Just imagine — after weeks, maybe months, of searching and touring you’ve finally found it. The home you were daydreaming about is in front of you and you’re ready to make an offer. Buying a home is an exciting process, but it’s also stressful. Sellers are on a strict timeline and there are many steps between finding a home and closing on it. Including the home inspection.
What is a home inspection?
The purpose of a home inspection is to assess the structural integrity of a home in a thorough but noninvasive manner. While an appraisal just looks at a home’s overall value, inspections test to see if things are functioning correctly, are of good quality, and uncover problems that may not be visible to an untrained eye.
Why get a home inspection?
Many buyers question whether or not they should get an inspection or waive home inspection all together to save on the $200 to $500 invoice. It may be tempting, especially with all the other costs and fees that come with purchasing a house, but an inspection is your opportunity to ensure it’s a good fit for your family. Inspections are vital for your safety, preparing for future upkeep, and giving you the means to negotiate with the seller on:
- Reducing/renegotiating price
- Closing credits
- Requesting repairs
As a buyer, you can take certain steps before and after the inspections occur to affirm you have all the information you need before closing on a home.
The inspection contingency clause — and how it can help you avoid pitfalls
An inspection contingency clause is a common provision in real estate sales contracts that permits the buyer to have a property inspected by a professional within a certain number of days. Then, depending on the findings of the home inspection, the potential homebuyer can negotiate who should make and pay for any needed repairs — or cancel the contract.
Having an inspection contingency clause helps protect the interests of both the buyer and the seller by promoting transparency and informed decision-making. Keep in mind that the specific terms and conditions of an inspection contingency clause can vary depending on local real estate laws and practices.
The dangers of waiving a home inspection
We’ll just say it: It’s never a good idea to buy a home without having it thoroughly inspected. But it’s your choice. Just know that choosing to waive the inspection is a risky decision which exposes you to a wide array of potential pitfalls, including:
- Hidden problems that stay hidden, like structural issues, plumbing or electrical problems, mold, and pest infestations.
- Unexpected and costly repairs that show themselves shortly after you get the keys to the front door.
- Safety hazards like faulty electrical systems, gas leaks, or weak foundations.
- Lower resale value due to previously undiscovered defects.
- Difficulty securing financing. Many lenders require a home inspection before approving a mortgage. By skipping the inspection, you might have difficulty securing financing or face higher interest rates on your loan.
- Buyer's remorse. It’s emotionally distressing to discover problems after you close the deal that could have been addressed during negotiations or that may have led you to reconsider the purchase.
Bottom line: An inspection can save you from major heartbreak and financial stress. Don’t skip it.
Home inspection checklist: What buyers should know
Choose your home inspector.
That’s right. You have the power to choose your own inspector for the job. Your real estate agent may have connections and recommended inspectors in their network, but it’s important to do your research and make a decision with care. After an offer is accepted, the home buying process moves quickly so you may want to consider researching inspectors as you’re house hunting.
There are a few factors that will determine the price of an inspection. The cost varies depending on the size of the house and property. Inspections on new construction also cost less than older homes. You can expect to spend a few hundred dollars on a home inspection. In a busy real estate market, inspectors are in higher demand so prepare to spend more.
Attend the home inspection.
Though you’ve selected an expert to give you a detailed report, buyers should make the time to attend the home inspection as it occurs. Being present for the walk-through gives you the chance to see any damage firsthand and ask questions as they pop up. Real-life discussions with the home inspector are your best chance at learning in-depth information about your future house that may not be presented on the inspection report.
As you’re inspecting a house, stay close, but don’t impede on the home inspector as they do their job. Don’t get too caught up on the number of minor defects. Instead, pay attention to the severity of the issues and make note of any deal-breaking problems. Below, we’ve got you covered with a list of damages to look out for.
Know what to look for during the inspection walk-through.
At the home inspection, you should hopefully be feeling confident knowing you have an inspector you can rely on and who knows what to look for. No matter how expert they are though, you’ll want to understand what an inspector is looking for so you can ask questions and get better insight into the extent of the damage. Here’s a checklist of the components of a home’s structure that will be examined:
- Attic/roof framing
- Crawl spaces
- Site Drainage
- Wall coverings
- Pool safety features
- Permanent appliances
- Sewage pumps
- Sump pumps
- Vents, flues, and exhaust pipes
- Water heaters
- Fuel storage and distribution systems
- Circuit interrupters
- Light fixtures
- Light switches
- Service panels
- Circuit breakers
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
- Service drop
Heating, Ventilation, and Cooling
- Cooling equipment
- Distribution systems (ductwork and registers)
- Exhaust systems (vents, flues, chimneys)
- Condensate drainage
- Heating equipment (furnaces, radiators, baseboard, wall heaters, fuel-burning fireplaces)
- Visible insulation
- Vapor barriers
There are additional tests you can consider ordering, including some that check for critical safety issues. These include tests for mold, radon, termites, pests and rodents, asbestos, and lead. If concerns are uncovered during home inspection you can order specialized inspections for pools, septic and sewer systems, wells, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, electrical panels, foundations and other specific structural issues.
If you are able to attend the inspection yourself, there shouldn’t be any surprises in the report. Be sure to review it thoroughly and ask the inspector for clarification on anything you don’t understand.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
No one wants to uncover major issues with the home they want to buy, but it does happen and it’s one of the biggest reasons to get a home inspection. Integral structural damage is a large bill to foot, and it could change your mind about what feels like a fair price.
If a large issue is present, you can request that the seller fixes it prior to closing on the home. You may even want to get a reinspection for assurance that the problem has been properly fixed. While the seller won’t be responsible for every single item in an inspection report, it’s your opportunity to negotiate repair costs or ask for a price reduction or credit. You may have to find your own professionals to make the repairs after you move in, but it won’t hold up the closing process. Work with your real estate agent to understand what requests you can make at this step. They’ll be able to help you negotiate a better deal.
What to do if the seller refuses to negotiate or make repairs.
Sellers don’t have to agree to any repair requests. In fact, depending on the terms of your purchase contract and local market conditions, the seller may or may not agree to pay for any repairs at all. For example, if it’s a seller’s market, and there are a lot of buyers vying for a property, a seller may reject the requests altogether. Then it’s up to you, the buyer, to decide what to do. This can be frustrating, but there are several steps you can take to handle the situation:
- Talk to your real estate agent: They can provide guidance, help you understand your options, and may have experience dealing with similar situations.
- Reevaluate your position: Take a hard look at your priorities to see if the property is still worth pursuing even without the repairs or concessions.
- Consider alternative solutions: For example, you could propose a lower purchase price to make up for the needed repairs.
- Be willing to walk away: If the seller remains uncooperative and you are not comfortable with the property's condition, be prepared to walk away from the deal. Sometimes, this willingness to walk away can prompt the seller to reconsider their position.
Remember, home sale transactions can be complex, and emotions frequently run high. It's best to approach the situation calmly and rationally while keeping your best interests in mind.
Get a home inspection. Buying a home is a thrilling milestone, and you don’t want to ruin the experience with unwanted surprises and buyer’s remorse. Investing in a quality home inspection limits the risk of future repairs and gets you the information to help you make an informed decision on one of the biggest purchases of your life.