A Buyer’s Home Inspection Checklist
There are many steps in the home-buying process but none are as crucial as a home inspection.
Once you make an offer for a house, you may think you understand all there is to know about the property. However, a professional home inspection provides much-needed reassurance to home buyers by revealing all potential issues before closing . Learn more about home inspections and how to prepare for them with our home inspection checklist.
What Is A Home Inspection?
Home inspections are non-invasive visual examinations of a home's physical structure and systems. If an inspection uncovers problems, you can negotiate with the seller to lower the price or request repairs before closing. There may even be a need to cancel the sale if there are severe problems with the house and you cannot negotiate a lower price with the seller.
You should know the difference between a home inspection and a home appraisal. Appraisals are evaluations of property values. Mortgage lenders use appraisals to determine whether the home is worth what they are lending. Home appraisers do not inspect the fine details of the house but rather consider local property values and the home's overall condition.
A home inspection usually occurs right after the seller accepts an offer from the buyer. Escrow begins after both parties sign the purchase agreement. This process happens before or at the same time as the appraisal.
How To Find An Inspector
The licensing requirements for home inspectors differ from state to state. To become licensed in Arizona, Nevada, and Texas, inspectors must demonstrate experience, complete training, and pass an examination. Georgia does not require licenses for inspectors. The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) , a trade organization, provides an interactive map of home inspection license requirements across the country.
Several inspectors will probably be recommended to you by your real estate agent. You should also research inspectors independently and solicit recommendations from your family, friends, colleagues, or future neighbors. Ask the inspectors for references. Find out if those people were satisfied with the inspector's thoroughness and responsiveness.
Hiring A Home Inspector
Before hiring an inspector, ask for a sample report to see what the inspector includes and evaluate their comments. Some reports run 100 pages or more and include photographs. Other reports are mostly checkboxes with brief notes.
Be wary if a report seems confusing or vague even if it is longer. Ask the inspector what is included in the inspection and what's not. If you have specific concerns about the home, make sure your inspection addresses them.
There should be an inspection contingency in your home purchase contract that specifies how many days you have to complete the inspection. A few days might be all you have if homes in the area are selling quickly. In a slow local market, you could get a week or longer.
Decide on an inspector early in your home-buying process so you can arrange your inspection as soon as a seller accepts your offer. Good inspectors can be in high demand especially in the spring when more homes are sold.
How Much Does A Home Inspection Cost?
It’s important to note that the home buyer is usually responsible for paying for the inspection because it helps them avoid purchasing a home with significant problems. The average cost of a home inspection can range from $300 – $450 depending on several factors such as the location, age, and size of the home.
What Buyers Should Know About the House Inspection Process
In addition to what happens on inspection day, there is more to the home inspection process. As the buyer, there are some steps you can take before and after the inspection to make sure you have the information you need about the home you’re buying.
The Home Inspection Contingency
A home inspection contingency states that the purchase is contingent on the results of the inspection. It allows home buyers to cancel the sale or negotiate repairs based on the inspection results.
A home inspection contingency will give you a specific time frame to schedule the inspection and conduct it along with any follow-up evaluations that may be necessary. For example, if there is a plumbing issue, the inspector may recommend the buyer to consult a plumber for a more in-depth look. The buyer is responsible for finding a plumber and getting the information they need to proceed or withdraw from the sale. It usually takes buyers one to two weeks to complete this process.
If there are any deal-breaking issues on the inspection report, the home inspection contingency allows buyers to pull out of the sale and receive their deposit back. Therefore, it became a great way to protect yourself against surprise costs after moving in.
The Home Inspector
Choosing an inspector might seem overwhelming, but most real estate agents have relationships with licensed home inspectors and can recommend one they trust. The person should be bonded, insured, and the company only performs inspections rather than repairs and renovations. It will help to ensure that they do not try to force you into making costly repairs for their benefit.
When you schedule an appointment with the inspector, be sure you understand everything he will inspect. Ask them what the inspection includes and how long it will take. It is also the right time to discuss what additional inspections you may need and ask if they can do all of them. It is also necessary to agree on a price.
Home Inspection Day
Even though your home inspector is the expert, there are still things you can do as a buyer to ensure the process goes smoothly. As much as possible, we recommend home buyers to attend their home inspection so they can see the damage for themselves and ask questions. As a result of having these in-depth discussions with the inspector in real time, you will receive more information about your home than you might find on your inspection report.
Once you're walking through the house, try not to get too caught up in the number of defects as these are usually minor issues. Instead, examine the severity of the problems to determine if any deal breakers would prevent you from moving forward with the sale.
The Home Inspection Report
After the home inspection, you’ll receive a written report that covers the property’s main features and identifies any problematic issues that may need attention.
If you hire a good inspector, they will take the time to walk you through the report and explain their findings. It may include any damages or wear they find in the house, no matter how minor. You can expect a lot of issues in the report since it is their job to note every flaw. It does not mean that everything you see should cause concern. Home inspectors can help you discern what may be hazardous or a red flag.
Asking For Repairs Or A Discount
If your home inspection report contains substantial damage, you may be able to ask the seller to pay for the cost of the repairs or get a discount on the purchase price.
While you can’t expect the seller to fix every defect in the home, you can use the inspection report information to demonstrate the additional expenses you would have due to the necessary repairs. A good rule of thumb is only to negotiate for significant repairs. Normal wear and tear are likely to be the responsibility of the buyer. You also can negotiate a lower sale price based on the cost of the repairs.
How To Prepare For A Home Inspection
We recommend that you prepare for the home inspection by listing the areas of the home you want inspected before the inspector arrives. Your checklist should include:
- Attic space
- Rain gutters and downspouts
- Exterior stucco or paint
- Electrical panels, light switches, and power outlets
- Heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC) system and thermostats
- Plumbing fixtures, faucets, and water heater
- Walls, ceilings, and floors
- Doors and windows
- Stairs, steps, and railings
- Porches and balconies
- Walkways and driveways
It should take at least a few hours to conduct an inspection. Try to be present so you can find out as much as possible about the home’s condition, take your notes and photographs, and ask about anything that concerns you.
Inclusions and Exclusions in Home Inspections
While the scope of a home inspection can vary, inspecting the physical components of the home is the main focus. The following components might be left out:
- Trees and landscaping
- Lawn sprinklers
- Sewer line
- Swimming pool equipment
- Fireplace and chimney
- Internet service
- Floors covered by carpeting
- Roof or outdoor hardscape covered by snow
- Mice, rats, or other rodents
- Wood-destroying pests like carpenter ants and termites
Occasionally, inspectors will note items from the above list but not always. You are usually only liable for the fee you paid if an inspector missed a key element. A refund is the most that you will probably get if the inspector makes a mistake. A costly problem might require you to hire an attorney to negotiate a settlement or file a lawsuit.
Inspectors can only report what they are able to see, not what is hidden inside walls, behind furniture or moving boxes, or buried underground. Inspectors usually check the foundation in homes with easy-access crawl spaces. If the house is full of the seller’s belongings, it will be difficult for the inspector to inspect it as thoroughly as if it were vacant.
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