Home inspections are an indispensable part of the home-buying process. Buying a home without one is the same as buying a car without even kicking the tires.
Any good real estate agent will recommend you include a home inspection clause when you make an offer on a house. That usually means you’ll be paying for the inspection, so you need to know what you’re getting for your money.
A qualified home inspector combs a property’s visible and accessible areas to identify any health and safety problems, positive or negative conditions of the property and any conditions that need further specialized attention.
An inspection includes structural elements such as the roof, foundation, walls, windows, doors, insulation, basement or crawlspace and attic. Electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling systems are also part of a home inspection. It can even include examination of appliances and should also report any evidence of termites.
Once the inspection is complete, a home inspector provides a written, comprehensive report detailing any issues with the home.
Some important things to remember about home inspection reports:
—No home is perfect. It is not uncommon for a report to include 50 or more issues.
—This is not “pass” or “fail.” The inspection gives you the information you need to decide whether or not to buy the home “as is” or negotiate with the seller to either fix (some of) the problems or reduce the price.
—This is not a warranty. The report identifies issues found the day of inspection and cannot predict problems that may arise a few months or a few days down the road.
Home inspection is another one of those jobs best left to professionals. Few of us have the expertise to identify electrical, plumbing and structural problems. Combine that with the emotional factors of buying a home, and it’s easy to see why potential buyers are not the ones who need to do the inspecting.
With that said, it’s a good idea to accompany your home inspector so you can ask questions and see the good and not-so-good for yourself.
Your real estate agent will probably be able to recommend a home inspector. If you’d rather choose your own, be aware that only about half the states have licensing or certification requirements. In either case, you want an inspector with plenty of experience. Check out the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, www.nachi.org, for more information on selecting an inspector.
Home inspection fees vary but are usually well under $1,000. Considering how much an inspection can save you by avoiding potential disasters, it’s money well spent.