Many home buyers today recognize the importance of home inspections. Knowing a property’s condition helps a buyer see what they’re getting into.
However, it’s one thing to know to get a home inspection and it’s another thing to know how to go about the entire home inspection process!
This article will help you navigate the task of home inspection so you can be prepared and know what to expect when inspection time comes. To download your printable checklist, click the button below.
How To Find a Good Home Inspector
- Read online reviews. They can give you a sense of common strengths (or weaknesses) of a company or individual, and help you find the best home inspector for you.
- Find out their area of specialization and pick a specialty that best fits your needs. Make sure your inspector has experience with examining the type of property you’re considering buying — whether that be a farm, condo, beach bungalow, old home, or new construction.
- Make sure the inspector is appropriately licensed or, in states where there are no set-qualifications, look for an inspector who has worked as a general contractor previously.
- Realtors can also be a helpful source of recommendations. Chances are they’ve worked with more than a handful throughout their careers and can give you some names to vet.
What to Look for During a Home Inspection
It’s a good idea to be there during the inspection and ask as many questions are you want. You should understand the condition of your potential home. If an inspector doesn’t want you there, that’s a red flag and you should strongly consider hiring someone else.
The following checklist is what you can expect a home inspector to do during the inspection:
- An examination of the property’s exterior. This includes examining drainage systems, looking for trees hanging dangerously over the roof, noting the condition of the yard, walkways/sidewalks, driveways, porches, stairs, patios, and any other relevant aspect of a home’s outdoor area.
- An evaluation of structural elements. This means the walls, foundation, floors, ceiling and roofs. The inspector will be on the lookout for cracks, weaknesses or water damage.
- An investigation of the plumbing. The inspector will look for leaks/stains, note if the pipes are damaged and check the water heater for capacity, ventilation, and signs of rust. They will also check to see if toilets, sinks, showers, taps and faucets are in working order and be on the lookout for faulty pipe joints.
- A look at electrical elements. This means looking at the type of wiring, circuit breakers, exhaust fans, grounding, ceiling fans, light receptacles and fixtures. Does the service panel have adequate capacity, and are all cables attached to it with cable connectors?
- A check of heating/cooling systems. The air flow should be generally good. The air filters should be clean, and the ductwork should be in excellent condition. The inspector will check for combustion gas odor, rust around the cooling unit and asbestos on the water pipes, heating pipes or air ducts. There should be separate flues for gas/propane/oil and wood/coal.
- Not included in a general inspection: Septic tanks & pools. If you have a septic system or pool, these inspections needs to be done by specialists. Both are usually done by entirely different people/companies than the general inspection (and each other).
You might not be able to understand all the details during the inspection, but make sure you seek clarification if you don’t understand something, especially if it seems problematic. For example, you can ask how severe the problem is, how it should work, and whether something is fixable in the time remaining before your closing date.
What Happens After the Inspection
After the inspection, the inspector will send you the inspection report. You should read it carefully whether or not you attended the inspection. Make sure it captures everything you expect it to. It’s generally a good idea to share it with the seller too. Sometimes they will proactively make repairs to ensure the home is fully-functional for you.
- Carefully read the inspection report. Even if you were there going through the property with the inspector, read the report carefully. Make sure it captures what you expect as it may be a helpful reference to know what future repairs or maintenance scheduling may be necessary if you end up purchasing the property. Share it with the sellers too. They may voluntarily make some easy repairs.
- Continue, negotiate, or walk-away. If you’re comfortable with the condition of the home you can continue with the purchase. If the sellers don’t volunteer to make repairs, you may also be able to ask them to as a condition of the sale or try to re-negotiate the purchase price, although that can sometimes be riskier. If you included the home inspection as a contingency in your purchase contract, you may also be able to walk -away from the purchase at this time. It’s typical to have a home inspection as a condition of the sale without losing your earnest money.
Home inspections can cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars, which may come out of the buyer’s pocket as part of the total closing costs (unless a different arrangement has been made pursuant to the purchase agreement). So it’s important for buyers to hire the right inspector for the job and to be comfortable with the condition of their potential home.
We hope this article helps you feel more prepared and confident about home inspection process. Happy house hunting!