What is an inspection, and do I need one?
When you buy a home, it can feel like the list of things to do is never-ending. A home inspection is one of the many important things that will be at the top of your list.
While you’ve seen the house you’re about to buy, a home inspection brings in a neutral third party to give you a professional assessment of certain things. It can help you identify issues you may have missed and avoid possible surprises in the future. Above all, it can help you become a more informed home buyer.
What Is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is a visual inspection of a property. It’s kind of like an annual check-up at the doctor. It’s used to make sure everything is working properly, and it can be useful to spot things that might eventually become a problem. A home inspector looks at a number of different items and gives a professional opinion on the status.
A home inspector’s report should highlight whether there are any problems that were visible, repairs that are needed, and potential risks that the inspector wasn’t able to see.
But don’t confuse a home inspection with a guarantee that a property is in good condition. An inspection is simply information to help a buyer make a decision about the property.
What Happens During a Home Inspection?
Though it’s not necessary, it’s a good idea to be present at your home inspection to learn as much as you can about the property. During the inspection, the inspector will walk through the property examining different areas. They may take photos and notes to use in their report.
As a potential buyer who’s making a huge financial investment, you can and should ask questions during the home inspection. A qualified home inspector will be able to answer all your questions openly and honestly. Consider asking them about the severity of certain issues so you can determine which problems will or will not impact your home purchase.
The inspection will make you aware of any potential problems now, so they don’t become bigger and costlier issues in the future.
What Do Home Inspectors Look For?
During a home inspection the inspector will look at areas that are easily accessible and able to be seen, for example:
Physical Structures: This includes checking the driveway, garage floor, roofing, attic spaces and foundations for any major issues.
Interior Structures: In addition to the home’s physical structure, an inspector will look over the interior structures of the home. This includes the condition of the flooring, walls, doors and windows and things like water damage.
Major Systems: This includes running tests on the water systems in the home, turning on each and every faucet to test water flow, cold water output and hot water output. An inspector will also test the fridge, dishwasher, oven/stove, and all of the toilets for basic functionality and performance.
Utilities: As part of the major systems check, your home inspector will assess and give you a detailed report on the quality of electrical lines in the home as well as the gas service.
They take a critical look at a number of different items around the property – a good home inspector will catch things you might not notice and be able to give you warning about potential problems that may arise.
When inspectors complete their evaluation, they’ll send you a detailed report outlining the condition of the home you are selling or buying, along with any recommendations for repairs. A report will also state whether certain appliances – such as a home’s furnace or AC unit – are nearing the end of their lives.
Home inspectors don’t cover every possible problem with a home, though. They won’t search for mold, asbestos, radon gas, lead paint or signs of pest damage. If you suspect that a home you’re buying or selling does have, say, mold or termite issues, you should schedule an inspection by a specialist who focuses on those areas
How Do You Choose a Home Inspector?
When it’s time to hire a home inspector, start by asking friends and family if they have one they recommend. You can also turn to online reviews to find honest feedback. It’s important to find an inspector who is going to give you a complete and honest assessment of the condition of the home, so take your time finding the right person.
When you find a home inspector, ask them some questions before you decide to hire them, including:
● What does your home inspection report cover?
● How long have you been practicing?
● Do you offer to do repairs based on the inspection?
● How long will the inspection take?
● How much will the inspection cost?
● What type of report do you provide?
● When will I receive the final inspection report?
How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?
According to Home Advisor, the national average cost of a home inspection is $330, but that will vary depending on the home and the area as well as the size of the home. While this is an additional cost to home buying, consider the value in terms of the investment that you’re making. A good home inspection could save you thousands of dollars on repairs down the road.
You’re also going to want to hire and pay a home inspector yourself, rather than have the seller pay. Why? That way they’re accountable to you and no one else. You don’t want them to be tempted to underemphasize any potential problems.
How Long Does a Home Inspection Take?
The length of a home inspection depends on the size and age of the home. Usually, it will take an inspector longer to complete an inspection for a home that is older and larger.
In general, though, you can expect the inspection to take approximately 2 – 3 hours. If you’re buying a home, make sure to follow along with your inspector. Tagging along will not only give you an up-close look at any potential problem areas, but it will also give you a chance to learn the locations of such important home features as your water shut-off and electrical box.
And if you’re selling? Tag along with this inspection, too. You’ll want to hear the inspector’s explanation for which systems in your home need upgrades or repairs.
Receiving Your Home Inspection Report
After inspecting your home, your inspector will write up your home inspection report. However, depending on their schedule, it can take a day or more to receive the actual report.
Once you receive it, you should read the entire thing. There’s no standard format. Your report might be a checklist, or it might be more detailed and include photos and written descriptions of what’s found.
Your report will also include a summary describing anything that isn’t working or may pose a safety risk.
After receiving your report, you may find that there are additional items you’d like to have inspected further. You may also realize that there are significant things that need to be fixed. In that case, you may need to work with the seller to negotiate whether they will make the updates or whether you can get a credit for work that needs to be performed.
Should You Ever Skip the Home Inspection?
You should never skip the home inspection. The inspection is a crucial step that if missed, could lead to serious and expensive repercussions in the future. Purchasing a home is the biggest investment most buyers make in their lifetime, which is why they should never skip the inspection. Although a house may look like it’s in perfect shape, you never know what serious problems could be lurking under the surface.
When you make any large purchase, you should always know exactly what you’re buying. By getting a home inspection, you can ensure that the home is actually worth the money you’re about to pay for it.
If you’re selling, ordering a home inspection makes sense, too. This way, you can uncover any serious problems and fix them before listing your home. This will eliminate any surprises that could scuttle your real estate sale.
The Bottom Line on Home Inspections
The home inspection process may feel like another to-do in the whirlwind process of buying a home. But it’s designed to give you confidence as a buyer. After going through the home inspection process, you should know a lot more about the home you’re about to buy.