Home Inspections 101
Atop the long list of items to do when buying or selling a house is the home inspection. But what is involved? How much does it cost? Why is it done in the first place? It’s important to understand what a home inspection entails and how it affects the sale of your home or the purchase of a new one. The more you know, the less likely you are to get ripped off or taken by surprise.
What is a Home Inspection?
First of all, let’s clear up a commonly misunderstood point: a home inspection is not the same as an appraisal. An appraisal is an estimate of a property’s overall market value. A home inspection is much more detailed and practical. It is defined as an objective visual examination of the structure and systems of a home by an impartial, neutral third party not related to the buyer or seller. In layman’s terms, it shows you what is wrong with the property you want to buy or sell and if it’s serious enough to prevent a sale.
The three main points of the inspection are:
Evaluate the physical condition of the home, including structure, construction and mechanical systems
Identify items that need to be repaired or replaced
Estimate the remaining useful life of the major systems, equipment, structure, and finishes
Bottom line: a home inspection is to inform the buyer of any readily visible major defects in the mechanical and structural components, and to disclose any significant health or safety issues.
What Does a Home Inspection Cover?
A home inspection includes a visual examination of the house from top to bottom. There are hundreds of items a home inspection covers. These include the general structure, flashings, basement or lower level, framing, facilities, foundation, common safety devices, fireplaces and wood stoves, kitchen and kitchen appliances, general interior, attic, insulation, ventilation, roof, and exterior.
An inspector cannot report on defects that are not visible. For instance, defects hidden behind finished walls, beneath carpeting, behind storage items and in inaccessible areas, and even those that have been intentionally concealed.
How Do I Find an Inspector?
To hire an inspector, get recommendations from your Relator, or from friends and family. If you don’t know anyone who has hired a home inspector, you can simply Google “home inspectors” in your city. Google is a great tool in that you can check out previous client reviews.
It is a good idea to be present during the inspection. First, you can ask the inspector questions during the inspection. Also, the inspector will have the opportunity to point out areas of potential trouble, which will mean more to you if you see it with your own eyes than read it in the inspector’s report later. Many inspectors will also offer maintenance tips as the inspection progresses. Before showing up to the inspection, make sure you check with the inspector beforehand to see what their policies are with this. Some may request that you not come to the inspection until about halfway through, just to give the inspector space to do his job.
Is the Seller Obligated to Make Suggested Repairs?
The seller is not required to make any repairs, replacements or maintenance based off the findings of the inspection. However, most contracts will have an inspection period (or Option Period if you’re in Texas). During this period the buyer is able to exercise his right to terminate the contract if the seller refuses to address any necessary repairs.
It is a good idea to request a credit in lieu of repairs rather than requesting the seller actually complete any repairs by closing. This benefits both the buyer and seller. For the buyer, the seller wants to sell their home and get the most money back from the sale. The seller will be looking to complete all repairs in the cheapest way possible. As for the seller, if the buyer is not happy with how the repairs are done he can refuse to go to the closing table.
How Much Does It Cost and How Long Will It Take?
Remember that a thorough, accurate home inspection takes time. Expect your home inspection to take anywhere between two and fibe hours (allowing one hour for each 1,500 square feet of living space over 3,500 square feet). Of course, older homes will take longer than newer ones.
Expect your inspection to cost anywhere from $350-$500+ depending on size and what type of inspections you are getting done. The cost is worth it and may be one of the most important investments you make when buying a home.
Anything Else I Should Know About Home Inspections?
Keep in mind that it is inspector’s job to find defects. It is important to have a knowledgable Realtor with you to go through the inspection report with you and point out which items are minor and which are major and should be addressed.