Do You Need A Home Inspection?
Before you buy a home, one of the things you should do is to have the home checked out by a professional home inspector. Buying a home is expensive enough as it is – why would you choose to fork over approximately $400 if you’re not required to. We’ll delve into what a home inspection can reveal and why you should not forgo this optional procedure.
The Home Inspection Contingency
Your first clue that a home inspection is important is that it can be used as a contingency in your purchase offer. This contingency provides that if significant defects are revealed by a home inspection, you can back out of your offer, free of penalty, within a certain time frame. The potential problems a home can have must be pretty serious if they could allow you to walk away from such a significant contract.
What a Home Inspector Examines
Inspectors vary in experience, ability and thoroughness, but a good inspector should examine certain components of the home you want to purchase and then produce a report covering their findings. The typical inspection lasts two to three hours and you should be present for the inspection to get a firsthand explanation of the inspector’s findings and, if necessary, ask questions. Also, any problems the inspector uncovers will make more sense if you see them in person instead of relying solely on the snapshot photos in the report.
The inspector should note:
• whether each problem is a safety issue, major defect, or minor defect
• which items need replacement and which should be repaired or serviced
• items that are suitable for now but that should be monitored closely
A really great inspector will even tell you about routine maintenance that should be performed, which can be a great help if you are a first-time home buyer.
While it is impossible to list everything an inspector could possibly check for, the following list will give you a general idea of what to expect.
• Exterior walls – The inspector will check for damaged or missing siding, cracks and whether the soil is in excessively close contact with the bottom of the house, which can invite wood-destroying insects. However, the pest inspector, not the home inspector, will
check for actual damage from these insects. The inspector will let you know which problems are cosmetic and which could be more serious.
• Foundation – If the foundation is not visible, and it usually is not, the inspector will not be able to examine it directly, but they can check for secondary evidence of foundation issues, like cracks or settling.
• Grading – The inspector will let you know whether the grading slopes away from the house as it should. If it doesn’t, water could get into the house and cause damage, and you will need to either change the slope of the yard or install a drainage system.
• Garage or carport – The inspector will test the garage door for proper opening and closing, check the garage framing if it is visible and determine if the garage is properly ventilated (to prevent accidental carbon monoxide poisoning). If the water heater is in the garage, the inspector will make sure it is installed high enough off the ground to minimize the risk of explosion from gasoline fumes mingling with the heater’s flame.
• Roof – The inspector will check for areas where roof damage or poor installation could allow water to enter the home, such as loose, missing or improperly secured shingles and cracked or damaged mastic around vents. He or she will also check the condition of the gutters.
• Plumbing – The home inspector will check all faucets and showers, look for visible leaks, such as under sinks and test the water pressure. He or she will also identify the kind of pipes the house has, if any pipes are visible. The inspector may recommend a secondary inspection if the pipes are old to determine if or when they might need to be replaced and how much the work would cost. The inspector will also identify the location of the home’s main water shutoff valve.
• Electrical – The inspector will identify the kind of wiring the home has, test all the outlets and make sure there are functional ground fault circuit interrupters (which can protect you from electrocution, electric shock and electrical burns) installed in areas like the bathrooms, kitchen, garage and outdoors. They will also check your electrical panel for any safety issues and check your electrical outlets to make sure they do not present a fire hazard.
• Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) – The inspector will look at your HVAC system to estimate the age of the furnace and air conditioner, determine if they function properly and recommend repairs or maintenance. An inspector can also give you an idea of the age of the home’s ducting, whether it might have leaks, if your home has sufficient insulation to minimize your energy bills and whether there is any asbestos insulation.
• Water heater – The home inspector will identify the age of the heater and determine if it is properly installed and secured. The inspector will also let you know what kind of condition it is in and give you a general idea of how many years it has left.
• Kitchen appliances – The inspector will sometimes check kitchen appliances that come with the home to make sure they work, but these are not always part of the inspection. Be
sure to ask the inspector which appliances are not included so that you can check them yourself.
• Laundry room – The inspector will make sure the laundry room is properly vented. A poorly maintained dryer-exhaust system can be a serious fire hazard.
• Fire safety – If the home has an attached garage, the inspector will make sure the wall has the proper fire rating and that it hasn’t been damaged in any way that would compromise its fire rating. They will also test the home’s smoke detectors.
• Bathrooms – The inspector will check for visible leaks, properly secured toilets, adequate ventilation and other issues. If the bathroom does not have a window and/or a ventilation fan, mold and mildew can become problems and moisture can warp wood cabinets over time.
Home Inspection Shortcomings
A home inspection can’t identify everything that might be wrong with the property – it only checks for visual clues to problems. For example, if the home’s doors do not close properly or the floors are slanted, the foundation might have a crack – but if the crack can’t be seen without pulling up all the flooring in the house, a home inspector can’t tell you for sure if it’s there.
Furthermore, most home inspectors are generalists – that is, they can tell you that the plumbing might have a problem, but then they will recommend that you hire an expert to verify the problem and give you an estimate of the cost to fix it. Of course, hiring additional inspectors will cost extra money. Home inspectors also do not check for issues like termite damage, site contamination, mold, engineering problems and others like:
• Radon, Methane, Radiation and Formaldehyde
• Wood-Destroying Organisms
• Mold, Mildew and Fungi
• Health and safety issues
• Roofs with a short life expectancy
• Furnace / A/C malfunctions
• Foundation deficiencies
• Moisture / drainage issues
After the Inspection
Once you have the results of your home inspection, you have several options.
• If the problems are too significant or too expensive to fix, you can choose to walk away from the purchase, as long as the purchase contract has an inspection contingency.
• For problems large or small, you can ask the seller to fix them, reduce the purchase price, or to give you a cash credit at closing to fix the problems yourself – this is where a home inspection can pay for itself several times over.
• If these options aren’t viable in your situation (for example, if the property is bank-owned and being sold as-is), you can get estimates to fix the problems yourself and come up with a plan for repairs in order of their importance and affordability once you own the property.
The Bottom Line
A home inspection will cost you a little bit of time and money, but in the long run you’ll be glad you did it. The inspection can reveal problems that you may be able to get the current owners to fix before you move in, saving you time and money. If you are a first-time homebuyer, an inspection can give you a crash course in home maintenance and a checklist of items that need attention to make your home as safe and sound as possible. Don’t skip this important step in the home-buying process – it’s worth every penny.
Home Inspection Questions and Answers
Is a home inspection required to close my transaction?
Some lenders require a home inspection before they will approve a loan. Buyers should demand an inspection – even if the property is new. Sellers, who want to repair any defects that could delay the sale may order a home inspection before they put their property on the market.
When should the home inspection take place?
A home inspection is ordered after a purchase agreement has been signed and an escrow account has been opened. If the inspector, who files a general report with the escrow or closing agent, finds a defect in a particular system, a specialist, such as a professional roofer, plumber or electrician will need to be called to make the repairs.
How much does a home inspection cost?
The cost of an initial home inspection depends on the size and location of the property. General inspections range from $300 to $500.
Who pays for the home inspection?
The buyer pays for the home inspection as part of the total closing costs, unless a different arrangement has been made between parties before the purchase agreement has been signed.
What is a home inspection report?
A written report created by a professional home inspector that describes the condition of a property, noting where repairs are needed. If you are in a transaction, the home inspector will provide you with a copy and typically send an additional copy to your settlement agent.
When hiring a home inspector ask about the report format. You’ll want one that provides a clear description of each inspected area. You won’t get enough information from a report that describes areas as good, fair or poor.
I’m buying a new home. Do I need a home inspection?
Yes. Even new homes can have problems. And, because property is a major investment, it makes sense to know as much as you can about the property before you buy it.
Do I need an inspection if I’m buying a condo?
Yes. Knowing the condition of a condo before you buy it is in your best interest. Inspectors should not only check for defects in your unit, they should also check the general condition of common areas and systems (e.g., gas, electrical, roofing, etc).
Because repairs to common areas and systems are paid for by your home owner association (HOA) fees, ask to see the home owner’s association maintenance plan. You should also ask to review the association’s meeting minutes to learn about maintenance issues and subsequent increases in HOA fees.
Should I use a certified inspector?
“Certified” doesn’t necessarily mean that an inspector has received specialized training. Some inspectors are considered “certified” if they have paid a membership fee to a home inspection organization.
Your best bet at finding a good inspector is from a referral. Ask neighbors and friends who have recently bought property. Your real estate agent can also help.
If you can’t get a referral, contact the home inspection associations that credential their members, such as the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).
Find qualified home inspectors near you
Shop around. Interview potential candidates and ask questions about their work experience. Ask how many inspections they conduct a year and about professional training. If you’re not sure, contact the Better Business Bureau before making a final selection.
Again Why Do I Need a Home Inspection?
The purchase of a home is one of the biggest investments people will make in their lifetimes. But it is also among the greatest sources of anxiety. A home inspection helps ensure homebuyers of the quality of their investment by making them aware of its condition and alerting them to any concerns. This can serve to relieve stress, increase confidence and even reduce the threat of legal action in the future.
Some of the benefits of a home inspection are:
• Knowledge: Understanding exactly what you’re buying – old or new
• Peace of mind: Helps in making a sound buying decision
• Savings: The home inspection reveals the need for repairs or replacements before you buy
• Fewer surprises: The home inspection limits the number of problems you may discover after you move in
• Education: A good home inspection also gives you invaluable details about your new home in addition to information about the condition of the property. You’ll learn where the main shutoff valves to the utilities are located, how the house operates and more!
How do I find a good home inspector?
Not all inspection companies are alike, and selecting the wrong company could cost you thousands of dollars in repair and replacement costs. Consider the following when shopping for home inspection companies.
• Experience: How much experience do the inspectors have and how long have they have been in the business? The best home inspectors have been in business for years and have seen thousands of homes.
• Home Inspection Training: Have the inspectors gone through any extensive home inspection training? In many states inspectors can simply call themselves home inspectors without any training or licensing.
• Association Membership: Is the inspector a member of a professional home inspection organization? Companies that are affiliated with professional organizations are serious about what they do, and know about all the new developments in their fields. Some well-known trade associations are: American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI). Inspectors in your area can be located through these associations.
• Liability Insurance: Does the inspector carry Professional Liability Insurance (Errors and Omissions Insurance)? If you ever need to collect on a legal judgment, an inspector without insurance may not be able to pay your claim.
• When you are working with a real estate agent: Ask who they recommend. Agents deal with inspections every day. They know who the good inspectors are. The agent should give you at least three references–not steer you to one individual.
What if I’m buying a newly constructed home?
An inspection on a new home is important for the buyer to level the playing field. As in any industry there are shortcuts and tricks of the trade in the construction business, and someone who is unfamiliar with them can easily miss them. A home inspector is better able to see nuances that may not be readily visible to an untrained eye. You also need an inspector to offset the builder’s or contractor’s interest. Much of the information about homes is either taken for granted by people, or remains unfounded.
For newly constructed homes, an inspection of the house before the drywall is installed, otherwise known as a “pre-closure inspection”, provides a level of quality assurance for the buyer that many builders don’t usually provide for their contractors. This inspection gives you a better chance of identifying and correcting potential problems when they are much easier and less expensive to fix, before they become physically or financially prohibitive. For example, this inspection may prevent the need for moving a wall so that kitchen cabinets don’t protrude into a doorway opening, or moving electrical receptacles so they are placed where you need them.
On inspection day
It’s best if you attend the inspection yourself. Inspectors report all defects they find, no matter how minor. Home buyers sometimes get excited about minor problems simply because they don’t have an understanding of what’s really wrong. Witnessing problems first-hand will give you a better grasp of what is and is not an issue.
Insurance inspections and reports can be done at the same time as the home inspection if the inspector is qualified. Many homes will be required to have a Four Point Inspection (roof, electrical, heating, plumbing) or a Roof Condition Inspection prior to getting insurance.
Also, in Florida, there is a state statute that requires insurance companies to give discounts toward the wind policy premiums for each wind protection attribute that the qualified inspector documents on a state approved form (OIR-B1-1802). These inspections are called Wind Mitigation Inspections. The fees for these inspections are discounted at the time of a home inspection and some inspectors do not charge for them when done during a home inspection. Usually these inspections save many times the cost of the home inspection, which totally negates the cost of the home inspection. Check to see if your state has a statue for Wind Mitigation Discounts.