The home inspection is a common part of the home sale process. In a way, it’s like the medical checkup you get each year: it checks the major systems and identifies problems. Many states require sellers to give buyers property condition disclosures, but buyers find it’s a good idea to hire an independent home inspector as well.
A home inspector prepares a detailed report about the condition of major systems, damage, and recommendations after touring a property. An inspection could take between 2 and 5 hours and cost between $250 and $500. Many buyers choose to attend home inspections to better understand the issues, ask questions, and learn more about the house.
Reasons for Home Inspections
Some sellers order an inspection to discover major problems to fix before the house is put on the market. Buyers order home inspections to ensure the major systems are in good condition and there are no serious, expensive defects.
The buyers will use the report to negotiate about pre-closing repairs and price reductions. The home inspection contingency is a common one in sales contracts. It makes a sales conditional upon the inspector’s findings and the buyers’ response to the report. Buyers use a home inspection to identify repairs to request and learn about the house’s systems.
A home inspector examines parts of a house, checking for proper operation, 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
Also of interest are signs that one system has damaged another system such as walls or ceilings. Home inspectors are not specialists, but they often suggest corrective actions. Other types of inspections may be necessary as well, such as a termite inspection and a radon inspection.
What’s Not Covered?
General home inspectors won’t inspect for everything; their expertise is in general home condition and major systems. Specialists may be needed for:
The Home Inspection Report
Home inspection reports may employ different formats, such as a checklist, rating system, narrative, or a narrative combined with other types. The inspector uses the checklist, divided into areas of the house, during the inspection to compile the necessary information. Here are two inspection report samples: Sample 1 and Sample 2.
A typical home inspection report may contain:
- Table of Contents
- Introduction: Important definitions, date, type and age of the building, weather, and people present
- Component sections: Roof, Exterior, Interior, etc.; lists the items observed, materials, comments, recommendations, photos, and videos
- Summary: Describes discoveries, defects, and areas needing further investigation
Home Inspection Tips for Sellers
Tips for real estate sellers regarding home inspections include:
- Consider having the house inspected before you list to identify problems.
- If you’re getting an inspection, hire the inspector yourself.
- Plan on fixing most of the issues you can see.
- Buyers may accompany the inspector during the inspection.
- Sellers don’t need to be there during the inspection.
- Ensure that the inspector can access all areas of the house, including crawl spaces.
- Remember that some inspectors may be more thorough than others.
- Fix all safety issues.
- You can decline to repair expensive, noncritical issues.
- Everything doesn’t have to be fixed. The report notes serious defects and perhaps small things like a missing doorbell.
- Ask your real estate agent for advice on how to handle buyer requests.
- Call contractors for estimates on major repairs and decide which ones you’ll have done.
- Work with the buyers on the requested repairs.
Buying a house is one of the biggest financial transactions for most people, so it makes sense that buyers want to learn as much as they can about the safety and condition of the house before making a big decision. Sales can fall apart over the home inspection report, but most serious buyers dealing in good faith will be open to negotiating repairs for a house they really want.
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