The process of buying a home is long and tedious. You begin with making a list of your requirements, filter the location and budget, go around in search of a good real estate agent, attend several open houses, and zero in on a property that checks all your boxes. But, then you realize that your job isn’t done yet. The exceedingly important process of home inspection awaits you.
The process of a home inspection is vital in helping you make the right decision. It unearths the livability, quality, and the major issues with the house you wish to buy. By helping you make an informed choice, it doesn’t just save you from spending your money on a sour deal, but also saves you from the potential dangers of living in an unsafe home.
Although a home inspection is one the most vital steps of the entire home buying process, the majority of first-time homebuyers don’t know what to expect in home inspection, and if you too are worried about the same, we are here to help you. Here is everything that you should know about home inspections.
What is a home inspection?
It is a visual assessment of the physical structure, as well as the mechanical systems of a home, including assessment of floors, walls, roof, ceilings, doors, windows, appliances, etc.
Before you move into a new home, you call a qualified home inspector to evaluate the condition of the home. The home inspector checks out the home from inside to out and mentions the findings in their final report. They evaluate the functioning of the air-conditioning and heating system, the plumbing system, as well as the electrical system. Home inspectors also scrutinize the basement, attic, as well as hard-to-reach areas, such as crawl spaces, to ensure that the home is safe to inhabit.
Skipping the process of home inspection keeps you oblivious to the major issues of the home that may become a headache in the future. Moreover, issues with foundation or roofing system cost big bucks. By arranging a home inspection, you get an idea of the extent and severity of these issues and get an opportunity to negotiate with the seller to save your money and time in the future. This makes home inspection a vital part of the process of buying a home.
Who is a home inspector?
As the name suggests, a home inspector is someone who inspects houses, evaluates its condition, and makes a report stating all the major and minor problems present in the current state of the home.
They evaluate every visible inch of the home from top to bottom, inside and out, to find out the potential and pressing problems that can put the homeowner’s safety at stake in the near future. Inspecting the full exteriors, roofing, structural elements, full interiors like the electrical system, plumbing system, HVAC system, and appliances, etc. fall under the duty of a home inspector.
How to find a home inspector?
To ensure that you get the true picture of the house you are buying, hiring a well-qualified home inspector is necessary. And as you are the buyer, it’s your responsibility to hire an inspector.
While looking for a home inspector, check their qualifications, training, and certifications. Assess them on their knowledge of building codes, and check their experience. You can seek references from your family, friends, colleagues, or real estate agent. If you don’t find any good leads from your social circle, switch to online search and use reviews and testimonials for your deciding parameters.
When to get a home inspection?
A home inspection is of two kinds -a seller’s inspection and a buyer’s inspection. Before listing the home, the seller gets the home inspected in a bid to get cognizance of the problems and fix them before putting the house on sale to save time during the closing process.
A buyer’s inspection, on the other hand, happens after the buyer has put an offer on the table and before closing the sale.
Once you have selected a home and the owner has accepted your offer, call a home inspector for inspection. Make sure you schedule an inspection as soon as you get into the contract with the seller as it will give you sufficient time for multiple home inspections (if necessary) and negotiation with the owner.
What to expect during a home inspection?
During the home inspection, your home inspector will go around the house, assess every nook and cranny, and take notes and pictures to create the final report telling you whether or not the condition of the home is ideal for living.
Your inspector will check the home from a different perspective, devoid of emotional influence, hence, giving you the most unbiased picture of the house.
Here is what your home inspector will check in the home-
- Attic– They will check the attic for proper ventilation, insulation, and signs of water leakage or damage.
- Bathroom- They will check the pressure and flow of bathroom fixtures, functioning of the shower, bathtub, sink, toilet, and exhaust fan.
- Basement- They will check the walls and floors and determine whether or not the foundation is strong. Further, they will also check insulation and signs of water damage in the basement.
- Roof- They will check the roof for damaged, loose, or missing shingles. They will also check chimney damage, gutters, and vents.
- Ceilings- They will check the ceiling for cracks or stains to detect the water damage or mold infestation.
- Electrical systems- They will carry out a thorough inspection of all the electric sockets, light fixtures, functional outlets, exhaust fans, and smoke detectors. They will also check up-to-code circuit breakers, as well as grounding.
- HVAC system (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning)- They will check for any damage or malfunctioning of heating and air-conditioning system and defects in the water heater. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, they will check the functioning of the dampers and check chimneys for any kind of obstructions. They will recommend deep safety inspection if need be.
- Plumbing system- They will check the plumbing system for leaking or damaged pipes, functional showers, sinks, bathtubs, or toilets, and proper hot water temperature.
- Kitchen appliances- They will check the functional appliances, including microwave, dishwasher, fridge, stove, washer, and dryer.
- Doors and wood trim- They will check the frames and trim pieces and also find out rot or cracks.
- Windows- They will check whether or not the windows are in proper shape and alignment and have thermal glass, storm windows, and drip caps.
- Garage- In the garage, they check the foundation, up-to-code electrical system and outlets, ceiling, walls, floors, and framing for any visible damage.
- Exterior surfaces- The exterior surface of the home will be checked for damage to sidings, stucco, or peeling paint.
- Yard and landscaping- They will check drainage problems and septic tank leaks.
- Others- They might also check for pests (termites), lead paint, asbestos, or radon, but these inspections need special certification, and so, you will have to pay them extra.
Keep it in mind that your home inspector won’t give any opinion on the aesthetic features of the home unless it hints towards any structural malfunction or other big issues. Also, your inspector will only be able to tell you what’s visible on the surface. For instance, they may not be able to detect hidden asbestos, pests, mold, etc, that are not visible with naked eyes. However, they may recommend specialized evaluation, if necessary, to uncover the hidden issues.
Also, your inspector may not want to climb a steep roof or slip into the crawl spaces if they are dangerous to access. In these cases, they may use binoculars to examine these areas.
Furthermore, expecting your home inspector to exactly predict the problems that may arise in the future is unreasonable. For instance, with proper evaluation, they might be able to tell you that there is a problem with your HVAC system, plumbing, or roof, but do not expect them to determine their escalation.
What is your role in the inspection?
Although your presence is not required during the home inspection, we will suggest you be present there. Tag along with the home inspector and derive as much information as possible about the condition of the property. But, make sure you let them do their work in peace. Do not interfere in their work by flooding them with questions. Instead, take mental notes of your questions and queries and discuss them with the inspector once they finish the inspection.
Take out at least three to four hours on the day of inspection.
The cost and duration of the home inspection
The duration of a home inspection depends on several factors, including the size of the property, the number of problems in the house, the working style and thoroughness of the home inspector, and the level of co-operation of the house owner.
It takes at least two to four houses for the home inspector to go through the home and take cognizance of everything. Furthermore, if certain problems require further inquiry, the home inspector may recommend deep checks. For instance, to determine the presence of radon in the home, the inspector may recommend a radon mitigation test or to determine the severity of mold damage, they may call a certified mold specialist. These special circumstances may delay the final reports.
A detailed home inspection can be a lengthy process. Although the inspection happens within 3 to 4 hours, it can take 3 to 4 days or even more for the inspector to generate the report, and hence, reserve at least a week for multiple home inspections.
The cost of a home inspection depends upon the size of the home. Generally, it costs anywhere between $300 and $400 for a 2000 sq. ft. If you have a larger home, the cost may reach up to $600 or more depending upon the additional inspections.
The final report
After ending the inspection and evaluation, the inspector will provide you with a report. The report will include all the major and minor issues present in the home. Generally, the inspectors mention cardinal information about the severity of each problem along with the cost of its restoration and repair. This will help you find out the total sum of money needed to fix the problems.
If the problems are too overwhelming to fix, either negotiate with the seller to bring down the price of the home or step out of the sale. Move into the house only if the seller agrees on completing all the repairs.
Legally, the sellers are responsible for making certain repairs including structural defects, safety issues, and building code violations. Minor issues, such as leaking shower, chipped paint, or broken electrical switch are easy to fix and don’t cost a huge sum of money. Consider all these factors before negotiating with the seller because you would certainly not want to let a gorgeous deal slip from your hands while trying to save some pennies. Hence, discuss every viable option with your real estate agent before approaching the seller.
For major issues, prepare a formal request for repairs. Submit it with a copy of the inspection report. Make sure you specify every problem in the most precise manner. If the seller agrees on making the repairs, ask them for the invoices from a certified and licensed contractor mentioning that all the listed repairs are successfully made. On receiving the counteroffer from the seller, evaluate all the points, and decide whether you want to move ahead in the transaction or back out.
The bottom line
Home inspections are meant for your safety. They prevent you from troubles that are liable to crop up if you ignore this very essential step in the process of buying a house.
Now that you know everything about home inspections and what to expect, approach a qualified home inspector to bring you face to face with the real condition of the home you wish to buy.
To always keep yourself on the safer side, include a clause in your agreement of purchase or sale, making the purchase offer contingent on inspection. This will save your hard-earned money from going into costly repairs.