home inspection

What to Expect During a Home Inspection

Buying a home is one of the biggest investments most people will ever make. Before finalizing a purchase, it’s crucial to have the property thoroughly inspected by a professional home inspector. A home inspection allows buyers to evaluate the current condition of the home and understand any repairs that may be needed.

Knowing what to expect during the inspection process can help buyers make the most out of this important step. Here’s an overview of what typically happens during a standard home inspection, and tips for getting the most out of it.

Scheduling the Inspection

After a buyer has placed an offer on a home and conducted negotiations, the next step is to schedule the home inspection. Buyers will choose and hire the home inspector. It’s best to give at least a week between the accepted offer and inspection date to allow enough time to find and book a reputable home inspector.

Inspections are generally scheduled during normal business hours and take two to three hours for the average single family home. The seller will need to ensure the utilities are turned on and the property is accessible. If the current occupants are still living in the home, they will need to be prepared for the inspection as well.

What the Inspector Will Examine

The home inspector will assess the current quality and condition of the home’s major systems and components. This includes:

  • Structural elements: Foundation, floors, walls, windows, doors, roof
  • Electrical: Panel, wiring, outlets, switches, fixtures
  • Plumbing: Water lines, drain and vent pipes, toilets, faucets, water heater
  • Appliances: Furnace, central air, water heater, garage door opener
  • Ventilation: Kitchen, bath and laundry exhaust fans, dryer vent, attic fans
  • Fire safety: Smoke alarms, fire alarms, sprinklers
  • Pest infestation: Evidence of wood destroying insects, rodents, etc.
  • Grading and drainage: Sloping of ground away from home, gutters, downspouts

The inspection will be visual and operational only. For example, the inspector will run all faucets, appliances, light switches, etc. to observe functionality. But they won’t take apart mechanisms or do destructive testing.

Any area that is not easily accessible, such as behind walls or under flooring, cannot be inspected directly. Instead, the inspector will look for visible signs of potential issues.

What the Inspector Won’t Check

While home inspectors check the overall condition of the home, there are several things that fall outside the scope of a standard inspection:

  • Code compliance: An inspector will not verify whether a home complies with building codes or zoning regulations. Specialized code inspectors employed by the local government are required for code compliance checks.
  • Home warranty: The basic home inspection does not guarantee the future performance of systems or appliances. Optional home warranty policies can be purchased for certain coverage.
  • Appraisal value: Home inspectors do not confirm or assess the property’s market value. A real estate appraiser performs this role in the buying process.
  • Pools, hot tubs, specialty systems: Standard inspections usually exclude ancillary systems like pools, hot tubs, lawns, and low voltage lighting. Additional inspection of these items can be arranged at an added cost.
  • Mold, asbestos, lead: Inspectors do not test for environmental hazards and toxic materials unless specifically requested. Specialized tests are needed to detect issues like mold, asbestos, lead paint, etc.

Attending the Inspection

The buyer is strongly encouraged to attend the home inspection in person. This allows the buyer to see the property through the objective eyes of the inspector. The buyer can ask questions and learn about any concerns as they arise.

Attending also helps the buyer develop a mental checklist of repairs needed and evaluate their urgency. It may spur buyers to conduct specialized tests for hazards like radon or mold. Buyers can also determine cosmetic fixes they may want done even if not mandated.

If unable to attend in person, the buyer should be available by phone. A remote video inspection can also be arranged in some cases. This still provides the buyer a chance to be informed in real time.

What to Look for During the Inspection

In addition to the inspector’s findings, there are several things buyers should watch for on their own during the inspection:

Water penetration signs: Carefully check for any water staining or damage on walls, floors or ceilings. Look for mold, mildew and rotting wood. Signs of leaking pipes or past flooding issues are red flags.

Cracks and shifting: Look for any expanding cracks in the floors, walls or ceilings that may signal a foundation problem. Also inspect for shifting, sloping or bowing that could imply structural movement.

Signs of pests: Keep an eye out for any evidence of termites, carpenter ants, rodents or other pests on the property. Look for chew marks, droppings, nesting materials, etc.

Foul odors: Be aware of any unusual odors in each room that could reveal issues. A musty smell may mean past water damage. Foul odors from appliances could mean a gas leak. Sewer gas odor indicates a plumbing problem.

Faulty wiring: Look for exposed wiring, loose connections, knob-and-tube wiring or circuit breaker panels that indicate outdated electrical systems. This poses a safety and fire hazard.

Faulty plumbing: Look for corroded pipes, stains below fixtures, low water pressure at faucets, broken appliances and other indications of failing plumbing.

Reviewing the Home Inspection Report

After completing the visual inspection, the home inspector will provide a detailed written report of their findings along with photos. Expect to receive the full report within 24-48 hours. This will include:

  • Overview of all systems and components inspected
  • List of any deficiencies noted
  • Recommendations on any repairs or replacements needed
  • Estimated costs for the recommended repairs
  • Summary of any warranties, guarantees or life expectancies provided by the seller

Buyers should review the inspection report closely and create a list of concerns. It’s helpful to organize these by priority:

  • Priority repairs: Major issues that require immediate repair, such as foundation cracks, faulty electrical, roof leaks, drainage problems, etc.
  • Short-term repairs: Less urgent issues that should be addressed within 6-12 months. Examples include an aging water heater, worn out HVAC system, damaged gutters, etc.
  • Maintenance needs: Ongoing maintenance required, like servicing the furnace annually, sealing outdoor wood surfaces, cleaning chimney, etc.
  • Cosmetic fixes: Minor cosmetic flaws the buyer may choose to update like interior paint, flooring, hardware, etc. These are lower priority but can still be addressed.

Negotiating Repairs After the Inspection

Once the buyer has reviewed the inspection report and created a repair request list, this information can be used to re-negotiate with the seller. Options include:

  • Request the seller makes priority repairs before closing. The buyer may ask the seller to take responsibility for critical repairs found. Sometimes sellers will agree to credit the buyer at closing for major issues instead.
  • Ask for a price reduction. Based on the estimated costs of repairs needed, the buyer may re-negotiate the sale price. A fair discount off the purchase price can help offset future repair costs.
  • Walk away from the deal. If the inspection reveals significant issues, excessive repairs, or problems cost prohibitive to fix, the buyer may decide to void the contract. This should be done quickly so both parties can move on.
  • Accept the property “as-is”. If defects are minor, the buyer may choose to accept the property in its current state without requiring any repairs from the seller.

Proceeding with the transaction or walking away will depend on the severity of issues uncovered and whether the seller is willing to negotiate fair terms.

Choosing the Right Home Inspector

A thorough home inspection from a qualified professional is critical. Here are tips for selecting the best home inspector:

  • Use referrals. Ask real estate agents, lenders, family and friends for inspector recommendations. Reputable inspectors depend on referrals to build their business.
  • Verify credentials. Choose an inspector with extensive experience, training, licensing, and professional memberships. Look for ASHI or InterNACHI certification.
  • Check reviews. Look for consistently positive home inspector reviews and ratings online. This provides insight into an inspector’s skills and professionalism.
  • Compare services. Inspectors offer different options like sewer scoping, mold testing, pool inspection, etc. Understand exactly what’s included to get the coverage you need.
  • Ask about the process. Make sure the inspector outlines their inspection process, provides detailed reports, and is available to explain the findings.
  • Get an independent opinion. Avoid using an inspector recommended by your real estate agent. Opt for an unbiased third-party opinion.

Taking time to choose the right home inspector will give you confidence in the condition assessment of the largest purchase you may ever make.

Preparing for the Inspection

Buyers should take steps to prepare for the inspection day:

  • Review the property disclosure form provided by the sellers for any existing issues they disclosed.
  • Research the home’s age, systems, and any permits pulled to understand what to focus on.
  • Give the inspector as much detail as possible ahead of time, including layouts, number of rooms, type of foundation, etc.
  • Have repair estimates handy so you can make repair requests if needed.
  • Prepare a list of questions specific to the home that the inspector can address.
  • If planning to DIY repairs, ask about the best methods and priorities.
  • Let occupants know when the inspection will happen so they can allow access.
  • Make sure utilities are on, appliances/pilot lights are lit, and pets are secured out of the way.

Being organized and prepared allows buyers to maximize the value of the inspector’s limited time on site.

Important Notes on the Inspection

While home inspections are extremely helpful for buyers, a few important notes to keep in mind:

  • Inspections are a snapshot in time. Conditions can change and issues arise that were not evident at the time of inspection.
  • Inspectors cannot predict future problems or how long systems will remain functional. Regular maintenance will be required.
  • An inspection does not protect against expensive repairs down the road. Home warranty policies help cover certain repairs after closing.
  • Cosmetic flaws and minor wear and tear on a home are normal. Focus repairs on issues impacting living conditions, safety and function.
  • If additional assessments for asbestos, mold, etc. are recommended, hire specialized technicians to perform them.
  • Thoroughly research contractors before hiring any you do not know to perform repairs.

The home inspection provides invaluable information but is one of many steps in due diligence on a property. Work with qualified professionals and keep up with regular maintenance and improvements in the years ahead.

Final Walkthrough

Just before closing, buyers have the right to conduct a final walkthrough of the property. This is a chance to verify:

  • Any requested repairs by the seller were completed properly
  • The home is empty and in the same condition as when inspections were conducted
  • No new damage has occurred
  • All appliances and fixtures are operational

If the agreed upon repairs were not made, buyers may delay closing until they are addressed. Or require credits to complete the work themselves.

The final walkthrough provides peace of mind before signing the deeds over and investing in the property.

Finding the Right Home for You

A professional home inspection helps ensure buyers see a property through an impartial, highly trained eye. While unexpected repairs or costs may still pop up later, inspection results allow buyers to make informed decisions about pursuing a home or negotiating needed improvements.

Along with a comparative market analysis, appraisal, title search and insurance review, the home inspection is a key part of due diligence. Taking advantage of this important step will give buyers confidence they have found the right home before finalizing one of the largest purchases of a lifetime.

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