Your guide to the home inspection process
Intel: It’s critically important to spies, assassins, and yes, the average homebuyer. Perhaps especially homebuyers. After all, this is likely the most significant investment you’ll make in your lifetime. Don’t you want to go into it as informed as possible?
With much at stake, you want to know everything about the new property you’re about to purchase. A hasty purchase without knowing the flaws or problems in a house could prove disastrous. This is where home inspections become essential.
Home inspections can reveal many issues in a property that most of us (especially first-time homebuyers) are unlikely to find on our own.
Essentially, they help you avoid potential pitfalls in the home buying process. If you want to know how home inspections benefit you and what happens both during and after a home inspection, this guide will help you.
But here’s the proverbial question:
Should I have a home inspection?
Let’s throw a better question at you:
Do you want to feel safe and secure in your new place?
Here’s another one to consider. Do you want to have better bargaining power when negotiating for your dream home?
The two aren’t mutually exclusive. There are many benefits of getting a property inspected, which is why it’s an inherent part of the home buying process.
Not everything you see is functional
“Ah, this is brand new construction. Can’t expect it to have any problems”.
“Oh, the seller recently remodeled the home! Is an inspection really a must?”
If you follow this line of thought, think again.
Even a newly constructed home might have its fair share of defects. Loose wiring or a plumbing issue could damage a brand new property in no time. For the average buyer, identifying flaws in a home is a challenge and they need expert assistance.
Inspections conducted by a certified home inspector will identify defects, arm you with facts about the property, and help you make an informed decision.
Let’s see what else home inspection does for you:
Saves you a great deal of money
A home is a sum of many components. Very expensive and critical components. The HVAC system, plumbing, wiring, and numerous other appliances together constitute a livable property. As with everything in life, these machines and systems each have a limited shelf life.
What if you don’t bother checking them out before the purchase, and one (or more) break down shortly after you move in? A sudden expense might hit where it hurts the most: your wallet. Thanks to home inspections, you can avoid any potentially costly repairs in the future. In this way, you control your future.
Back to the point of intel. Your inspector also reveals the age of the home’s systems and appliances, assesses their working condition, and suggests replacements where needed. The information will aid your budget considerations as well as various insurance and warranty options you may want to secure.
Gives you the power to negotiate
Home inspections undoubtedly offer you leverage when negotiating a better deal with the seller. You can ask the selling party to either reduce the home price or pay for the repairs. They may even do the repairs themselves based on issues presented in the home inspection report.
But whatever you’re planning to negotiate, do it in consultation with your realtor. Note that not every issue presented in the report is actually worth the fuss. A missing tile in the kitchen or a clogged shower head shouldn’t bother you because they are, quite honestly, easy to fix. Your realtor will guide you in selecting the most critical issues to bring to the seller’s attention.
Remember that sellers are people, too. They have unique personal circumstances and histories, and often a whole lot of memories tied to their home. So approach any negotiation with a sense of empathy (rather than authority). The seller might’ve been living in the home for years and may genuinely not have known about the structural damage until the inspection, or perhaps had bigger, more important things to address in their lives.
Helps you avoid an illegal purchase
We can all agree that unwelcome surprises should generally be avoided at all costs. Inspections can help with that. They can reveal, for example, whether a recent kitchen renovation follows city code or whether the seller obtained the necessary permit for that charming additional sunroom at the back of the house. Buying a home with illegal additions could prove costly.
According to Chantay Bridges of Clear Choice Realty & Associates, “If a house has illegal room additions that are not permitted, it affects the insurance, taxes, usability and most of all, the overall value. In essence, a buyer is purchasing something that legally does not exist.”
Offers you a final chance to back out
Why not give yourself one last, evidence-based chance to decline a bad deal? If the inspection report reveals critical issues but the seller denies your request for repairs or hesitates to provide credit, in most scenarios, you should consider stepping back. With an inspection contingency in place, you can back out of the purchase contract without incurring any costs.
What to expect during a home inspection?
You’ve presented your offer, and the seller has accepted. The purchase contract with an inspection contingency clause is signed. Only the closing of the deal remains.
Cue the home inspection. A professional home inspector, with their eagle eyes, will now investigate any major and minor issues with the property.
Curious to know what happens during a home inspection?
Let’s find out:
- Vetting the inspection checklist
An inspection checklist covering various parts of the property will be used to identify issues. The inspection checklist varies as per state regulations.
But any inspector adhering to the ASHI Standard of Practice should look into the following:
- Structural system
- Roof system
- Plumbing system
- Electrical system
- Heating system
- Air conditioning system
- Insulation and ventilation, among others.
For example, the structural system component in the checklist requires the inspector to look for signs of damage in the visible foundation of the house. The inspector checks whether the foundation is straight or bent or has any significant cracks.
Similarly, the roof systems component may include inspecting shingles, vent exterior, gutters, chimneys, etc.
- Gathering information and cataloging
The inspector begins the home inspection first by reviewing the property disclosure statement provided by the seller, which may include the home’s repair history, instances of water damage, etc., and would warrant extra attention from a professional.
The disclosure statement is mandated by law, and the requirements vary depending on the state. As the inspector walks through the home, they take pictures and notes for an objective evaluation. However, that doesn’t mean they can or will identify every flaw in the house.
For example, a professional home inspector may not report:
- the presence of harmful plants or animals on the lot
- any environmental hazards
- acoustical properties of systems or appliances
Also, the inspector is not required to report damage in any areas that are inaccessible to them.
- Tagging along with the inspector
On inspection day, tag along with the inspector and see the property firsthand. You can even prepare your own inspection checklist. Ask them questions you’ve identified as top priority. By doing so, you’ll gain in-depth knowledge about the home you hope to be buying.
An outstanding inspector might even go above and beyond and take this opportunity to educate you on how the home’s components are functioning, as well as approaches to fix minor issues. Also, you can request that they look into specific aspects of the home that concern you.
For the most thorough inspection possible, ask the seller in advance to make sure that all areas of the property accessible.
What to expect after a home inspection
Home inspections usually take a few hours to complete, with the inspector usually delivering their report within two business days. The next course of action after receiving the report is fully in your court.
Study the report thoroughly
Once you’ve received the report, study it thoroughly. It could have an exhaustive list of flaws, both major and minor. The minor issues shouldn’t concern you. Gluing torn wallpaper, for example, isn’t a big deal.
Sort through it in order to pinpoint the big-ticket issues, especially major problems that are potential health or safety hazards. Asbestos in the walls, an iron cast plumbing leak or a mold problem, for instance, are truly more than a nuisance.
Consult your agent and prepare a repair addendum
With a licensed realtor by your side, you have an expert partner in this endeavor. When in doubt about any issue in the report, consult your agent. They will suggest reasonable repair requests to take up with the seller. Moreover, they’ll prepare a repair addendum and submit it to the seller’s agent.
According to The Balance, some of mandatory repair requests include:
- Water damage
- Fire or electrical hazards
- Structural hazards
- Building code violations
Gauge the seller’s response and negotiate
There are three possible responses you can expect from the seller:
- They accept the requests and do the repairs
- They negotiate the repairs
- They reject your requests entirely
If the seller feels that the repair requests are reasonable, they might agree to do them (or hire a contractor). But some may lack the financial capacity to accomplish what is necessary. To secure the deal, therefore, they might decide to offer you a lower price.
Other sellers may offer credit for repairs. Most of them do so to help buyers secure a mortgage and get the deal done. For example, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans require certain repairs to be fixed prior to closing a loan.
The rejection head-scratcher
The inspection might uncover some cost-prohibitive fixes. And the seller could reject your request for repairs. It is a tricky situation to handle. You now have two options: negotiate with the seller or walk away.
But what if the seller doesn’t budge? Your chance of winning the negotiation, then, greatly depends on the local real estate market. If it’s a buyer’s market, the seller will fear losing your offer and may concede. And if it’s a seller’s market, they can more easily back out, and there’s nothing much you can do except walk out.
Make home inspections a priority
How much does it cost to hire an inspector? Fees could be anywhere from around . But don’t let that dissuade you. If you’re planning to skip the inspection, just consider the costs that you may incur in the long run after buying a home.
Think of it this way: intel (that is, knowledge) is power. A home inspection is an absolute necessity if you want to live a healthy and happy life in your new home. Those nitty-gritty details can help you avoid spending more money than you budgeted, and save you a whole lot of headaches along the way.