Of all the steps in the home-buying process, the home inspection is the one that can be the most helpful for you, especially as a first-time homebuyer. In the few hours it will take to complete the inspection, you'll learn a lot about your potential investment. A good home inspector will not only help you make the decision about whether or not to move forward with the purchase, but will also help you understand how to maintain the home if you do.
Attending the inspection allows you to get the most out of it—so you can ask questions and get answers.
An inspection is not pass/fail. Almost every home has issues and this is your chance to learn about them.
Use your inspector's experience to help you make an informed decision about your purchase.
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While some states require an inspection to be completed as part of the purchasing process, others will only require some aspects of the inspection or no inspection at all. Regardless of where your new home is, hiring a home inspector to evaluate the property is the best way to ensure you're making a sound investment before you sign the contract or move toward closing.
Unlike your real estate agent or a general contractor, a home inspector has no stake in the sale. They’re a neutral party whose primary responsibility is to provide you with an impartial and thorough report on the condition of the home.
Keep in mind that a home inspection isn’t a pass/fail test. No home is perfect—not even new constructions—and your home inspector will in all likelihood find several aspects of the property worth documenting on the inspection report.
Don’t worry about the number of issues. Instead, pay attention to their severity and the cost of fixing each one. Your home inspector should be able to advise you about whether the property you’re purchasing is a sound investment despite its potential issues.
If the findings on the inspection report are a deal breaker for you, you should be able to walk away from the deal with any earnest money you have deposited, depending on whether you have already signed a contract and what the terms are.
If you choose to move forward with the purchase, your real estate agent may use the report as a bargaining tool to negotiate the sale price down, or ask the seller to provide a credit for some of the repairs.
You can also draw upon the inspection report for years to come as a resource for information about the condition of your home and any necessary repairs or maintenance you need to complete as a homeowner.
Don’t worry about the number of issues. Instead, pay attention to their severity, and the cost of fixing each one.
During the home inspection, your inspector will evaluate every aspect of the home, including its structural components, systems, and general condition. They will then provide you with a full report that gives an overview of the home and specifies any issues that may need to be addressed.
According to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), your home inspector will review each of the following aspects of the home:
Your home inspector will use a comprehensive checklist to evaluate each of these components and when they were last replaced, how long they should last, and any issues that need fixing. Most home inspectors will also indicate the severity of any issues and even provide you with a general idea of how much it would cost to complete repairs.
Some home inspections will cover issues like radon, mold, and termites, but others may require you to obtain additional specialist reports for these items. Many states require a separate pest inspection for termites and other wood-destroying insects, since the presence of these pests may affect the structural integrity of the home.
To ensure your home inspection goes smoothly, find a home inspector you can trust. Your real estate agent may make suggestions about inspectors they have worked with before. You can also ask family or friends who have purchased homes recently if they have anyone they can recommend.
In the end, the home inspector you select is up to you. Some can be more expensive, but they may also be more detailed in their report and have more expertise. It’s all up to you and how much you want to spend.
ASHI has an inspector search tool you can use to find home inspectors in your area. Try choosing a home inspector who has completed a minimum of 100 fee-paid inspections and has at least one year of experience in the field.
Prior to your inspection, your real estate agent should coordinate with the seller’s agent to ensure that the home is ready for inspection. This may require the seller to clear any areas in the basement or attic that the inspector needs to move through to inspect the systems and structural components there. If the utilities have been disconnected because the home is currently vacant, they will need to be reconnected for the inspection.
During the home inspection, your inspector will evaluate every aspect of the home, including its structural components, systems, and general condition.
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The duration of your home inspection will depend upon the size, age, and condition of your home, as well as the weather during the inspection. Other factors include the experience of the home inspector, the number of systems in the home, and the type of foundation.
Houses between 1,500 and 2,000 square feet will generally take about two hours to inspect. Add an additional 30 minutes for every 500 square feet beyond that.
Homes that are in better condition have fewer issues for the inspector to evaluate and record. Conversely, the poorer the condition of the house, the longer the inspection will take.
There are more unique systems and components in homes more than 75 years old. You can expect that older homes will take about an hour longer to inspect than newer builds.
If your home inspector is doing their job correctly, they are going to be climbing up on the roof at some point during the inspection. This becomes a lot more difficult—or even impossible—if it is raining, snowing, or especially windy. Adverse weather conditions may mean a delay in the inspection, or require the inspector to come back and finish the job at another time.
Your home inspector will review each and every system in the home, including all heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical systems. If there is an HVAC system, gas, or propane connected to the home, the inspection will take longer.
Houses with crawl spaces or basements typically take 30 minutes to an hour longer to inspect because the inspector will need to evaluate these areas as well.
Once the inspection is complete, expect to receive your inspection report within 24 to 48 hours. Some inspectors are even able to deliver the report immediately on site.
The duration of the home inspection will depend upon the size, age, and condition of your home, as well as the weather during the inspection.
In short, yes. You are not required to be present at the inspection, but you should plan to be there to get the most value from the process.
The inspection is the best opportunity you will have to speak with a knowledgeable, experienced, and unbiased professional about the condition of the home you intend to purchase. The inspector is not a contractor and isn’t trying to rack up zeros on an estimate. Their job is to give you an impartial, accurate, and detailed analysis of the home you are considering.
The inspection report will provide lots of information for you to reference, but you will miss out on a great deal of rich detail if you don’t walk through the house with the inspector and let them show you what they see.
There are a few key benefits of being present during the inspection you won’t want to pass up:
If there are concerns about mold or water in the basement, the inspector can show you exactly where the indications of those issues are and what to look for on your own to ensure they’re addressed fully.
This can be especially helpful if the seller will complete repairs before closing. You’ll need to know what to look for during the walk-through to be sure that all repairs are complete and the house is in good working order.
Having a conversation with the home inspector can also help to put the various issues documented on the report in perspective. They will help you understand the scope and severity of each of the items they encounter so you can make an informed decision about your home purchase.
For example, if a water heater needs to be replaced, the inspector can tell you generally how much that will cost. If the roof is found to be in good condition, the inspector will tell you how long you have before you will need to do any maintenance, and if you need to replace the whole roof or just add another layer of shingles.
Home inspectors are experienced professionals with a vast amount of knowledge about houses and home maintenance. Use your inspection as an opportunity to ask questions and come to understand the home from the inside-out just as they do.
If you are planning to do any renovations to the home after closing, your home inspector is also a great person to ask about those plans. They can help identify load-bearing walls and describe the scope of home systems to help you consider various options for renovation before you even speak with a contractor.
By identifying any structural issues with the home like mold, leakage, or foundation problems ahead of time, you can potentially get a discount on the sale price, or a credit for repairs.
Your real estate agent should also be present for the inspection, and you should forward them a copy of the inspection report. This ensures that your agent has all the information they need to get you the best price on your new home. If there are any issues that require negotiation with the seller, you’ll want your agent to fully understand the scope of these issues and how they will need to be addressed.
You are not required to be present at the inspection, but you should plan to be there to get the most value from the process.
There are many steps to the home buying process and you’ll probably find yourself writing a lot of checks as a prospective homebuyer. Aside from your down payment, the fee you pay your home inspector will provide the most return on your investment.
You don’t want to be unexpectedly saddled with a home that requires constant repairs. Even worse, you don’t want to end up with a home that you can’t sell because it has structural issues that cost a fortune to solve. Your home inspector will give you the lowdown on the condition of your home to help you make an informed decision. The information you gain will help you for years to come as a homeowner.
Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or an experienced pro, you don’t have to go it alone. Get in touch with our team here at Lower for expert guidance and support through the homebuying process.