A home inspection is an objective visual examination of a home – top to bottom. It is a snapshot of the home, if you will, given the conditions present at the time of the inspection. It should not just include problems that the inspector may recommend for further evaluation, but also positive aspects of the home. Recommendations for future maintenance or even a “heads up” comments should be common. A home inspection is NOT a punch-out list. It is not a document to provide a buyer leverage or position to come back at the seller or to try to get a better deal. It is information, and should be good information.
Q: WHAT DO HOME INSPECTIONS INCLUDE?
The inspection report should be comprehensive. It should review the various aspects of the home – structure, exterior, roof, plumbing, electrical system, HVAC, interior, kitchen, bath, utilities, insulation, ventilation and appliances. Some cosmetic commentary is added, such things as walls, floors, carpets, windows and general maintenance.
Q: CAN EVERYTHING BE INSPECTED ALL THE TIME?
There are times when some systems cannot be inspected. For example, during cold weather the air conditioning should be not turned on. Similarly, during warm weather, a heat pump should not be operated on the heat setting. Such tests can damage or even break the system! Rule #1 on a home inspection: Don’t Break Anything! Rule #2: Pay Real Close Attention to Rule #1.
Q: SHOULD I EVEN BOTHER TO GET A HOME INSPECTION?
For most people, a home is the largest purchase they will ever make. It is good to know as much as you can before buying one! In the investment world, that attitude is called “due diligence.” An inspection helps minimize surprises and aids a home buyer to enter the purchase with eyes wide open. An inspection also points out good things, gives maintenance tips or preventative guidance that helps you to look forward. Sellers also might want an inspection to get the house ready for sale and avoid problems later. Of course, a well-maintained house is the best sales feature!
Q: MY UNCLE KNOWS A GUY IS IN CONSTRUCTION AND CAN DO MY INSPECTION, THANKS.
A construction background is not comparable to the knowledge and background of a professional inspector who has conducted hundreds, or thousands, of home inspections. Construction knowledge is really a small part of the home inspection. A house is comprised of various systems all of which work together. Your inspector is objective – your friend or relative is not. A professional inspector’s judgment is not affected by affiliation. An experienced inspector is worth his weight in gold. He should be not only qualified, but certified and demonstrate that he has good experience with the process. The best associations have criteria that they require and expect of not only the inspector, but the report he produces afterwards. The report that is generated is crucial to the process, not only for the buyer but also the seller. Things should be clear. Things should be professional.
Q: WHAT IS THE COST?
This might vary from inspector to inspector. Some charge on the price of the house, others based on square footage or numbers of kitchens or bedrooms. Additional services, like radon, thermal imaging or septic inspections will also add to the cost. Ask the inspector! Cost is probably not the best question to ask of your inspector. Cheaper is usually not better. Be sure to check out his experience. You probably wouldn’t search for the cheapest architect or lawyer or surgeon, but the one who has the experience you are looking for. Qualifications, experience, professional affiliations and abilities are the most important criteria to ask questions about.
Q: DOES A HOUSE PASS OR FAIL AN INSPECTION?
No, not really. A home inspection is a look at the house on the day of the inspection. It is not a code-compliance evaluation, city or county inspection or appraisal of market value. There is a huge market for the buyer who WANTS a house that has not been cared for. Those buyers want to fix it up and sell it at a profit. Their objectives are different than the average buyer. Either way, the home inspection is a description of the house on that day.
Q: WHEN SHOULD I CALL IN THE HOME INSPECTOR?
Your contract will have a period of time during which an inspection needs to be conducted. Typically it is done after all the agreements are signed and ratified, and then within a few days. There is usually a contractual clause making your purchase contingent upon a home inspection. This clause specifies the terms that obligate both buyers and sellers. But not all contracts have such a clause. Some inspections are done for “information only.”
Q: SHOULD I BE THERE?
Not necessarily, but I strongly recommend it. The inspection should be educational as well as informative. You might want to know where certain shut-off valves are located, how systems work, which switches control appliances, and so forth. The report will be easier to understand if you have been there and seen the house with the inspector.
Q: WHAT IF THERE ARE REAL PROBLEMS?
I have not yet seen the perfect house. Problems do not mean that you should not buy the house. But, knowledge is power. Problems are relevant – you might want to cancel the purchase if a problem is serious enough or very expensive to repair. Or you might still want to proceed with the purchase. Either way, information is extremely important.
Q: IF THE HOME INSPECTION REVEALS A REALLY CLEAN, WELL-MAINTAINED HOUSE WITH FEW PROBLEMS, SHOULD I HAVE EVEN GOTTEN THE INSPECTION TO BEGIN WITH??
SURE! Now your purchase proved to be a good one! Peace of mind is worth a million bucks!