Home Inspections: What to Prepare For
If you have recently made an offer to purchase a home, there is an important step that needs to occur before the sale is complete. You need to get a professional home inspection. A home inspection allows you to have the property investigated thoroughly and closely, which allows a home inspector to uncover any potential projects with the home that needs to be addressed prior to closing the sale.
You can consider a home inspection as a report of the condition of the property. It is recommended that buyers attend the process of the inspection. In doing so, you have an opportunity to investigate the property with the inspector and ask questions as they arise without being in the presence of the seller.
If there is an inspection contingency in your purchase agreement—which there should be—then in the event that there are serious flaws in your home inspection, you should be able to walk away from the agreement without suffering any kind of penalty. The contingency also offers you the opportunity to request that the seller make necessary repairs prior to closing, which saves you time, money, and headaches.
What Do Home Inspectors Look For?
When it comes to home inspections, professionals look for the condition, operation, and safety for all components that they are inspecting in the home. Are the components in good condition? Do they operate as originally intended by the manufacturer? Are the items posing any safety hazards to anyone living in the home?
The home inspector will examine most—but not all—components in the home due to the limitations of the accessibility, safety, and expertise. If the inspector is unable to assess a component, they will refer you to a field-related specialist.
It is not necessary for a home inspector to be an expert on all components in your home, but they do have to be familiar with whether they work. However, there are certain components in the home that you should hire experts to test to make sure that they are working properly and safely since they are can be dangerous like fireplaces and gas appliances.
Inspectors tend to check the following items in the home, as outlined in the inspection stands set forth by three primary industry organizations: the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), the National Society of Home Inspectors (NSHI), and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).
The Home’s Interior
- Ceilings, walls, and floors
- Stairways, steps, and railways
- Doors and windows
- Cabinets and countertops
- Installed kitchen appliances
- Garage doors and operators
In the event that there is a wall crack, a home inspector may make a note of whether it is a cosmetic crack or if it is related to a structural issue such as a sinking foundation.
The Home’s Exterior
- Exterior doors
- Wall coverings, trim, and flashing
- Eaves, fascias, and soffits that are visible from the ground
- Balconies, decks, porches, stoops, railings, and steps
- Walkways, driveways, and patios
- Garages and carports
- Plants, drainage, grading, and retaining walls
A home inspector will assess the condition of the roof, chimneys, skylights, gutters, downspouts, and any other kinds of roof penetrations. The inspector will also look for curled shingles, which could be an indication that the roof is becoming worn.
- Faucets and other fixtures
- Water heater
- Sump pumps and sewage ejectors
- Waste, drain, and vent systems
- Service grounding
- Service drops
- Service equipment and main disconnects
- Service entrance conductors, raceways, and cables
- Interior components of service panels and subpanels
- Overcurrent protection devices
- Circuit interrupters
- Light fixtures, receptacles, and switches
The ultimately goal of the home inspector is to look for anything that may indicate a fire hazard.
- Installed heating and cooling equipment
- Access panels that are easily accessible and opened
- Exhaust systems, vent systems, chimneys, and flues
- Fuel-burning stoves and fireplaces
- Distribution systems
- Insulation and vapor retarders in unfinished areas
- Floor structure
- Home’s foundation
- Ceiling structure, wall structure, and roof structure
What Will Home Inspectors Not Examine
While the aforementioned list of items may seem pretty comprehensive, there are still many components throughout the home that inspectors are not required to examine. These items include a variety of components and systems that are not readily accessible to them.
For instance, an inspector will not peel up the carpet to see if there are any foundation cracks, and the inspector will not cut a hole in the wall in the bathroom to see if there are any rusty pipes or hidden mold.
Inspectors do not have to move plants, furniture, ice, snow, or debris that may be in the way of them seeing something. They also will not do anything that may pose a danger to themselves or damage the property in any way, including walking on the roof, entering attic or crawl spaces that are too small, or lighting a fire in the fireplace.
Also, home inspectors don’t need to attempt to the amount of life that is left in the furnace, air conditioner, dishwasher, roof, or other components and systems. If they locate something that is not functioning properly, they do not need to try to diagnose the culprit or even estimate how much it will to fix it, nor will they attempt to estimate how much your utility bills will be on a monthly basis.
Home inspectors also are not required to operate on underground systems like storage tanks or lawn irrigation systems. They also do not check for wood-destroying insects like termites, nor do they test for radon, asbestos, or other environmental hazards, although some inspectors will offer extra testing as an add-on service.
Home inspectors are not required to test all light switches and fixtures in the home, smoke detectors, or permanently installed appliances like window air conditioning units.
Do not expect home inspectors to inform you on whether you should proceed with your home purchase. Also, if you are purchasing a unit in a condominium, they will not inspect the common areas of the building.
Are There Any Guarantees with a Home Inspection?
It is not required that home inspectors guarantee their work. So, in the event that an inspector misses something and it turns out to be an expensive issue once the sale is completed, there is very little chance that you will have recourse.
Rules and regulations tend to vary by state, so it is important that you take the time to research the rules of your state. This information can be obtained online at the American Society of Home Inspector’s website.
When looking for a home inspector, find one that is backed by a professional organization like the InterNACHI, which says that it will purchase your home back within 90 days of closing in the event that one of its home inspectors misses something that is substantive.
Keep an Eye Out for These Red Flags During the Inspection
During your home inspection, there are some bigger items that you will want to pay attention to, especially when there are problems.
Water leaks are a definite sign of trouble. While it may be difficult to locate the source because water tends to travel, it is very important to do so. Leaks can come from anywhere and can be dangerous. They have the potential to destroy ceilings and walls, and the ceiling can collapse if enough of the water builds up in one area.
During the inspection, make certain that the water is indeed turned on. The home inspector should turn on the faucets and let them run for a little while to allow the possibility of leaks to appear, if they are going to. If you notice any standing water close to the home, this is a sign that there is a leak and it will need to be inspected thoroughly.
While you may assume that a hairline crack is not a big deal, it may be a sign of a much larger issue. Home inspectors will keep an eye out for sloping floors that may be a sign of foundation problems, cracked plaster, bulging walls, as well as cracks between windows and doors.
These are examples of relatively small things that could signal major issues. You don’t want to take chances when it comes to your home’s integrity. If the home inspector recommends that you obtain a structural inspection, don’t hesitate to get it.
These insects are tiny and silent, and they can slowly destroy the your property—from the inside out—resulting in thousands of dollars of property damage if they’re not found early on. The most common example of a wood-destroying insect is a termite.
Homes with concrete foundations aren’t resistant to termite damage. These little insects can make their way through tiny spaces and get into wooden windows, wooden porches, and wooden structural supports.
There are some lenders that will require that a termite inspection be performed as part of the conditions of the loan.
Who Is It That Pays for a Home Inspection?
Generally, the home inspection is paid for by the buyer. The home inspection is the chance for the buyer to get a good look at the home, ask questions, and uncover any potential issues with the property. While it is rare, it’s possible for the home inspection fee to be negotiated with the seller. After all, the seller can benefit from paying for the inspection since they can own the report—which is private information.
Who Is It That Pays for the Repairs?
If the contract states that the buyer is purchasing the home as-is, then the seller is not required to pay for any of the repairs. It is crucial that you fully comprehend what you are getting yourself into prior to signing a contract, particularly if you are in a seller’s market where there is less motivation for the seller to appease buyers.
If there is not an as-is agreement, then there is generally room for negotiation in the event that there are repairs needed. Think of the process as a race—you’re in the last lap with sellers seeing the finish line, and they most certainly don’t want to crash and be unable to finish the race. As a general rule, it is easier for sellers to knock some money off the sales price or repair the damage instead of putting the home back on the market knowing that future buyers will see the exact same issues with the property.
This is exactly why it is so crucial that your inspection is scheduled as soon as you sign the contract. You want to ensure that you have plenty of time for the home to be thoroughly inspected and for any additional experts to be brought in.
If any repairs are necessary per the inspection, you can request for an extension on the due diligence period while the details are hammered out. If it is an as-is contract, the seller may deny your extension request, resulting in you having to sticking to the initial terms and choosing to walk away or purchasing the home.
Locating a Qualified Home Inspector
Homebuyers tend to rely on recommendations from their realtors when looking for a home inspector. While this is a solid starting point, it is important for buyers to do their own homework. In other words, look into the construction background and experience of the inspector.
Not all states regulate home inspectors, meaning that any person in those states can inspect a home legally. For that reason, you should look for inspectors who are members of established organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors.
Another factor that you should take into consideration is the inspector’s knowledge of construction. Inspectors with a construction background will have the capability of offering more in-depth assessments of the condition of the home than an individual who do not have that same kind of background. A builder will be able to look at a wall crack and have a good idea of what it means, but an individual who lacks that type of background likely will not have a clue.
In addition, things like fireplaces, gas appliances, and pools need to be inspected by experts in those fields.
What Occurs Following the Home Inspection?
Depending on the results of the home inspection, you will have a few different choices. If the property is in good condition, your next step is to determine whether you should finalize the purchase. You will have until the end of the due diligence period to cancel the contract agreement.
However, in the event that the inspection uncovers issues, you should fully assess the severity of the issues from a safety, financial and time perspective. You may consider hiring specialists to further investigate the issues.
Keep in mind that there are things that inspectors are unable to access or see. For instance, they cannot see if the chimney liner is cracked—only a chimney sweep can see that. However, if there is enough evidence that suggests an issue with the liner, then the inspector may let you know and it will be in your best interest to have it looked at by an expert prior to finalizing the purchase.
The above is just a single example of a potential repair in the home that could result in thousands of dollars out of your pocket. For serious homebuyers, it is likely worth the smaller, upfront investment for a comprehensive home inspection so you are not caught by surprise with a huge problem later on after purchasing the home and have no type of recourse.
For more information, contact Southern Valley Services.