find a significant issue that is not readily observable, or that the seller may not have had knowledge of. Having documented evidence of significant issues can provide bargaining power for the sale if concessions or repairs are necessary. Without a licensed professional completing the inspection, sellers may discount your opinions and be less likely to concede concessions.

When do I have a home inspected?

Home inspections are usually completed during the first week or two after an accepted contract is put into place. Your Realtor® should be able to provide guidance about how long of an inspection period to negotiate. I strongly encourage my customers to begin with obtaining inspections immediately upon commencement of the inspection period. Inspection periods can be extended, but doing so sometimes aggravates sellers and can potentially harm your ability to close as scheduled (costing you money). Your Realtor® should always attend the home inspection and I encourage my customers to do so as well if they are able.

How much does a home inspection cost?

The cost of a home inspection generally depends on the size of the home and may be affected by particular characteristics of the subject property. Home inspections generally start at around $300 for a basic inspection of a small to mid-sized home. While I always advocate good financial decisions and I avoid overspending, this is not the time to be pinching pennies. Your Realtor® should be able to provide a few reputable home inspectors that you should consult and you could ask about the cost when speaking with each of them.

Who gets the inspection report?

The buyer. Often, the buyer’s Realtor® is also provided the report. A good inspector will review issues of the report at the time of the inspection and will provide a written report, usually within a couple days of the inspection. It is very important to ask your Realtor® prior to sharing your report with anyone, including insurance companies and lenders.

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