Buying a home is a huge financial commitment. Lenders may require you to get a home inspection as part of the terms of your loan. A home inspection could reveal any number of issues with the condition of your property (faulty wiring, cracks in the foundation, termites, etc). These problems could present you with a headache, inconvenience or possibly enormous costs down the road.
Not only do some lenders require home inspections, prospective buyers have the legal right to have the home inspected prior to purchase. Getting your future home inspected by a professional home inspector for potential flaws is essential to ensure your purchase is the right decision at the right price during negotiations. Get your home inspected, and make an informed decision.
What is the difference between a general home inspection and home appraisal?Home Inspections
A general home inspection educates the buyer solely regarding the home’s current condition on that day. Home inspectors look for problems, minor and major, that could cost the buyer time and money. They also look for safety hazards. Examples of issues with the home could include, but are not limited to:
- Aesthetics - The home inspector may point out problems you’ve already noticed, such as chipped paint, a cracked driveway, or sticky windows or doors.
- Electrical wiring - An inspector looks for potential fire hazards, such as: aluminum wiring, knob and tube wiring, or any wires, gauges or connectors that are not up to code and could be safety issues.
- Plumbing - An inspection may reveal minor problems with faucets or drainage problems leading to dampness in the basement. An inspection also might inform you a big expense is forthcoming, like the need to replace an old septic system or water heater. The average life expectancy for a water heater is 8-12 years. Additionally, the average life expectancy for water supply lines made of galvanized steel is 20-50 years.
- Structural elements - There may be visible (or invisible) flaws, cracks or damage to the foundation of the home. You may need to get a second opinion from a structural engineer to determine the severity of the foundation issues, another potential expense. Walls, ceilings, basement, garage, floors, attic - all interior and exterior elements are inspected for quality.
- Heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) - Is your HVAC in good condition? Will it need replacing any time soon? The average life expectancy for an HVAC system is 15-20 years.
An appraisal of the home is an estimate of its current value. Sellers can benefit from having the most accurate picture of their home’s worth. By getting an appraisal, they can sell their home for a reasonable asking price. Like home inspections, appraisals take into account the condition of the home. However, appraisers also look at factors in addition to condition, such as:
- Location - Are there desirable schools or other public facilities in the neighborhood?
- Curb appeal - Does the home look aesthetically pleasing from the street?
- Size of the lot and home - The bigger the property and the greater the square footage, most likely the higher the value. More bedrooms and bathrooms also means more value.
- Comparisons - What is the cost of other comparable properties in the area?
Bottom line - An appraisal is an estimate of the overall value of the home, whereas an inspection is more focused on the home’s condition.What are Some Other Types of Home Inspections?
Roof - Roof certification is *not* usually covered in a general home inspection. A seller may provide roof certification to a buyer, but they may not. It’s a good idea to get your roof inspected every two years or so to give yourself peace of mind and get ahead of smaller leaks that could turn into bigger problems. Hire a reputable roof inspector recommended to you by friends and family and online consumer reviews. Get multiple bids before settling on someone to inspect your roof. Be aware there may be “storm-chasers” looking to take advantage of an area hit particularly hard by a natural disaster - you don’t want to get scammed.
Termite/pest - A home inspector is not generally trained to inspect for pests, or wood destroying organisms (WDO). The cost of a pest inspection can be between $50 and $280.
Well water - About 13 million Americans drink water from privately owned wells. If the home you’re considering has its own water supply, you should get the water tested prior to purchase as well as annually each spring, at a minimum. Public drinking water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Privately owned wells are not regulated by the government. Especially if you have an infant in the home, it is a good idea to get well water tested to ensure quality and safety.How do I Select a General Home Inspection Company?
Get a quote from at least three different home inspection companies. Your real estate agent may recommend a specific home inspector to you, but it’s important to do research of your own.
Although it’s not required in every state, it’s a good idea to ask to see the home inspector’s state certification or license. If you live in a state where law requires certification, your home inspector may have credentials from the National Associations of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), or the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).How Much Should I pay for a Home Inspection?
Buyers can expect to pay around $300 to $500 for a home inspection depending on the age and size of the home. Up front, the cost of an inspection could seem like an inconvenience. However, a home inspection that reveals a significant issue now could save you money down the road.
Much like selecting homeowners insurance, when you purchase a home inspection, you want to balance the cost of the inspection with quality. Buying your new home is most likely the biggest purchase of your lifetime. A home inspection is not something you want to pinch pennies on. Get several quotes to compare options.How Long Does the Inspection Take? What Should the Report Look Like?
An inspection should take at least three to four hours, depending on the size of the home. While it’s not required for buyers to be present during an inspection, it is highly recommended. Inspectors should closely examine every nook and cranny (not just take a quick look around). Upon completion of the inspection, the inspector’s report should provide you a narrative of the condition of the home, and include pictures and diagrams to inform your decision to buy the home.How do I use the Home Inspection to my Advantage During Negotiations?
A failing roof, faulty wiring or cracks in the foundation are major issues that can only be fixed at great expense. If you know about these issues early on, it may influence your decision to buy the home or not.
When a home inspection reveals significant imperfections, the buyer can use that to his or her advantage. Knowledge of potential issues with the home gives the buyer power during the negotiation process. You may think twice about paying the seller’s asking price for the home if the home inspector points out roof or plumbing leaks that could cause major structural damage down the road.
If you’re not pleased with the results of the home inspection, you can ask the seller to make repairs. The seller may be willing to make some repair concessions to further entice the buyer into settling negotiations. Or, even better, the seller could offer to bring down the price of the home equal to the cash value of making repairs.