Whether you're a home seller or a potential homebuyer, a professional home inspection is bound to be an important part of your success.
If you're selling, your lender will probably require a professional inspection so you’re aware of any issues that need remediation. And if you're buying, you have the option of contracting for an inspection as a way of reconfirming the well-being (and fair purchase price) of your potential new home.
“A home inspection helps find potential expenses beyond the sales price, which puts homebuyers in a powerful position for negotiation,” notes Scott Myers on HomeInspector.org. “Buyers can stipulate sellers either repair (issues) before closing or help cover the costs in some other way. Perhaps even more importantly, a home inspection buys you peace of mind."
In general, you can expect a licensed inspector to evaluate a home’s structural elements; exterior and garage; roof and attic; plumbing; HVAC, fireplace, chimneys and other systems and components; electrical systems and appliances. What will he be looking for? Primarily health and safety issues (including carbon monoxide, mold and radon), code violations and major malfunctions such as foundation problems or moisture and drainage issues.
Such evaluations tend to pay off. In one survey, 72 percent of U.S. homeowners agreed the home inspection they had when buying their current primary residence helped them avoid potential problems with their home, while 64 percent said they saved money in the long run as a result.
Since most consumers seldom go through the inspection process, many are unclear about what to expect.
Before you start, consider how you can avoid these five common mistakes:
- Not doing your homework. Instead of just accepting your first recommendation for hiring a home inspector, take a little time to research his credentials. You may wish to check out his online reviews or even contact his past customers. And you’re perfectly within your rights to ask him about his training and qualifications, how long he’s been inspecting homes, how many inspections he’s logged and whether he’s had experience in the building trades. Expect him to be up to date on current regulations, and seek someone with whom you feel comfortable reviewing your home’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Not thinking ahead. Smart sellers get an inspection under their belts long before they find a buyer, and savvy buyers will do the same as soon as they identify a house of interest. Many of the best inspectors book their services far in advance, and you don’t want a cut-rate provider just because you’re pressed for time.
- Not being present at the inspection. While this isn’t a requirement, it’s best to be on site while the specialist does his job, so you ask questions and get a broader view. A written report may not reveal the full picture, and you want to be as informed as possible when it comes to making such a big financial transaction. Plan to spend a half-day on this endeavor. In some municipalities, inspectors are prohibited by law from offering advice on whether to buy the home, but they may be able to estimate how much repairs may cost.
- Not vetting the inspection report. Not only do many buyers forgo the inspection procedure itself, but they don’t really examine the final report. Expect a thorough analysis of your home along with summaries of what will be required to fix any problem areas. You only have yourself to blame if you fail to note an issue that turns out to be problematic later on.
- Not prepping your home. If you’re already aware of deficiencies in your home, it’s best to get them taken care of ahead of time — and done well — so they never show up on an inspector’s report in the first place. And on inspection day, it’s considered bad form to leave hindrances such as clutter or locked doors in your inspector’s way.
Inspections are important to the home-selling process whether you’re a buyer or seller, but they don’t have to be burdensome if you know what to expect.
“Some buyers feel a home inspection is unnecessary, especially if they are buying new construction,” adds Elizabeth Weintraub on TheBalance.com. “(But) the problems that aren't readily identifiable to you — code violations, a furnace that leaks carbon monoxide or a failing chimney — are the types of defects a home inspector could identify in a new home. Builders' contractors make mistakes, too.”