If you’re buying or selling a home, it’s important to understand what a home inspection entails and how it affects the sale or purchase of a house.
What Is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is an objective visual examination of the structure and systems of a home by a neutral third party. Basically, it shows you what’s wrong with the property and if it is serious enough to prevent a sale. (Note: An inspection does not concern code violations and therefore does not guarantee that the home is free of them.)
The three main points of the inspection are to evaluate the physical condition of the home, identify items in need of repair or replacement, and estimate the remaining useful life of the major systems, equipment, structure and finishes.
An inspector cannot report on defects that are not visible, such as defects hidden behind finished walls or beneath carpeting, and inaccessible areas. Seasonally inoperable systems (swamp coolers, air conditioning, furnaces) will not be turned on during the inspection.
Hiring an Inspector
To hire an inspector, get recommendations from your Realtor, or from friends and family. You can also find home inspectors in the phone book under “Home Inspection Services.” When interviewing inspectors, be sure to ask for references and memberships in professional associations. Find out about the inspector’s professional training and experience.
It’s a good idea to be present during the inspection for a few reasons: you can ask the inspector questions during the inspection, the inspector will have the opportunity to point out areas of potential trouble, and many inspectors also will offer maintenance tips as the inspection progresses.
Making Suggested Repairs
The seller is not required to make any repairs or replacements. However, the buyer can use the inspection report as a negotiating tool. For instance, if certain repairs or replacements are made, the buyer might offer to pay more, or if they’re not, the buyer can bid lower. In general I advise all of my clients to stick to safety and code issues when you make your request for repairs. Remember, you're buying the property as is and the goal here is not to make the house like new again but to resolve issues that are important enough to fix before buying.
Costs and Time Involved
The inspector’s most important priority is accuracy, and accuracy takes time. The chances of mistakes are more likely if the inspector rushes through. Your inspection may take between two and five hours. Older homes take longer than newer ones.
Expect your inspection to cost from $200-$500 depending on size. It may be one of the most important investments you make when buying a home.