The home inspection isn’t a step homebuyers should skip. Foregoing the home inspection could cost buyers lots of money later. You wouldn’t want to buy a $300,000 house and later discover a huge defect that will cost thousands of dollars to repair.
A home inspection is like the doctor’s checkup you get covering major systems and diagnosing problems. Many states require sellers to provide buyers with property condition disclosure forms, but it’s a good idea to hire an independent home inspector.
Home Inspection Basics
A home inspection is a detailed report prepared by a home inspector about the condition of home systems, deterioration, and recommendations. The inspection could take between 2 and 5 hours and may cost between $250 and $500. Many buyers attend home inspections so they can better understand the issues, ask questions, and learn more about the house and its major systems.
The Why of Home Inspections
Buyers often order home inspections to ensure the major systems are in good condition and that there are no serious, expensive defects. Sellers might order a pre-listing inspection to identify major problems that need to be fixed before the house is put on the market.
Common in most sales contracts, a home inspection contingency makes a sales conditional upon the outcome of the home inspection report. A home inspection is also a good way to identify repairs to request and to learn about the elements and systems of a house.
Elements of a Home Inspection
The home inspector will examine major elements of a house, ensuring proper operation of systems, observing the condition, and noting damage. A typical home inspection report will cover:
- The exterior: Roof, driveway, walkways, steps, doors, decks, and siding among other elements.
- The structure: Foundation and framing. The inspector determines whether the foundation and framing are sound and the building skeleton can withstand the elements.
- The interior: Windows and doors; ceilings, walls, and floors; attic and basement.
- Plumbing and electrical systems:
- Water supply, heating, and drainage
- Service entrance wires, breakers and fuses, and control panels
- Heating, cooling, and ventilation/insulation
The inspector may also look for signs that one system has damaged another system such as walls or ceilings. Home inspectors are not specialists, but they may recommend corrective actions. Other types of inspections may be necessary as well, such as a termite inspection and a radon inspection.
What’s Not Covered?
Home inspectors won’t necessarily consider all possible issues because their expertise is in general home condition and major systems. Specialists may be needed for:
Reading a Home Inspection Report
The home inspection report comes in different forms, such as a checklist, rating system, narrative or a narrative combined with other types. The checklist, divided into areas of the house, is used during the inspection to compile the necessary information. Here are two inspection report samples: Sample 1 and Sample 2.
A typical home inspection report will likely contain:
- A Table of Contents
- Introduction outlining important definitions, date, type and age of the building, weather, and people present during the inspection
- Component sections (Roof, Exterior, Interior, etc.) listing the items the inspector observed, styles and materials, comments, recommendations, photos, and videos
- Summary of discoveries, defects, and areas that require further investigation
Home Inspection Tips for Buyers
Tips for real estate buyers regarding home inspections include:
- Buyers should hire their own inspectors, not their agents.
- Buyers often accompany the inspector during the inspection.
- Ask questions.
- Note things like major defects, how systems work, and where the electrical panels and shutoffs are located.
- Remember: Some inspectors may be more thorough than others. Two inspectors could look at the same house and note different defects.
- Don’t assume everything in an inspection must be fixed. A report may note serious defects as well as small things like a missing doorbell.
- Call contractors for estimates on necessary repairs.
- Use the findings to negotiate with the seller about pre-closing repairs and price reductions.
Buying a house is one of the biggest financial transactions for most people. Doesn’t it make sense that buyers would want to learn as much as they can about the health, safety, and condition of the property before making a big decision? After closing, all the condition problems are the buyer’s responsibility.
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