Buying a home is a scary proposition. Indeed, it is! Unless you’re buying a brand new home or having it built to your specifications, you’re never sure what you’re getting and – of course – what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. There are plenty of problems that aren’t necessarily visible to the eye, so you either take a leap of faith and hope for the best, or you schedule a home inspection.
If you’re working with a realtor, perhaps you’ve already discussed the pros (and maybe the cons) of purchasing a home inspection. Generally, realtors agree that in many cases, such inspections are a wise idea and, in some cases, an absolute must.
Below we’ve provided our readers with some important facts about the process to help you decide what’s best for you.
A home inspection doesn’t happen automatically
An agreement of sale doesn’t include a home inspection unless you put that request in writing. You must ask your realtor – or whoever is writing the agreement – to include a home inspection clause, which will give you an out if there are severe problems with the house or extensive repairs that need to be done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that if there are problems that you’ll back out. You can, instead, negotiate with the seller for different terms. (i.e., a lower price or some other sort of concession, having the seller make the repairs) As such, an inspection becomes a bargaining tool to protect you, the buyer.
What are the particulars of a home inspection?
A home inspector is a licensed, bonded, and insured individual who will inspect the systems and structure of the home you wish to buy. Often, the inspector is recommended by your realtor, but you are certainly welcome to choose any inspector you want to. Just make sure that they are properly certified and ask for references from others who have used them in the past.
*Note that some states don’t require licensing, so be extra careful if this is the case in your state and make sure you do plenty of research about the person you are considering hiring before you do so.
Some of what this professional will inspect will depend on the local and municipal codes in your area, but basic inspections include a look at the following:
- Plumbing systems
- Electrical systems
- HVAC (heating and cooling) systems
- Interiors (doors, paint, floorings, ceilings, walls, windows, etc.)
- Exteriors (siding, windows, doors, etc.)
- Septic systems (if applicable)
- Wells (if applicable)
Your inspector may also test for radon inside the home (though that’s sometimes a separate inspector) and may look for the presence of toxins such as asbestos, lead paint, or mold.
May I be present during the inspection?
Absolutely! You should be there, even if the inspector tells you he/she doesn’t want you there. It is your RIGHT to be present. If you absolutely can’t be there, your agent could represent you if he or she is willing.
It’s important to remember that these can take several hours, especially for the inspection of a large house, so plan accordingly. You may have to take a day off work or secure some childcare on the day of the inspection as you never know how long it’ll take, especially if concerns arise.
And if concerns do arise and you’re there, you can see firsthand what the problem is, and the inspector can speak to you right there and then about the issue(s) and any potential solutions.
Even if there are no negatives, it’s still a wise idea to be there as the inspector can impart some knowledge to you about the home, its structure, its systems, and how to best care for it. Such a discussion can better prepare you for home-ownership.
What if my house “fails”?
An inspection is an evaluation, so the word “fail” – though many use it – is really a misnomer. By the end of the inspection, when the inspector writes his report, you’ll have a clear understanding of what needs to be addressed. If it’s nothing major, your agreement of sale may remain intact just the way it was submitted. If there are serious problems, this is the time for you either to change your mind or to come to a fair agreement with the seller about who will handle which repairs.
Remember, an inspection doesn’t have to be a deal killer. It will simply help you to seriously consider what you are willing to do and what expenses you are willing to accept in order to get your “perfect” house.