A home inspection is an assessment of a home’s physical condition and is conducted by a licensed home inspector who is trained to visually identify issues with a home before the sale of a house. This property inspector will review the home from roof to foundation, seeking out issues that may be costly, or even dangerous, if the buyer does not know that they exist upon buying a new home.
During a home inspection, roof, ceilings, walls, floors, windows and doors are evaluated. Major appliances, heating and air-conditioning systems, plumbing and electrical systems are inspected thoroughly for condition and efficiency. The attic and basement are investigated for leaks, mold and infestation of pests like termites.
Once a home inspection is complete, the inspector will give you a list of recommendations for repair or replacement. This list can help you decide whether the purchase price or timing of the sale of the home needs to be adjusted — but the home inspector won’t tell you if you are getting your money’s worth based on the sale price.
Every home inspector will find something different and make different recommendations, but overall, expect your home inspection to uncover items that need to be addressed in the home you are having appraised. Don’t feel too badly — around 86 percent of home inspections find something that needs to be fixed.
Common recommendations from home inspectors
Over 19 percent of home inspections uncover roofing issues that need to be addressed. Your home inspector will check for leaks, venting, material condition, proper installation, and other visible issues with your roof. Roofing repairs can be the most costly of all the repairs, so it’s wise to give this area a thorough review before making your decision.
Over 18 percent of home inspections uncover problems with windows. Improper insulation and ventilation are also common finds, which can dramatically reduce energy efficiency and cause issues with indoor air quality.
More than 13 percent of home inspections find issues with plumbing. Common issues are simple things, such as a leaky faucet or a clogged drain. More serious problems include DIY plumbing, cross-connection issues, and outdated pipes, which could mean costly plumbing repairs to make your new home safe and efficient.
Termite infestations may be a result of mold, improper insulation, or leaky pipes. Mold and structural issues are often unnoticed, since they generally exist in attics, basements, and between walls. Damage from a termite infestation may also go unnoticed and be discovered after it is too late. A skilled home inspector will know the clues to look for in order to determine if your current termite status and risk of infestations down the road.
A house inspection is a crucial step in buying a home
When your home inspection is complete, you’ll have a thorough, inside-out look at your new dwelling. A home inspection empowers you by offering a realistic picture of your purchase and what is in store for your future. It arms you with the information you need to make a decision on a property, including negotiating a deal for repairs or declining to buy. Sometimes, in the case of a very competitive sellers’ market, a buyer could opt to waive an inspection in order to win a favorable deal and fast-track the sale.
Your real estate agent can help you navigate the details of your home inspection and may even attend the inspection on your behalf. A home inspection is typically carried out within five to 10 days of both parties’ acceptance of the conditions of the purchase.
Should the buyer or the seller pay for the home inspection?
It is typical for the buyer to be responsible for the home inspection, although a seller may opt to arrange a pre-inspection during their pricing and appraisal phase. If a seller does conduct a pre-inspection, it is their responsibility to disclose the findings to the buyer. It may be worth it to have a heads-up on the condition of your home, but remember that not all home inspectors are alike, and the buyer’s home inspection report may be different than yours.
What happens after a home inspection?
So, you’ve found the home of your dreams and the inspection came back with a list of recommended repairs — now what?
Depending on the cost of the repairs needed, your budget, and your willingness to negotiate, you have options when it comes to finalizing the sale after a home inspection. As the buyer, you can collect estimates from licensed contractors, and present a request for repairs or a reduction on the purchase price of the home.
The seller is under no obligation to comply with your wishes and may walk away from the deal or approve another bidder. The game of home buying is one of negotiation — if you truly love the home, it’s important to weigh all of your options before putting in your final offers. Sometimes it’s worth holding out for the seller to make a move, and sometimes it isn't. Your real estate agent will be knowledgeable in this area and will help you through the negotiation process.
Most important things to look for in a home inspection
Every home inspector finds different problems, so it’s important to understand which findings are important and what they mean for you. Many safety regulations are standard, but some recommendations may be in the “grey zone,” meaning it’s unclear how serious the issues are. Educating yourself on some basics can be helpful in understanding the negotiation process, even if the home is a new build.
A good home inspector will let you know if the issue is major or minor and explain what needs to be repaired or replaced. It may be helpful to go through your home with the inspection with the inspector, who can point out issues in real time.
Foundation repairs can be extremely costly, and foundation problems often indicate bigger issues in other areas of the home. Your inspector will look for:
This is another very costly area of your home to repair. Your inspector should check for:
Loose or missing shingles
Damage or blockage in vents and gutters
A full inspection of the exterior of the home should include checking:
Soil and plants around the home that may attract insects
Crawlspaces accessible from the outdoors
Garages or carports
Grading and drainage of soil
Your home inspector should carefully examine the following:
All faucets and showers (drains, water pressure, leaks)
Pipes that are visible
The location of the home's main water shutoff valve
A thorough inspection of electrical wiring is essential for safety and will include testing all outlets in the house and:
Checking that ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are installed in areas like the bathrooms, kitchen, garage, and outdoors.
Evaluating the electrical panel for potential safety issues and fire hazards
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC)
Knowing the age and warranty details of your HVAC system is important. Your home inspector will tell you if:
Your system is functioning properly
Whether repairs or maintenance are recommended
The duct work is old, inefficient, or has any issues that require repairs
Asbestos insulation is present in the home
Your home inspector will check the water heater for:
Approximate length of time before you need to replace the unit
A home inspection offers peace of mind
Purchasing a home is complicated and challenging — especially if you’re a first-time home buyer — but it’s one of the most satisfying things in the world. A home appraisal and home inspection offer peace of mind and bargaining power while you’re going through the process of purchasing your home. It takes the mystery out of what to expect down the road, and it helps you budget for the costs of maintaining your home over the years. Find a reputable home inspector, and let the fun of buying a home begin!
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