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Why are home inspections important?

Home inspections grant you, the buyer, the best opportunity to ensure your investment is sound. Not only will a home inspection reveal any major issues with the structure or the mechanics of the home,

it will also grant you the peace of mind you need when making such a large purchase. Foregoing a home inspection is done at your peril. You might have visited the home multiple times and do your own inspection, but only a professional with full access to every aspect of the home can actually evaluate any current or potential problems. During a home inspection, both the exterior and interior of the home will be checked. It is a good idea to attend the inspection yourself so you can be present to ask any questions and to actually see any problems uncovered. Keep in mind that a final walk-through inspection on your closing date is also very important, but that is not the time to bring up major repairs needing to be done.

What is a home inspection?

During a home inspection, an inspector will visit the home you intend to buy for a thorough review of the structure and mechanisms of the home. This inspection is different from an appraisal, which is designed to evaluate the price of the home based on current trends and comparable sales. The inspection looks at your potential property inside and out to investigate any current or potential problems, which is good advice for first-time homebuyers who are not experienced in homeownership.

A home inspection should not be a cursory overview, as you want the most comprehensive inspection possible. However, a general home inspector is not a specialist in certain areas, so additional inspections might be required if there are any red flags for certain problems. See the checklist below to learn more about what is and what is not included in a general home inspection.

Generally speaking, the buyer will be responsible for hiring an inspector and following up on any concerns. Be thorough in your research before hiring someone and make sure you get the most value for your money without cutting corners.

When to Do the Home Inspection

The home inspection is usually done after an offer is accepted but before closing on the deal. When you are under contract, you can and should get a home inspection done to thoroughly check the home before it becomes yours. Any problems found during the inspection may help you negotiate a lower home-buying price from the original offer to cover the costs of any needed repairs.

If you also have a lender offering you a mortgage, then you will most likely be required to do an appraisal of the home around this same time. As the buyer, you will probably have to make all the arrangements for both the appraisal and the inspection.

The home inspection itself should take three or more hours, during which you should make every effort to be present at the home. You will want to see any issues uncovered first-hand, instead of just reading about them in the report later. Being there to ask questions will help your decision-making regarding repair requests and negotiations.

Home Inspection Checklist

A general home inspection should thoroughly review standard home problem areas. These could include any or all of the following in your potential home:

      • Exterior should be reviewed for paint condition and siding, gutters, downspouts, wiring issues, loose boards or possible asbestos as well as encroaching tree roots or overhanging limbs. The lot should also be checked for drainage.
      • Foundation and structural elements should be checked for cracks or apparent shifting and any other significant damage.
      • Roof condition should be checked, with insight into any previous repairs or replacements.
      • Attic should be checked for any water or fire damage and signs of pests or rodents.
      • Interior ceilings and windows should be checked in each room for water damage.
      • Basement should be checked for water damage or dampness and insulation.
      • Electrical systems should be checked at all switches and outlets and determined if everything is up to code.
      • Plumbing should be checked for strange noises or apparent issues and piping materials should be identified.
      • Heating and cooling system should be reviewed, including the age of the system and any updates made.
      • Appliances like refrigerators, stoves, garbage disposals and smoke detectors should all be checked.

If the home is already vacant, then make sure the seller has left the utilities on so that the inspector can check electricity. Also ensure the pilot light is lit, if applicable, so that a water heater or furnace can be verified. Inspectors tend to avoid lighting a pilot light due to insurance concerns. If an inspector cannot check these during an inspection, then you might have to pay for a second inspection visit later when they can be verified. It is better to confirm with the seller before the inspection.

Specialist Home Inspection Options

A home inspection is designed to check for certain problem areas in the interior of a home as well as any issues to the exterior. However, a general home inspection does not verify specific problems, which might require specialist inspectors. These issues could include the following:

      • Mold or mildew
      • Asbestos
      • Lead paint
      • Radon, methane, radiation and formaldehyde
      • Pests
      • Rodents

General inspectors will typically not check inside walls, chimneys, pipes or sewer lines. They also will not check behind electrical panels. It is important to know that issues can still show up after the purchase, which is just part of homeownership. Unless those issues are so bad as to condemn the home, you will probably have to pay for those repairs yourself. Learn about homeowners insurance here and how it can help cover the cost of significant repairs following an incident.

Your Options After the Home Inspection

If your home inspection uncovers significant issues, then you can submit a request for repair asking that the seller either address the issues or lower the sale price to accommodate the costs you will incur. If repairs are agreed to, then be sure to schedule a second inspection once they are completed.

However, sellers are typically not required to make any repairs. A seller who is eager to close the deal will likely handle the repairs or offer a discounted price. In a competitive seller’s market, you might need to make the choice whether to deal with the repairs and costs yourself or walk away from the deal entirely. This is especially true for HUD homes that typically sold as-is.

Remember your budget and stick to it. Finding out that major repairs are needed imminently can certainly impact your decision. While you would lose the cost of the inspection and the appraisal, you might be better off walking away per the contingencies in your offer instead of forging ahead and struggling with finances from day one.

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