For many first-time buyers, buying a home can feel a bit scary. They know they’ll be maintaining or improving a home with little to no maintenance experience, so the solution is to buy a home in perfect condition. The problem is — no perfect home exists. Air conditioners break, plumbing pipes leak, and roof tiles blow off in the wind.
If you’re buying a home, start with a reasonable expectation of what home inspectors can do. Their job is to inform you about the integrity and condition of what you’re buying, good and bad.
A home inspection should take several hours, long enough to cover all built-in appliances, all mechanical, electrical, gas and plumbing systems, the roof, foundation, gutters, siding, windows and doors.
An inspector may or may not test for pests and will not inspect the septic tank. For those, you need industry-specific inspectors.
Here’s what else you need to do:
- Make sure the inspector you hire is licensed. The responsibilities of home inspectors vary according to state law and their areas of expertise.
- Ask what the inspection covers. Some inspection companies have extensive divisions that can provide environmental for radon and lead paint.
- Some inspection reports only cover the main house, not other buildings on the property. For specialty inspections such as termites, make sure the inspection covers all buildings on the property including guesthouses, detached garages, storage buildings, etc.
- Attend the inspection and follow along with the inspectors. Seeing problems for yourself will help you understand what’s serious, what needs replacement now or later, and what’s not important.
- Don’t expect the seller to repair or replace every negative found on the report. If you’re getting a VA or FHA-guaranteed loan, some items may not be negotiable. The seller must address them, but otherwise, pick your battles with the seller carefully.
A home inspection points out issues but it will also point out what’s working well. It can help you make your final decision about the home – to ask the seller to make repairs or to offer a little less, to buy as is or not to buy at all.
Inspectors don’t go behind walls or under flooring, so it’s possible that a serious problem can be overlooked. Keep in mind that inspectors are not party to the sales transaction, so if you buy a home where an expensive problem surfaces after the sale, you won’t be able to make the inspector liable or get the inspector to pay for the damage. In fact, you may not be entitled to any compensation beyond the cost of the inspection.
As a buyer, you need the home inspection to decide if the home is in condition that you can tolerate. You can use the report to show the seller the need for a certain repair. You can also take the report to a contractor and use it to help make repairs or to remodel a section of the home.
One thing you should not do when buying a home is skip having the home inspected because of cost or undue pressure by the seller. A home inspection is reasonable and it can save you money in the long run. There’s a reason why buyers should beware, and a home inspection gives you the information you need to make a sound buying decision.