If this is your first time buying a home, the home inspection process may seem intimidating, and for experienced home buyers, it may seem unnecessary. A home inspection, however, is one of the most important steps in the home buying process. Follow these five tips to uncover the less obvious aspects of a home that could affect your buying decision.
1. Don’t skip the inspection.
The inspection gives you a professional assessment of any problems with the house that could affect its overall cost. You don’t want to buy a house just to discover a month later that all the electrical wiring needs to be replaced. In addition to helping you understand the value of a home, the inspection can provide vital information about the standard maintenance and repair your new home may need in the years ahead.
2. Take a look before the inspection.
The inspection process really begins with your first tour of the home. Whether or not you have any experience with home repair or construction, a tour is your chance to start looking for any issues you would want an inspector to examine more closely. If your real estate agent has vetted the home before your first tour, ask them if they noticed anything that could come up in an inspection. Your agent may also have shown other houses in the same area and be able to provide insight into issues in the neighborhood, such as flooding or pest problems. It’s also a good idea to bring a pen and paper or take notes and photos on your phone to remind you later of what you’ve learned.
3. Review the seller’s disclosure before the inspection.
The home sellers will provide you with a seller’s disclosure statement, which should provide information about any known issues with the home as well as a history of repairs and upgrades. While disclosure laws vary by location, the disclosure is an important document to review before your inspection. It will enable you to look for problems that would be deal breakers for you, like major construction in the area or a history of water damage that could encourage mold growth and undermine the home’s structural integrity.
4. Find a professional.
Your real estate agent can probably recommend an inspector, but you can also shop around and compare pricing and availability. Whoever you choose should be a licensed, professional inspector. Contractors are often also licensed as inspectors, but watch out for conflict of interest if your contractor would also be the person who would be hired to make any repairs. You can ask to see a sample checklist from an inspector to get an idea of the sorts of things they typically look for. For example, if you are interested in an older home, it’s a good idea to find an inspector who has experience with asbestos, lead paint, and energy inefficiency.
5. Know where to look.
Although your inspector will likely have their own checklist, it’s important for you to have an idea of what they should be looking at and follow along with a checklist of your own. Keep in mind that the inspection only covers aspects of the home that are readily visible; the inspector will not remove siding, drywall, or cabinetry.
Proper inspections cover much more than just leaky faucets, and the exterior of the house is just as important as the interior. Outside inspection should include:
Your inspector will be looking for any cracks or uneven areas as well as things like tree roots that could cause problems over the long term. They will also look along the floors inside the house for foundation problems.
Moss, damaged shingles, and low overhanging trees can all be signs that a roof is in poor condition. Gutters should be clear of debris and properly attached.
Paint and Siding
Exterior paint is more than just aesthetic. Discolored areas can be a sign of leaking or damage, and fresh paint helps protect the siding from mold.
After you and your inspector have covered the exterior of the home, it’s time to move inside. You’ll be looking at visible areas like light fixtures and flooring as well as the internal workings of the home.
Your inspector will examine the faucets, toilets, and water heater.
The electrical panel should be accessible and clearly labeled. There shouldn’t be any exposed wires or other obvious safety issues.
Water Damage or Leaks
Any visible water damage should be reported in the disclosure, and any undisclosed water damage will be assessed.
The furnace should be free of rust or signs of damage like dents. Your inspector may cycle the heating and cooling system to make sure it’s functioning properly.
Some appliances may be included with the home, but others may not; your realtor should be able to tell you which is which. Any appliances that are staying should be functional, clean, and safe.
Your inspector will also look over the seller’s disclosure for any issues that could require repairs. Because the seller’s disclosure also provides information about past repairs, it can be useful for your inspector to get an idea of any upgrades or replacements that may be due.
Vital Information for Homebuyers
After the home has been inspected, you will be given a home inspection report. This document details the state of the home on the day the inspection was completed, so any necessary repairs should be considered in the final sale price of the home. If you’re buying the home as-is, then the seller won’t be responsible for funding those repairs, but the inspection is still an important part of the home buying process so you have a clear and accurate understanding of the amount of work the home will need. Whether your inspection reveals a perfect home ready for move-in or a host of problems requiring attention, you’ll be glad you had a professional assessment before making any big decisions.