4. Home Inspection
You're excited to have found what seems to be the perfect home. It’s in the right location, it's the right size, and you're beginning to imagine waking up there every day. But some houses have hidden problems. To make sure you’re not buying a money pit, you need a professional home inspection.
What is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is an evaluation of a home and it’s systems done by a licensed and accredited home inspector. The home inspector will evaluate the physical structure of the home like the roof, foundation, walls, and floors. The inspection will also investigate the heating, air conditioning, plumbing, and electrical systems.
What Is the Inspector Looking For?
The primary purpose of the home inspection is to determine whether there are any material defects in the home's main systems or the physical structure. A material defect is an issue that may have a significant, adverse impact on the value of the property, or that poses an unreasonable risk to people. Examples of material defects are:
- A damaged and/or leaking roof.
- An over-loaded electrical panel.
- A drainage problem that causes a wet basement.
- A cracked heat exchanger in the furnace.
Home inspectors will note issues or problems that are likely not material defects but do come under the purview of a standard home inspection. Typical examples are dented gutters, inadequate attic insulation, or cosmetic damage to floors, walls, or cabinets.
What Should You Do During the Inspection?
You need to be present during the inspection so you can learn more about your potential new home. This is your time to get to know the house and most home inspectors like the education aspect of their job. You can follow the inspector around and ask questions, but try to avoid performing inspection activities yourself, like turning systems on and off.
Unless previously arranged with the seller and the home inspector, don't bring in contractors during the inspection. And it's usually best to avoid asking friends and relatives to drop by and give their opinions during an inspection.
The inspector will go over his findings and recommendations at the end of the inspection. You'll also receive a written report with photos within a day or two.
The home inspector may recommend that the buyer have specialty inspections for concerns or problems that are beyond a general inspection. Specialty inspections could be recommended for the foundation, electrical systems, masonry (e.g., the chimney or walls), the roof, or if there is an indication of mold. Whether the buyer or seller pays for a specialty inspection is worked out when you make the request.
Making and Negotiating Inspection Requests
The home inspection report will be many pages long but most of the items noted will be cosmetic or minor deficiencies. And no matter how much you love the house, you need to understand anything the inspector calls out as a material defect. Some buyers will proceed with a purchase knowing that they will need to take care of a major repair in the near future, while others will want the seller to address a problem or provide a financial credit before closing.
An important thing for buyers to know concerns "useful life". Most home inspectors will note the age and average useful life of a mechanical system. For example, the water heater is 10 years old and the average useful life of a water heater is 10 - 12 years. But if the system works as intended - e.g., it heats water - then the buyer shouldn't ask that it be replaced.
How we negotiate inspection requests will depend on the seriousness of the issues and how much you want the house. We work with the buyer's attorney and agent to resolve the requests, and all agreements will be made in writing and become part of the contract.
We advise our buyer clients to refrain from asking for everything that an inspector calls out and focus on addressing any material defects.
Most sellers agree to at least a few repairs because it’s usually best to keep the buyer you have than to go back on the market and find a new one. But if it’s a hot market, the seller might say "no" to doing anything and cancel the contract. If the seller declines to repair a material defect, and the buyer cancels the sale, the seller and listing agent must disclose this to future buyers.
To learn more about the contingencies - "contract escape routes" - during the contract period see here.