Skipping a home inspection to save a few hundred bucks can cause anguish long term. It's important to grasp why a home inspection affects the sale of your home or the purchase of a new one. Educating yourself with the process will help you avoid getting ripped of or taken by surprise.
Why a Home Inspection?
One common misconception is a home inspection is not the same as an appraisal, which is an estimate of a property's true market value. The home inspection is an evaluation of the overall condition and life expectancy of a property's components. It's a visual exam of the structure and systems of the home by an impartial, neutral party not related to the buyer or seller. In layman's terms, it uncovers defects of a particular property.
The 3 main points of an inspection are used to evaluate the physical condition of the home, including construction, mechanical systems and structural defects and used to identify items that need replaced or repaired. It also provides the buyer with an estimate of the remaining useful life of equipment, finishes, and structure. The bottom line is, a home inspection is used to inform the buyer of any readily visible major defects in the mechanical and structural components, and to disclose any significant health or safety issues.
What Does a Home Inspection Cover?
There are hundreds of items a home inspection covers, including flashings, framing, central cooling / heating, drainage, bathrooms, laundry, electrical, foundation, fireplaces, appliances, insulation, roof, ventilation and exterior. One very important note - an inspector cannot report on defects that are not visible. For instance, defects hidden behind inaccessible areas, behind storage items, beneath carpeting and behind walls. Systems that are seasonally inoperable will not be tested.
How Do I Find an Inspector?
If you don't know anyone who has used a home inspector, you can research on Angieslist.com, Neighborhood.com or in the Yellow Pages under "Home Inspection Services". Your local realtor should be able to give you a list of inspectors who they've used. Be sure to ask for references and memberships in professional association and also inquire about hte inspector's professional training and experience.
Is the Seller Obligated to Make Suggested Repairs?
Depending on the offer / contract presented to the seller, repairs, replacements or maintenance may not be required if they are not in violation of county or city code ordinances. However the buyer can use the inspection report in order to negotiate a better price while in the inspection period. For instance, if certain repairs are made, the buyer might offer to pay more, or if not the buyer can request a price reduction.
Your inspector should never contract with you to make repairs he/she has suggested as it is a major conflict of interest and unethical. Some inspectors do offer a guarantee or warranty on their service.
How Much Does it Cost and How Long Will it Take?
A thorough inspection usually takes 2 - 5 hours depending on the size of the home, approximately 1 hour for each 1,000 square feet. An inspector's most important priority is accuracy and can be quite time consuming. The chances of mistakes and missed conditions are much more likely the more the inspector rushes through. Older homes generally take longer to inspect than newer homes. The expense of a home inspection is worth it and may be one of the most important investments you make when buying a property.