After several weeks or even months of searching for your dream home and then finding and deciding on a specific property that has caught your eye, you are ready to do everything it takes to close the deal, including making an offer, opening an escrow account, and more.
While everything up until that point may have panned out, including a favorable sale price and other terms, there is one aspect of the process that can potentially scuttle the deal: the house inspection.
An inspection of the house you are planning to buy is something that should and must be carried out by any potential buyer. Given the large investment that usually characterizes home purchases, a proper, professional and in-depth home inspection is something that must be carried out to help you determine if you should walk away from the deal, or if there are things you will find out about the house that can potentially help reduce the sale price, if you are hell-bent on buying that particular house.
That said, it is important that you know and understand exactly what a home inspection entails, the different types of inspections, why it is for your benefit, as well as a few very important things that you should know about the process.
Important Things to Know About a Home Inspection
- Inspections are optional, and you are responsible for them
Among people new to the home buying process is a strong misconception that home inspections simply always happen and that they are arranged for by the current homeowner. In reality, the buyer is the one who decides if they want to arrange for an inspection, as well as which inspections to include.
Not surprisingly, the seller generally won’t want to deal with inspections as it can potentially lead to additional costs for them or because it may altogether scuttle the deal. It is, therefore, important for you as the buyer to make sure you get on top of the inspections process. Besides reading up on your own what home inspections consist of, you should perhaps also speak to a real estate agent, property manager, or other such professional. The main thinking behind doing this is so that you will be well informed when you are speaking with a home inspection agent and you can always be on the same page with whatever they are telling you, and if anything they tell you does not match up with what your research has told you, then you can raise a flag.
- Use a Certified Inspector
While you will probably be working with a contractor at some point to perform any repairs on the home, you should keep in mind the differences between a contractor and a home inspector. Home inspectors are trained to identify any potential issues with the house, no matter how small. Contractors are trained on how to fix these problems. There is a higher chance of a better, more in-depth inspection by using a certified home inspector as opposed to just any type of inspector. The key here is that the inspector should be certified.
You should ordinarily be able to trust that an inspector that has been certified by a professional body will be held to a higher standard than just a regular inspector, and as such, you can expect to get a more thorough job done. In terms of finding such a certified inspector, again this is where a real estate attorney, agent or property manager can come in handy in recommending an inspector, given the fact that they very likely have worked with several of them in the past and have first-hand experience could what the quality of their work is.
- What Inspections Cover
Inspectors are trained to inspect a majority of things within and outside the house. The specifics of what they check involve structural components, foundation, plumbing and electrical systems, heating and cooling systems, as well as the conditions of windows, doors, door frames, walls, floors, and ceilings. This covers most problems that you won’t want to run into, but it doesn’t cover everything.
- What Inspections Don’t Cover
Aspects of your home like a septic tank, inside the walls, roof and or chimney status, as well as additional structures separate from the home, like a pool house, well, or shed, will require a specialist to inspect. An expense that is definitely worthwhile.
- You Can (and Should) Attend the Inspection
You have every right to and are also encouraged to attend inspections of your would-be home. This allows you to be able to ask and have answered any questions that might come to mind during the inspection process, which keeps your mind at ease and also keeps you fully in the loop in terms of the status of what hopefully will become your home soon.
- You can (and should) get an Inspection Report
The inspector compiles a legal, official document detailing the results of his/her inspection. This document is usually automatically sent to your realtor, but you can also request to have a copy sent to you. It helps to look over this report before you go through the process of outlining which areas require negotiation, and to what extent. It also, if necessary, grants you leverage in any potential negotiations you might want to have.
- The Seller Doesn’t Have to Make Repairs
After going through the report, create a list of repairs that are of highest priority to you. Try to keep this list short; any seller is likely to become irritated if they receive a long list of expensive demands. Keep in mind that this is a negotiable process. Some repairs will be made by the seller, some will be credited to you by the seller, and some you will be completely responsible for. Make sure to try and get the biggest issues covered. Be prepared to sacrifice a bit here.
- You Can Walk After Inspections
If the inspections have brought up severe, hugely expensive problems, like rampant structural damage, and you and the seller cannot negotiate fair terms regarding these kinds of repairs, you can walk away from the deal relatively undamaged. This is where an inspection clause comes into play and this is something the average or first-time buyer might not even know they need. It is however very important in protecting the buyer’s right to walk away after an inspection
- Use Professionals to Make the Repairs
Cutting corners to save money is always a tempting thing to do. Maybe you know a friend who is handy, or maybe you know which end of the hammer to use, and so you decide to try to make some repairs yourself to save a few bucks. Although it may be tempting, your safer option is to hire professionals to do the work right, even if this costs extra money. It will be worth the extra expense in the long run.
- Save the Paperwork from the Repairs
Save all invoices, repair estimates, contracts, etc. that you have with the contractors you end up hiring to make the repairs, as proof that the repairs were done. Mortgage companies will often ask for these documents before they give you the keys, so, yes, they are important. Additionally, keeping invoices may help you save money in the future, if you have to make a similar repair, you’ll know roughly how much it should cost.
Once you successfully navigate this process, it’s time to settle in!