HOME INSPECTIONS (A Buyer’s Guide) Part One of a Two-Part Series

Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at inspections from both the viewpoints of the home buyer and the home seller. In both instances, you will probably deal with a home inspection as part of the transaction. Even if the home is newer, renovated or in excellent shape, most buyers make their offer contingent on a home inspection.

Because buyers are investing a significant sum of money into the property, they need to know there are no surprises. On the other hand, buyers need to realize that owning a home involves a certain amount of repair and maintenance, and that they’ll want to make changes so that the house reflects their taste.

How to Hire an Inspector

Buyers are responsible for hiring and paying for an inspector. Typically, you have 10 days to complete the inspection, review the report and have your realtor send any requests to the sellers’ agent. If you are actively looking for a new home, you may want to research inspection companies ahead of time.

Your realtor should be able to suggest a reputable inspector. An online search will also turn up several prospects. When considering which inspector to choose, keep these things in mind:

  • Specific Requirements – If you are looking for a historic home, waterfront home or have other specific requirements, you may want to make sure your inspector has experience in these situations.

  • References – Most inspectors will include testimonials on their website, but you may also want to ask for references and talk to a few clients about their experiences.

  • Insurance – Buyers should ask if the inspector carries Errors & Omissions Insurance, which helps cover liability after the inspection is over.

  • Sample Inspection Reports – You may want to see a sample report to review how in-depth it is.

Should the Buyer Be Present During the Inspection

It can be advantageous to attend the inspection as a buyer. The inspector will be thoroughly looking through the house, top to bottom, and testing all major systems, including electrical, heating/cooling, plumbing and structural. In addition to learning about your new home, you will see his areas of concern and be able to judge for yourself how significant they are.

What Occurs During the Inspection

  1. The inspector will first look at the readily accessible exposed portions of the home, including the roof, attic, basement, garage/out-buildings.

  2. Next the inspector will typically test interior plumbing, heating/cooling systems, electrical outlets, water pressure, appliances and more.

  3. Similarly, the inspector will look at wiring, cabinets, railings, windows, chimneys, and on and on.

  4. Typically, the inspector will give the buyer a written report at the end of the inspection or, if supplied electronically, will email it within 24 hours.

What Steps to Take After the Inspection

An inspection contingency may allow buyers to renegotiate the selling price of the home or ask for repairs to be made. Repairs that could have been seen during the showings should have been taken into consideration when you made your offer, either in the offer price or as a contingency to have the repair done before closing. The inspection report does not provide the chance to go back and negotiate for conditions of which the buyer was already aware.

If there are major repairs or concerns that couldn’t be ascertained during the regular showings, then it may be appropriate to renegotiate. Things such as mold, insects, non-operating systems should almost always be addressed. Smaller items, though, like a loose board on the porch, sticking doors or a rotting step, may not. If there was competitive bidding on a home, the seller might just go to the next buyer. In a buyers’ market, the seller might be willing to make major repairs.

Sellers may agree to none, part, or all of the buyers’ request based on the inspection. They may choose to do the work themselves, hire their own contractors or lower the price so the buyers can fix the problems after the closing.

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