Many people are waiving home inspections in this market, but is this a good idea? What is involved? How much does it cost? Why is it done in the first place? It’s important to understand what a home inspection entails and how it affects the sale of your home or the purchase of a new one. The more you know, the less likely you are to get ripped off or taken by surprise.
What is a Home Inspection?
First of all, let’s differentiate between a home inspection and an appraisal. An appraisal is an estimate of a property’s overall market value. A home inspection is much more detailed home evaluation of it's functionality and potential areas that may require further investigation. A home inspection is also not a code inspection and therefore does not report on building code compliance or give a “passing” or “failing” grade. It is defined as an objective visual examination of the structure and systems of a home by an impartial, neutral third party not related to the buyer or seller. In layman’s terms, it shows you operation of items in the home and can point out potential issues with the property. This helps you determine if it is serious enough to prevent a sale.
The three main points of the inspection are to evaluate the physical condition of the home, including structure, construction and mechanical systems; identify items that need to be repaired or replaced; and estimate the remaining useful life of the major systems, equipment, structure, and finishes. Bottom line: a home inspection is 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.
Home inspectors will inspect single family homes, townhomes, manufactured homes, condos, and a variety of other structures on these premesis.
What Does a Home Inspection Cover?
A home inspection includes a visual examination of the house from top to bottom by a qualified inspector. There are hundred of items a home inspection covers, including general structure, flashings, basement or lower level, framing, central cooling and heating, chimneys, plumbing and electrical systems, drainage, bathrooms and laundry facilities, foundation, common safety devices, fireplaces and wood stoves, kitchen and kitchen appliances, general interior, attic, insulation. ventilation, roof, and exterior. It is important to discuss what items that your inspector will cover during the inspection to make sure it meets your needs.
An inspector cannot report on defects that are not visible. For instance, defects hidden behind finished walls, beneath carpeting, behind storage items and in inaccessible areas, and even those that have been intentionally concealed. Systems that are seasonally inoperable (swamp coolers, air conditioning, furnaces) will not be turned on during the inspection.
New Construction Home Inspections
Common misconceptions for a new home is that it is brand new and should be perfect. There have been instances of hidden issues and common problems identified by inspectors and homeowners. Some common problems that have been found by inspectors include structural defects which can include poor framing, faulty lot grading, and foundation cracks. Faulty lot grading can cause drainage issues which can lead to water damage later on. Poor framing can cause window leaking issues or may not support the roof load properly. Foundation cracks can lead to larger issues later as the slab settles. Other concerns identified by inpsectors are electrical problems, HVAC issues, plumbing issues, and incomplete projects. Electrical problems may include poorly wired outlets, nail plates missing in studs (to prevent you from putting a nail through awire), open grounds, or improper electrical panel wiring. HVAC issues may include poorly sealed ducts, loose connections, improper venting of gas heaters, or thermostats that do not work as some examples. Incomplete projects may include missing insulation, a duct that was not cut out in the drywall, or outlet that was drywalled over to just name a few.
Home inspections for new construction can include a foundation inspection, pre-drywall, and final inspection. The foundation inspection is generally done as a "pre-pour" prior to concrete to ensure all boards are aligned properly, site was excavated properly, and supports are in place properly. Pre-drywall is conducted after the frame is built, roof is on, and windows are installed. Many systems are also pre-wired and in place. Inspectors can look at beams, studs, and other structural components. Also, it gives the inspector access to look at plumbing, wiring, and window flashing before it is hidden by drywall. The final inspection is comprehensive similar to a resale home.
Inspection reports are given to the superintendent to make repairs with sub contractors or provide a reason why there is a conflict with the inspectors report. All builds adhere to a strict building code that must be followed. The examples above are not typical for every new construction home, but gives a broad example of what inspectors have seen throughout their experience. In some cases the superintendent or local code inspectors have also identified the concerns and are already working to correct.
How Do I Find an Inspector?
To hire an inspector, get recommendations from your Realtor, or from friends and family. If you don’t know anyone who has hired a home inspector, you can find home inspectors through a simple web search using the category “Home Inspection Services.” When interviewing inspectors, be sure to ask for references and any memberships in professional associations. Find out about the inspector’s professional training, length of time in the business, and experience.
It’s a good idea to be present during the inspection for a couple of reasons: First, you can ask the inspector questions during the inspection. Also, the inspector will have the opportunity to point out areas of potential trouble, which will mean more to you if you see it with your own eyes than read it in the inspector’s report later. Many inspectors also will offer maintenance tips as the inspection progresses.
Is the Seller Obligated to Make Suggested Repairs?
The seller is not required to make any repairs, replacements or maintenance since this is not a code inspection. However, the buyer can use the inspection report as a negotiating tool. For instance, if certain repairs or replacements are made, the buyer might offer to pay more, or if they’re not, the buyer can bid lower.
Also, never allow an inspector to contract with you to make repairs he/she has suggested — this is a major conflict of interest, not to mention unethical. However, some inspectors do offer a guarantee or warranty on their service for an additional fee, although it is not a standard practice and not required. In a seller's market with multiple offers it is important to consider what repairs you are asking the seller to make. It is also important that you are not buying a home that does not meet your satisfaction, Your Realtor will be able to provide insight to help you make the best decison possible whether to move forward with the purchase.
How Much Does it Cost and How Long Will it Take?
Remember that a thorough, accurate home inspection takes time. The last thing you want to do is to try to hurry the inspector along. The inspector’s most important priority is accuracy, and accuracy takes time. The chances of mistakes and missed conditions are much more likely the more the inspector rushes through. Expect your home inspection to take anywhere between two and five hours (allowing about one hour for each 1,500 square feet of living space over 3,500 square feet). Of course, older homes will take longer than newer ones.
Expect your inspection to cost anywhere from $200-$500 depending on size of home, and if pool equipment is being inspected as well. The cost is worth it and may be one of the most important investments you make when buying a home.