Home Inspections for Home Buyers and Sellers
The home inspection is an important part of the home buying or selling process. If you’re a homebuyer, a home inspection will help protect you against buying a house with significant defects, like a bad foundation or leaky roof. As a home seller, a pre-listing home inspection will help you see all the repairs you’ll need to make before you put it on the market, which helps with a smoother closing and faster sale. Read on to find out more about home inspections.
What is a home inspection?
A certified home inspector will take a close look at all functional aspects of the house to determine its safety as a dwelling. The home inspector will test the operational status of all major systems – plumbing, electrical, heating, and cooling – and check the roof, the foundation, and the home’s exterior. The inspector's job is not to fix or warn you about potential issues but to take note of the house’s current condition at that point in time and any safety or repair concerns.
When does the home inspection happen during the buying process?
When the seller accepts your offer to purchase the home, the agreement becomes a pending sale. During the next couple of weeks, your lender will want to verify the value and condition of the house. This is when the lender orders an appraisal, and in some cases, an inspection – or you may choose to hire a home inspector yourself if the bank does not require an inspection.
If you’re buying a home in a competitive housing market and are up against multiple offers, you may be tempted to waive the home inspection to make your offer stronger. However, this is almost never a good idea. While the house may look in fine condition to you, it’s what’s beyond the surface, or factors that you don’t know are problematic, that can cause the biggest issues.
How do you choose and hire a home inspector?
Home inspectors are trained professionals but that doesn’t mean they all see the same problems the same way. You want to choose a reputable inspector who will look out for your best interests but also understands your wants and needs for the home. Your best source is to ask your real estate agent to recommend a few inspectors they have worked with in the past, people they trust to give you a fair and honest report. You can also ask friends, neighbors and family for recommendations.
How much does it cost for a home inspection?
A typical home inspection can cost anywhere from $200 - $500, with the national average sitting right around $336. This may seem like an unnecessary expense, but a thorough home inspection can save you from an unwise purchase and possibly costly repairs in the future. Put another way, the home inspection fee is an investment in peace of mind. Buying a new home is stressful enough, so you can take comfort in the knowledge that the roof or furnace is not likely to present you with any costly surprises in the short term.
Who pays for the home inspection?
Most of the time the homebuyer pays for the home inspection because it’s usually a requirement by their lender. However, sellers who may be concerned about what might be found in an inspection or would like to make any necessary repairs before their home is listed can also pay for their own pre-listing home inspection.
What does a home inspector actually do?
So, why can't you just hire a plumber, electrician, and foundation company to look at the house? That’s an option, but a home inspector is trained and certified to examine all systems at once without the extra cost or time. Plus, the home inspector has no vested interest in getting hired for possible future repairs, so you can trust their objective opinions.
What does a home inspection consist of?
The home inspector looks for defects in the home that would affect the integrity of the structure or the safety of the house. This is strictly a visual examination, informed by training and experience. The inspector will not look inside the plumbing, sewer system, or behind walls, and won’t move items away from the foundation. Home inspectors report on what can be seen, not what can be found.
Home inspectors often follow a checklist of items to inspect, starting at the roof and moving down to the foundation. A home inspection checklist usually includes:
A home inspector should go over the following areas of a property:
- Roof and attic space
___ Looks for signs of missing or damaged shingles or areas of excess wear.
___ Decides how many layers of roofing exist on the structure.
___ Makes sure gutter joints are sealed and draining properly.
___ Checks the attic for signs of leaking, poor ventilation and rotted wood.
___ Sees what type of siding is on the structure, what’s underneath it and what shape is it in.
___ Checks if there are any broken windows, rotting frames or sections that aren’t sealed.
___ Makes sure the house appears to be straight with a solid foundation.
___ Gutters and downspouts
- Plumbing system
___ Makes sure there is adequate pressure from all fixtures.
___ Runs the water and inspects pipes and flooring for signs of leaks or water damage.
___ Estimates age and material of all piping in the home.
___ If the home is on a well system, a well water test should be included.
___ Inspects airflow throughout the house and makes sure all equipment is functioning properly.
___ Checks thermostat(s), furnace (gas or electric) air conditioner, ventilation and filters.
___ Records the age of the equipment and maintenance and cleaning history.
___ Checks for signs of wiring problems and electrical panel regarding adequate capacity.
___ Check electrical outlets, switches, and light fixtures.
___ Sees if all electrical components are up to code and will recommend any updates as needed.
___ Checks for plugged or slow drains in sinks and tub/shower.
___ Checks faucets and fixtures for leaks or other problems.
___ Checks toilets for proper flow and securely mounted to floor
___ Age and condition of water heater
___ Age and overall condition
___ Refrigerator, freezer, oven and range top all working and at proper temperatures
- Windows & Doors
___ Caulking and weather seals around exterior doors and windows
___ Proper fit and latching or interior doors
- Stairs, Steps & Railings
___ Security and trip hazards on stairs and steps
___ Security of railings
- Floors, Walls, and Ceiling
___ Cracks in ceiling or along walls
___ Cracks along grout lines or in floor tile
What does a home inspector not look at?
Home inspectors do not look at cosmetic issues. If there is a crack in the wall, they may note it, but if there is no underlying foundation issue, it will not be listed as an item for repair. They are not concerned with the state of the yard, landscaping, or any exterior items that do not affect the safety and integrity of the house. If you are purchasing a home with a well and septic system, you'll need to hire a technician to come out separately for those inspections. Depending on where you live, other items that may or may not be part of an inspection can include:
What does the home inspection report tell you about the home?
When your home inspector completes the inspection, he or she should provide your report on site immediately and explain all the findings along with recommendations for any repairs that should be made.
Should you be present during the home inspection?
Typically, the Inspectors ask you to be at the home 30 minutes before the scheduled inspection is complete. As a buyer, it’s always a good idea to be onsite during the property inspection. You can ask questions on the spot, see any problem areas the inspector notes, and better understand the inspector's recommendations. You can also ask questions about the condition of the home and the best way to maintain it to avoid future repairs.
How long does a home inspection take?
While there are no set standards when it comes to the length of time it takes to inspect a home, the process usually takes about two to three hours. For larger homes or homes with additional features, this process will take longer, while for small homes and condos an inspection may only take an hour or two. A home inspection isn’t something you want to rush through. This is an important step in the home buying process and affirms the value of your investment.
What happens after the home inspection?
When the home inspection report is finalized, your inspector will give a copy to both your real estate agent and your lender. You should also request a copy for yourself. You can then use this report to negotiate with the seller about any recommended repair items. The seller can then choose to make the repairs, pay you an allowance to fix them, or renegotiate the terms of sale to exclude those items. You can also decide if the repair items are worth asking the seller to fix before finalizing the purchase or if you are willing to do it yourself.