Home inspections are the key action a buyer can and should take when buying a new home. Failing to spend $3-400 to get a professional home inspection is like buying a used car without going for a drive and getting it checked out by your mechanic. You would never do that. The small cost of a home inspection to find out what you are really buying is the best money you will spend prior to the close of escrow. (If this is your first home, please read 10 Worst First-Time Homebuyer Mistakes.)
As a professional home inspector I have uncovered some horrors like sinking foundation, major water leaks, major mould conditions, failing roofs and leaning walls. To rely on the sellers disclosure is not very smart. Most sellers are very honest and will disclose all they know about the house but few of them are in the construction trade or have any knowledge at all about how things should be or not be. They may not even be aware of a major problem in the house as “it has always been that way” and it has never concerned them.
Imagine taking possession of the house and finding out the floor is sagging in one room due to a failing foundation or incorrect construction of the building. Would it not be worth paying $400 to save you that heartache? I think so.
Other advantages of the inspection are that it provides you with a bargaining tool in the negotiations on the price. You can ask the seller to fix certain things or give you a credit so you can take care of it yourself. Maybe the seller wont play ball but at least you know where you stand on the condition of the property.
Home inspectors vary in their knowledge and skill. This is one profession where you will definitely get what you pay for. Shopping around and taking the cheapest price is false economy. It is like asking your curbside mechanic brother to check out the new car you are going to buy. He may do a good job but he will not do as well as a trained professional mechanic. He will miss things, not out of anything malicious intent, just lack of knowledge. Same with a home inspector.
A good home inspection will take a couple of hours at least depending on the size of the house and its condition. After this inspection the inspector should take you for a walk through the house and show you all the things he found and answer all your questions. This is very important. The buyer is the one paying the inspector and as such the inspector needs to service the buyer and give them all the information they can. Showing the buyer the problems is way better than just having them read the report. When they see the problem in the physical universe they get to understand and ask questions. This should be the inspectors goal.
A good home inspector will have a computerized report with many photos of the problem areas and the positive ones as well. My reports typically run 25 – 30 pages long with a cover sheet and I email them out the same day. My reports also color code the problems. Red is Safety concerns, Green is Recommended upgrades, Purple is Further evaluation, Blue is Corrections recommended. All these different colors making it easy to scan the report for items of interest.
A good inspector will even tell the buyer about routine maintaince issues on the walk through. There is a lot the inspector can teach a home owner about the biggest purchase of their life so it is money very well spent.
No inspector is infallible and there are times some small thing will get missed. The inspection is a visual one only. It is looking for clues as to what is wrong, not the full cause of it. For example an uneven floor may be noted but the inspector may not be able to get under the house to find out what is wrong. He will recommend further evaluation by a profession in the appropriate trade.
This situation is also most likely to occur in a house that is still lived in when the cupboards are still full, floors are covered with furniture and the garage packed etc. Inspectors will not move the seller’s property due to the liability issue. In the case of something getting missed or coming evident once the seller has moved out a professional inspector will come back free (or for a small charge if it is an area that was obscured) and re-inspect the omission. This will be a very rare situation but it does happen.
Another example may be a roof that leaks when it rains but was not obvious during the inspection. This can be problematic in low rainfall areas like southern California.
I recently came across one where the under counter cabinets in a kitchen were packed full and it was not possible to full inspect the area. Once it was emptied out there was a major mould situation from an old water leak. Where something like this is suspected ask the inspector if he will come back and re-inspect prior to the close of escrow. You may get charge an additional $75 or similar but it may well be worth it. I have seen homeowners deliberately hide defects too but this is rare.
A complete inspection should go from the dirt to the roof including under the house and the attic and include the following areas. Roofs are not always walked on due to hight or the type of roof covering. Clay tiles will break if walked on. In such a case the inspector will check from a window if possible or even binoculars if that will work.
· Exterior walls & fences
· Foundation and basements
· Grading and landscaping
· Garage or carport –
· Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) –
· Water heater
· Kitchen appliances (fixed ones only)
· Laundry room –
· Fire safety –
· Bathrooms –
Home inspectors are generalists. They will note that the plumbing might have a problem, and will recommend that you hire a professional plumber to verify the problem. Termite damage, site contamination, mold, engineering problems and other specialized issues are not part of a home inspection (Learn how to find qualified experts in The Better Business Bureau’s Tool Belt For Saving Cash.)
After the Inspection there are several options for you to pursue.
a. You can walk away if the problem is more than you want to handle.
b. You can ask the seller to fix the problems or give you a credit to do it yourself.
c. If you have the knowledge and experience you can just take it as is and either fix it yourself or get it done professionally.
You can go to this site and read Do-It-Yourself Projects To Boost Home Value.)
You will have to come up with a few hundred dollars for the inspection but it will be well worth it and you will be glad to spend it if the inspector finds something that will kill the deal or cost more than you bargained for. Your home inspector is your friend. Treat him as such.