Before you make any major purchase, it is important to do some due diligence, researching the product thoroughly to ensure you know exactly what you are getting for your hard-earned money.
That is particularly true when you are purchasing a house, which is typically the most sizable investment of your entire life. You’ll want to know as much about the house as you can before you take out a mortgage loan, and the best way to acquire the knowledge you need is through a home inspection.
But what is a home inspection, exactly? And what should you expect from the process? Let us take a closer look at these and other questions.
What is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is essentially just a visual assessment of a house, including the physical structure of the home as well as its plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems, along with the roof, ceilings, floors, doors, and windows.
Home inspections are conducted by trained professionals, who will take their time looking over the home, testing out appliances, opening and closing doors, taking photographs, running faucets, observing drains, and whatever else they need to do to get a good sense of the home’s true condition.
The inspection will result in a lengthy report, which will include both written descriptions and photographs that explain the overall condition of the home and highlight any problems or issues.
Home inspections are typically purchased by a buyer, and the completion of the real estate transaction may be contingent on the inspection taking place and any issues amicably resolved. Important note: When you pay for a home inspection, the report is yours and yours alone. You do not have to disclose any of the details to an insurance company nor even to the seller. However, you will likely want to share the report with the seller if you need them to make any updates or repairs.
What’s the Difference Between a Home Inspection and a Home Appraisal?
Be aware that home inspections and home appraisals are two different things… and depending on your real estate situation, you may need to have both.
A home inspection is recommended but is never mandatory. It’s a service that allows you to have a better sense of a property’s condition before you purchase it.
An appraisal typically is required by your mortgage company. It won’t tell you anything about the condition of the property per se but will instead provide your lender with a sense of the home’s true value, ensuring they do not lend more money than the home is actually worth.
How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?
Before you pay for an inspection, you will naturally have some questions about how much it will cost.
The cost of a home inspection can vary according to the size of the home and the experience of your inspector. On average, the cost of a home inspection falls somewhere between $300 and $500.
While you may have the option of paying your inspector at closing (as part of your closing costs), it is more common to pay the inspector upfront.
Is a Home Inspection Really Worth It?
In addition to asking how much is a home inspection, many buyers ask is it really worth it?
The answer is a resounding yes, and for a couple of reasons. In some cases, a home inspector may reveal evidence of major structural problems with the home, including issues that would be extremely costly and time-intensive to correct. Based on this knowledge, you may choose to walk away from the home. The $500 you paid to the inspector may mean you evade repairs that cost well into the thousands… a worthwhile trade-off, to be sure.
Additionally, a home inspection may give you some leverage to negotiate with the seller. By furnishing them proof of underlying issues with the home, you may ask them to either fix the problem for you, or else lower their asking price. In either case, the price of the inspection itself may turn out to be just a drop in the bucket compared with the value you get in return.
What is Included in a Typical Home Inspection Report?
Following the inspection itself, your inspector may take a couple of days to draft a report. You can anticipate this report spanning many pages, and encompassing notes, diagrams, summaries, and checklists that touch on every room of the house, as well as every major home system.
The home inspection report should also provide some basic recommendations about what needs to be repaired or replaced.
One thing to keep in mind is that home inspections are not pass-fail, and the property will not be awarded a letter grade. Instead, the report will simply provide you with further information about the home, which you are free to use as you wish. This may mean further negotiating with the seller, or in some cases walking away from the deal altogether. At the same time, it may simply offer you peace of mind that the home you’re preparing to buy is a good investment.
What are Common Reasons to Fail a Home Inspection?
Buyers and sellers alike will wait with bated breath for the return of the home inspection report, wondering whether the property will “fail”… though again, that’s not really an accurate assessment of how home inspections work. Your home inspector will not “fail” the home but may return some findings that cause great concern.
Some of the most common issues that arise following a home inspection include:
- Grounds that slope or drain toward the house (which can put the property at risk for water damage).
- Problems or cracks with the foundation.
- Issues with the pipes or the plumbing.
- Problems with termites.
- Rotting wood.
- Electrical issues, including faulty wiring.
- Problems with the HVAC unit or the ducts.
- Leaks or other issues with the roof.
Should You Be Present for the Home Inspection?
Another common question regarding the home inspection: Do I need to be there?
For sellers, the answer is no; you will be asked to leave during the inspection, allowing the inspector to work unencumbered.
For buyers, however, it is recommended to attend the home inspection if at all possible. This gives you the chance to ask any questions you may have, and lets your inspector point out different issues they think you should know about.
Hiring a Home Inspector
There are plenty of home inspectors out there, and not all of them are created equal. As such, you’ll want to choose your inspector wisely.
It’s always a good idea to get a recommendation from one of the real estate pros you’re working with. Your agent probably has good relationships with local inspectors and can recommend someone trustworthy. If you are not working with an agent, you may also get a recommendation from your local mortgage lender.
You can also call around and talk with three or four different inspectors, asking each if they are certified, licensed, bonded, and insured. Also be sure to ask for a sample report, to get a sense of how thorough each inspector is, and how clearly they communicate.
Get More Information About Buying and Selling a Home
The bottom line: Getting a home inspection will cost you a few bucks, but that investment can be well worth it. You’ll either gain invaluable information about the condition of a property before you buy, potentially avoiding some pricey repair needs, or you’ll move forward fully confident and excited about your real estate investment.
For more information about home inspections, home appraisals, and the process of buying or selling a home, we welcome you to subscribe to the SOLD.com blog. We provide regular updates and insights into the real estate process, all drafted by seasoned agents or mortgage professionals. Subscribe to SOLD.com to stay in the loop.