What is a home inspection? A home inspection is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house, from the roof to the foundation. A typical home inspection report will cover the condition of the home’s HVAC systems, interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation (where visible), basement and visible structural components.
Why do I need a home inspection? Buying a home could be the largest single investment you will ever make. To minimize surprises and unexpected difficulties, you should learn as much as you can about the house before you buy it. A home inspection may identify the need for major repairs or builder oversights, as well as the need for maintenance to keep it in good shape. After the inspection, you will know more about the house, which will allow you to make decisions with confidence.
Can I do it myself? Even the most experienced homeowner lacks the knowledge and expertise of a professional home inspector. An inspector is familiar with all elements of home construction, proper installation and maintenance. They know how the various systems in a home are intended to function, as well as why they might fail. Also, buyers may find it difficult to remain completely objective about the house they really want, and this may influence their judgment. It is best to obtain an impartial, third-party opinion by a professional inspector.
Can a house fail a home inspection? No. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of a house. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value. It is not a municipal inspection, which verifies local code compliance and can pass or fail. A home inspector, therefore, will not pass or fail a house, but rather describe its physical condition and indicate what components and systems may need major repair or replacement.
When should inspectors be contacted? Home inspectors are typically contacted as soon as the contract or purchase agreement has been signed. Before you sign, be sure there is an inspection clause in the sales contract, making your final purchase obligation contingent on the findings of a professional home inspection. This clause should specify the terms and conditions to which both the buyer and seller are obligated.
Do I have to be there? It is not required that you be present for the inspection. However, it is highly recommended that you and/or your realtor attend a walk-through of the inspection. You may not want to watch your inspector test every electrical outlet, door and window. You will want to be able to ask questions about the report and learn about the condition of the home and how to maintain it.
What if the report uncovers problems? No house is perfect. If the inspector identifies problems, it doesn’t mean you should or shouldn’t buy the house, only that you will know in advance what to expect. If major problems are found, a seller may agree to make repairs or negotiate a reduction in the asking price.
How much does an inspection cost? Inspection fees may vary depending on several factors such as the size of the house, its age and possible optional services such as septic, radon or other environmental testing. Cost should not be a factor in deciding whether to have a home inspection or choosing your home inspector. The sense of security and knowledge gained from an inspection is well worth the cost, and the lowest-priced inspection is not always a bargain.
How do I find a home inspector? Referrals are a good way to choose an inspector. Many real estate professionals will refer quality home inspectors that have years of experience. Most will refer more than one inspector so there is no conflict of interest. Referrals from friends or relatives who may have used a quality inspector in the past are also good. Home inspectors must have a full working knowledge of every system in a home. A broad background in general construction is a good base to build from. Good home inspectors are typically those who have experience in the building industry.