You found the home of your dreams and you are going to buy it. Your agent prepares the purchase offer with the standard contingency – Upon Inspection. Of course you looked over the house before you wrote the purchase contract, but did you look in the attic? The crawl space? Check to see if appliances work properly? Most likely not. That is a job for the Professional Home Inspector.
Some lenders require a pest inspection to make sure your new home is free of termites and other wood-destroying insects. If the pest report mentions damage from an active or previous infestation, the lender will ask you to hire someone to verify the structural integrity of the home. Neither of those inspections takes the place of a home inspection that examines the condition of the house and its components.
The Home Inspector is the Expert.
A home inspection is an independent, unbiased review and report on a home’s systems, components, and conditions. The inspector’s job is to discover and point out visible problems with the property that may have been overlooked by or out of scope for the real estate agent, the buyer, or the seller.
A home inspector does NOT:
- appraise the property
- make recommendations on whether to buy the property
- make recommendations about building codes compliance
- guarantee the structural viability of the property or find “hidden defects”
Are Home Inspections Required?
Money might be tight for closing, but try to imagine moving in and finding out that the air conditioning unit isn’t capable of cooling the house, or that portions of the electrical system are substandard, or that the chimney needs immediate repairs. Home inspections are an extra expense and usually optional, so do you really need one? Probably. The standard contract used by California Realtors has a 17-day inspection contingency, which gives you the right to back out of a contract if a home inspection uncovers more problems than you are willing to deal with.
Evaluate your new home. Experienced inspectors have seen hundreds (or even thousands) of homes and have the routine down-pat. They know exactly what to look for, including all the little quick-fix tricks. You’re the only one who can determine how much time, energy and money you can devote to the house. But keep in mind that an inspection that uncovers safety issues can help you prioritize repairs. Even new construction is not always problem-free.
How Can I Find an Inspector?
Your real estate agent should be able to recommend a qualified home inspector who does a thorough job. You can also ask your friends or family who recently bought a home. There are also professional associations for home inspectors (California Real Estate Inspection Association is one). Who you use for the inspection is ultimately your choice, so you will want to interview several candidates and ask about their experience, education, and any professional certifications.
“But my brother can do it.” Some people truly do have a friend or family member who can perform an inspection. But even though your brother may have some building experience, he may not have the equipment or expertise required to do a thorough evaluation of the home. What if he misses a major problem? Will it create hard feelings within the family?
Be sure the inspector you hire can meet all the deadlines in your contract. A purchase contract usually specifies a certain number of days to get the inspection performed, and a specific number of days for you to review and approve the inspection.
What Exactly Do They Inspect?
A complete inspection includes a visual examination of the building from top to bottom. The inspector evaluates and reports the condition of the structure, roof, foundation, drainage, plumbing, heating system, central air-conditioning system, visible insulation, walls, windows, and doors. All this information will be detailed in an Inspection Report. Only items that are visible and accessible by normal means are included in the inspection report.
Dealing with Inspection Report Problems
If the inspector finds problems in a building, it does not necessarily mean you should not purchase it – only that you will know in advance what type of repairs to anticipate. A seller may or may not be willing to make repairs to significant problems discovered by the inspector. Don’t assume the seller will make every repair you ask for. They may refuse to make any repairs at all. Read your contract carefully before signing it so that you understand the rights and obligations of all parties. If your budget is tight, or if you do not wish to become involved in repair work, you may decide that this is not the property for you. The inspection report is a tool to help you make an informed decision on whether to move forward and close the deal or not – the choice is yours. If you do negotiate repairs, always set deadlines. Never rely on a verbal agreement – be sure to put everything in writing with the appropriate initials, signatures, and dates.