Are Home Inspections Necessary?

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Real Estate

Home Inspections - What are they and are they necessary?

At the top of the long list of items to do when buying or selling a house is the home inspection.  But what is involved?  How much does it cost?  Why is it done in the first place?  It’s important to understand what a home inspection entails and how it affects the sale of your home or the purchase of a new one.  The more you know, the less likely you are to be taken by surprise.

What is a Home Inspection?

First of all, let’s clear up a commonly misunderstood point: a home inspection is not the same as an appraisal.  An appraisal is an estimate of a property’s overall market value. A home inspection is much more detailed and practical.  It is also not a code inspection and therefore does not report on building code compliance or give a “passing” or “failing” grade.  It is an objective visual examination of the structure and systems of a home by an impartial, neutral third party not related to the buyer or seller.  In layman’s terms, it shows you what’s wrong with the property you want to buy or sell and if it is serious enough to prevent a sale.

The three main points of the inspection are to evaluate the physical condition of the home, including structure, construction and mechanical systems; identify items that need to be repaired or replaced; and estimate the remaining useful life of the major systems, equipment, structure, and finishes.  A home inspection informs the buyer of any readily visible major defects in the mechanical and structural components, and to disclose any significant health or safety issues.

What Does a Home Inspection Cover?

A home inspection includes a visual examination of the house from top to bottom.  There are hundred of items a home inspection covers, including general structure, flashings, basement or lower level, framing, central cooling and heating, chimneys, plumbing and electrical systems, drainage, bathrooms and laundry facilities, foundation, common safety devices, fireplaces and wood stoves, kitchen appliances, general interior, attic, insulation, ventilation, roof, and exterior.

An inspector cannot report on defects that are not visible. For instance, defects hidden behind finished walls, beneath carpeting, behind storage items and in inaccessible areas, and even those that have been intentionally concealed. 

How Do I Find an Inspector?

To hire an inspector, get recommendations from your Realtor (me), or from friends and family. When interviewing inspectors, be sure to ask for references and any memberships in professional associations.  Find out about the inspector’s professional training, length of time in the business, and experience.   Calling their references is a great way to check their credibility.

During the inspection, it is important to be present.  First, you can ask the inspector questions during the inspection.  Second, the inspector will have the opportunity to point out areas of potential trouble, which will mean more to you if you see it with your own eyes than read it in the inspector’s report later.  Many inspectors also will offer maintenance tips as the inspection progresses.  Third, if the inspector finds something in need of major repair, they can explain their concern to you in person.

Is the Seller Obligated to Make Suggested Repairs?

The seller is not required to make any repairs, replacements or maintenance since this is not a code inspection. 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 could potentially bid lower.

Also, never allow an inspector to contract with you to make repairs they have suggested — this is a major conflict of interest, not to mention unethical.  Some inspectors do offer a guarantee or warranty on their service for an additional fee, although it is not a standard practice and not required.

How Much Does it Cost and How Long Will it Take?

Remember that a thorough, accurate home inspection takes time.  The last thing you want to do is to try to hurry the inspector along.  The inspector’s most important priority is accuracy, and accuracy takes time.  The chances of mistakes and missed conditions are much more likely the more the inspector rushes through.  Expect your home inspection to take anywhere between two and five hours (allowing about one hour for each 1,500 square feet of living space over 3,500 square feet).  Of course, older homes may take longer than newer ones.

Expect your inspection to cost anywhere from $300-$600 depending on size and location of your home.  The cost is worth it.  It may be one of the most important investments you make when buying a home.

When Buying a Home, Should I Waive a Home Inspection?

In a strong seller's real estate market the temptation is real to forgo a home inspection.  By waiving a home inspection you will make your offer look stronger to a seller.  Any buyer who has experienced real estate in the last few years understands it is ultra competitive and being involved in a bidding war for a home has become commonplace.  After you have lost out on a number of homes you've really wanted to purchase it's easy to become desperate and start making hasty decisions.

Waiving a home inspection in many cities and towns has actually become the "norm", but is it a smart move?  Most real estate agents will scream from the roof tops - NO!

In most real estate contracts, you will be given a due diligence period that lasts seven to ten days. There will typically be a contingency for home inspections.  The contingency will allow you to escape the contract if you find serious structural, mechanical or safety defects. By having an inspection you get a solid education of the home and be armed with vital information about the property to make a more informed decision.

Also, you will be able to re-negotiate with the seller if necessary.  As you can tell, there are some strong reasons why skipping out on a home inspection could be a significant mistake.

Ready to start your search?

I hope this helps educate you on the importance of a home inspection.  If you are ready to start a home search, please contact me.  I'm ready to help you love where you live!