The home-buying process can seem long-winded, especially if you’ve never gone through it before. By the time you near the closing stage, you may want to skirt over any steps that aren’t required. Although it might not be mandatory, it’s important to have your home inspected to avoid facing some potentially nasty surprises after you’ve been handed your new house keys.
Find out now: How much house can I afford?
Why Home Inspections Are Crucial
A home inspection involves a thorough examination of your home by a professional. It’s a way to double check that your home and all of its parts are in working order before you officially claim it as your own.
Passing on the home inspection might save you around 300 to 500 bucks. But when done properly, an inspection can bring to light a variety of problems you might have previously missed including mold, loose structures and wires, broken smoke detectors and anything else that could be hazardous to you and your loved ones.
What’s more, a home inspection could give you a reason to walk away from the home you wanted if you realize that it’s not up to par. Too many issues could cost you more money in the long-run if you end up needing major renovations.
For future homeowners preparing to close on a foreclosed or older home, a professional inspection can also reveal the condition of whatever is inside and outside of the house. That kind of information can give you a sense of when certain systems need to be replaced. So if you intend to get a home warranty, you’ll know exactly what your plan should cover.
The Home Inspection Process
If you’re convinced that you do in fact need a home inspection, your first step in the process is finding the right person for the job. Your real estate agent can connect you with a good candidate. Or you can look through the list on the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors to find someone who’s certified.
However you choose to go about tracking down an inspector, it’s a good idea to make sure that the person is qualified and has the credentials needed to do a comprehensive evaluation.
After you hire your inspector and sign a pre-inspection contract that details everything that will take place, the professional should look over just about every visible aspect of the house. Although this might be the perfect time to run some errands or grab lunch, you might want to be present for the inspection in case you disagree with any of the findings or you have follow-up questions.
The whole process should take about two to three hours. Generally, you can expect to receive an official report from the inspector within a 24-hour period. This may vary, however, if the inspectors in your state use different procedures.
If you’re happy with the inspector’s feedback, you’ll likely want to move forward with the closing. But if making the recommended adjustments seems too pricey, you can choose to back out of the deal. Depending on how your seller operates, he or she may be willing to lower the price of your home or take care of the problems before you buy the house.
Your Home Inspection Checklist
Before the assessment begins, it might be wise to have a printed copy of a professional home inspection checklist on-hand so you know exactly what to look for. The typical inspection should examine the following components to ensure that there aren’t any dangerous chemicals, missing parts, cracks, stains, leaks or other signs of damage:
- The roof, the home’s foundation, grading and outside walls
- The condition of the yard and landscaping
- Any railings and additions to the home’s exterior including patios, decks and sidewalks
- All of the windows and doors
- The plumbing and electrical systems
- Chimneys and fireplaces
- Smoke detectors and fire safety concerns
- Appliances in the kitchen area
- The air conditioning, heating and ventilation systems
- Any painting, paneling and trim
Anything below the surface that can’t be seen will probably not be included in the inspection, such as asbestos within your bedroom walls. Swimming pools, alarm systems and sprinkler systems may also be excluded. If there are termites or advanced electrical problems, you may have to hire an expert who can help you resolve these issues.
The Bottom Line
A home inspection may seem like an unnecessary burden if you’ve already emptied your bank account to pay for a range of other costs. Still, it’s one of the best ways to uncover anything you may have missed during your walk-throughs in the past.
If you’ve applied for a mortgage through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), a home inspection may be done while your home is appraised. But a more detailed inspection may be necessary to catch additional concerns.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Pamela Moore, ©iStock.com/Pamela Moore, ©iStock.com/James Brey