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The Top 5 Things Buyers Should Ask about Home Inspections

So you found the home you’d like to buy, but is it the RIGHT home? Are there any little (or big) problems on the horizon that you didn’t see on the tour? Maybe. That’s why it’s important to learn more about home inspections – why you need one, what it includes, and how it works.

1. Are inspections “automatically” part of every home purchase?

No. As a buyer, you must include a home inspection clause in your purchase agreement, which will let you back out of the contract if the inspector discovers unexpected problems with the house.

If you still want the house, an inspection clause allows you to renegotiate with the seller in light of any issues discovered—either requesting a price adjustment, or asking the seller to make necessary repairs prior to completing the sale.

Home inspection clauses aren’t “automatic,” but they’re highly recommended by buyer’s agents and almost always added to standard real estate contracts.

2. What IS a home inspection? 

A home inspection is a comprehensive review of the systems, structure and general “health” of a home, conducted by a qualified, objective inspector. If there are any issues that may degrade the value of the home, or require immediate/near-term repairs, they should be revealed by a professional home inspector.

What is included will depend on the individual inspector, the local municipal codes, and the type of inspection(s) you request.

Basic home inspections should include visual inspections of the:

  • Roof
  • Foundation/framing (including wood rot)
  • Fireplaces
  • Plumbing systems
  • Electrical systems
  • HVAC (heating and cooling) systems
  • Interiors (doors, paint, floorings, ceilings, walls, windows, etc.)
  • Exteriors (siding, windows, doors, etc.)
  • Insulation/ventilation

Additional inspections may be done for:

  • Septic systems
  • The presence of radon, asbestos, lead, mold, or pests
  • Dangers from flood, earthquake, landslide, or other natural disasters, based on location

3. How do I select an inspector?

You can ask your buyer’s agent to recommend a good, qualified, local inspector. You can also find one on your own. Either way, you should consider the inspector’s qualifications, confirm if they are bonded and insured, and if they meet the requirements to be licensed in your state.

You may also want to ask how long they have been in the business and request references from past clients. There are a number of state/national/international professional home inspector organizations; ask your potential inspector if they are a member of any of these groups.

Realize that not all states require licensing, or even specialized training, to become a home inspector, so do your own due diligence.

4. Can I be there during the inspection? 

Yes, you can and should be. Your buyer’s agent can handle it for you, but you’ll get a much better feel for your new house if you attend the inspection. If the inspector finds any problems, you’ll be able to ask questions, on the spot, and get the answers you need.

Inspectors can also offer guidance on how to properly maintain a home’s systems, which is always helpful for a new buyer. Be sure to take notes to review later, and to potentially share with the seller, so you will be able to get accurate estimates on the needed repairs.

5. What if the house I want fails inspection?

An inspection is an evaluation, not a test, which means houses can’t “fail” inspection. It’s a way to reveal any issues, or potential issues, that may negatively impact a buyer prior to completing a sale. It’s also intended to ensure both the buyer and seller are in informed agreement regarding the condition of the property that is changing hands.