What You Need to Know about Home Inspections

November 4, 2015

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, an inspection of the house for sale is an important part of the process. For the buyer, an inspection ensures that there are no major maintenance surprises after the deal has closed; for the seller, the inspection provides assurance that all parties understand the true value of the home as bargaining ensues.
But for home sellers who have never had an inspection done before, the actual inspection can be nerve-wracking: strangers entering your home to root out any serious problems that might be waiting in the rafters, crawl spaces, or the very foundation itself. The process can be similarly stressful for hopeful home-buyers—you really want the home, but you worry that the roof might need to be replaced in the next year, or that the electrical system has issues that will need to be addressed.
Home inspections help give buyers and sellers alike the peace of mind that expensive surprises aren’t going to derail the sale of the home. To help you prepare for a home inspection in the future, here are some things you need to know about this valuable process.

Home inspections provide an objective picture of the home’s condition

This is based on parts of the home that the inspector can see or gain access to, such as interior rooms, the home’s exterior, its electrical systems, heating, and air conditioning systems, plumbing systems, attic, basement or crawl spaces, and the foundation and structural components on the inside and outside of the home. Despite the thoroughness of the inspector’s observation, he or she is rarely looking for cosmetic defects in the home; the goal is to find functional or structural problems that affect the home’s safeness and soundness.

Education is the goal of the inspection—not finding a basis for renegotiating the price

Although the inspector’s findings can sometimes lead to price negotiations, this is rarely the case. In general, the resulting knowledge from a home inspection helps the buyer to understand any home maintenance or repairs that will be required in the future, as well as the physical condition of the home and any safety concerns that come with the property.

Other inspections may be needed for a larger-scale picture

While a home inspection roots out any safety, maintenance, and repair issues, it may also be a good idea to have a home appraisal, a termite inspection, or other types of hazard inspections, depending on where the home is located. None of those procedures can fully replace a home inspection, just as a home inspection does not necessarily discover all of the same findings as these other types of investigations.
An appraisal is different from a home inspection, because it simply provides a value for the property, whereas an inspection gives a comprehensive evaluation of the state of the property and no monetary value. Similarly, different types of hazard inspections provide highly specialized snapshots of different issues that may come with the home, whereas a home inspection seeks a more panoramic understanding of the home’s potential problems.

New homes can also be given an inspection

Just because you’re buying a brand-new home doesn’t mean you won’t want to have an inspection done.
If you are having a house built, you can have a home inspector check in on the home at different stages of the construction process. And if you are buying a new home that has already been constructed, you can hire an inspector to ensure that the house is well-built and won’t require any major care in its first years.

Inspections don’t have to be outrageously expensive

The average cost of a home inspection should be between $300 and $500, depending on the size of the home. You should question the credibility of the inspector if his or her fees are much cheaper or much more expensive.

Be careful of the certification program behind the inspector

As with any type of test or certification, you should be aware of your home inspector’s credentials. Not all certification programs are equal, and some are even granted just because the inspector pays a fee for the credentials.
Take the time to do some background research to make sure that your inspector is certified by a credible program that provides oversight and accountability for quality inspections. 
To get started, you can search for inspectors through the American Society of Home inspectors. Your real estate agent or bank should also be able to point you in the direction of a credible inspector.
Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family who live in the area for a recommendation, as well. You can check for reviews on rating sites such as Angie’s List, Google, and Yelp, but be sure to take the reviews on public sites with a grain of salt and do further research on credentials and background before you settle on someone. 


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