The Real Estate market is brisk. Buyers and sellers are rushing to get the best deals and move the process along quickly BUT one of the most important aspects of buying should not be overlooked; The Inspection Process.
If you are a buyer, before you start moving your furniture in, you’ve got one VERY IMPORTANT detail on your purchase condition- The Inspection. If you are a seller, you’re not done negotiating yet. Be ready for a possible renegotiation depending on the condition of the home and a buyer who may try to get a better deal AFTER you signed off on your agreement.
A home inspection is a complete, objective, visual examination of the overall physical structures and systems of a house, from the roof to the foundation, and the surrounding landscape.
Home inspections are conducted to verify the quality and integrity of the home – and point out potential trouble areas that a new homeowner may have to think about after they purchase a home or significant structural failures.
The home inspection is a contingency written into most offers, meaning that if the buyers aren't happy with the result, they can cancel the sale without losing their earnest money deposit, or reopen negotiations and ask for a price reduction.
So, it's imperative to prepare yourself and your home for this important step of the process.
How do you prepare yourself and your home for this very crucial step of the home buying/selling process? We have answered some of the most important questions when it comes to home inspections below!
1.) When Do I Need to Schedule A Home Inspection?
Usually, home inspectors are hired immediately after the buyers have signed a contract or a purchase agreement for your home.
2.) How Much Does A Home Inspection Cost?
$200-400, depending on the size of the house.
3.) Will There Always Be A Home Inspection?
Yes, there will almost always be a home inspection before the sale is final. One of the only ways to avoid one is if the buyer is planning to tear down the existing house and rebuild. They might want to appear as a more attractive buyer, so the could offer to forgo the inspection to make the sale happen more quickly and smoothly.
But most buyers are going to want to know what they are investing in, and they will want to know what systems work and which don’t. They want to know how much extra money they may need to put into the purchase, and which items will be the responsibility of the seller to fix. Overall, buying a home is one of the biggest purchases you will ever make, and buyers want to know exactly what they are getting into.
Home inspections can do one of two things for the buyer: either give them peace of mind that their purchase is sound, or it can be a tool they use to bargain down the price. Sometimes, people who may be experiencing a little buyer’s remorse may use the home inspection to back out of the deal without being penalized.
This all may sound a little overwhelming and scary, but don’t worry! The first home inspection you get will give you a good idea at the actual state of your home’s systems and possible problems. You can use the results from this first home inspection to fix some areas in order to be more prepared for the next buyer that may come along.
4.) What Will Inspectors Be Looking At?
A home inspection is not a quick surface check of the home, it is detailed and involved into everything about your home, from your roof to your basement. If they can reach it, they will inspect it. So be prepared to know more about the actual state of your home than you may have ever wanted to know!
Here are just some of the areas of the home your inspector is checking, and what a home inspector is looking for:
• Foundation – The foundation is checked for integrity, and to make sure that it is free of cracks and damage.
• Lot – The lot is checked to ensure adequate drainage and grading. Quality of walkways/driveways may also be assessed.
• Exterior – Exterior components such as siding, windows, storm windows, doors, and screen doors, and other such components are checked for quality and integrity. • Roof and attic – The roof and attic are checked to ensure proper insulation, ventilation, and that they are free of leaks.
• Interior – The interior is checked for damage, and interior elements like light fixtures, outlets, switches, doors, and others will be checked for functionality.
• Basement – The basement is checked for water damage, and issues like any mold or leaks that are present may be noted. The gas and plumbing lines may also be examined.
• Plumbing – Basic functionality of plumbing systems will be checked, such as ensuring the operation of all sinks, toilets, taps, and showers, and adequate hot/cold water and water pressure.
• Electrical – Basic electrical elements such as the fuse box, as well as outlets and switches will be examined for any potential faults or code issues.
• Major appliances – Large appliances such as freezers, refrigerators, dishwashers, washers and dryers, and all other such appliances may be examined and tested.
• HVAC systems – A basic inspection of the furnace and air conditioning will be performed, with notes taken about the general condition and age of these systems
5.) How Can You Prepare?
The home inspection isn’t really something that you can easily prepare for, other than having your home open and available to the inspector, as well as any area they will be inspecting, i.e.: attics, basements, electrical panels should be open and ready. Here is a detailed list of things to do before the inspection in order to make it go as smoothly as possible:
• Clean and de-clutter your home: Inspectors will look beyond the superficial cleanliness of your home and will be going deep into attics, basements, garages, and any other area that they can. Have toys, tools, and general clutter cleaned up around electrical panels and any access doors.
• Get organized: You should create a file with documentation of all maintenance and repairs you’ve done on your home. If you’ve had an insurance claim on your house, keep those papers together, too, so you can prove that you took care of the problem.
• Provide complete access to your home: Make sure you unlock gates and doors to a shed or garage that doesn’t have lockbox access.
6.) Should You Consider Getting a Pre-Inspection to Eliminate Any Surprises?
Some sellers choose to hire their own inspector to give the house a once-over and point out any problems, so they can fix them before the buyer's home inspector arrives on the scene, but this could be a dangerous tactic.
If you have several inspectors inspect the home, you very well could get a variety of lists with differing items from each person inspecting the home. Just because your inspector didn’t think a certain thing was a problem, that doesn’t mean another inspector won't as well.
And one other thing to consider with this approach, if your inspector points out a particular problem with the home, you are then obligated to disclose it to the buyers. This could not go well in the long run.
7.) Should You Stay During the Inspection?
The best thing you can do is let the inspector have free reign of the home without interruption. Your anxiety and worry will only make everyone uncomfortable and prolong the inspection.
Inspectors need to be able to freely inspect and discuss any and everything they come across. You may think you are being helpful by being present, but you are not.
Inspectors also bring all their own tools and ladders, so no need to provide these such things. When your inspector shows up, the best thing you can do is climb in your car and go distract yourself for a couple hours.
8.) Can Your Home Fail the Inspection?
No. There is no such thing as a “pass” or “fail” when it comes to home inspections. A home inspection is a professional, objective view of the home’s overall condition. It’s not an appraisal, which is typically done by a bank to determine the market value of a home. It is also not a municipal inspection, which ensures compliance with local municipal building codes.
Because of this, there is no such thing as a “fail” for home inspections, and the inspector will also not give you an estimate for the overall value of the home – just estimates about how much the repairs may cost, and how serious these problems are.
9.) Should You Take the Results Personally?
The process of buying or selling a house is a competition. You should remember this, especially during the home inspection process. Sellers want to get the highest price they can from the sale, but buyers, in contrast, are hoping for the lowest price from the sale.
When you get the list of problems from the inspection report, remember to try and take your personal feelings out of it and remember this is a business deal. This may be hard because for some people, they have spent decades in the same house and that comes with a certain level of attachment to the property, but buyers are mostly looking at this as a business deal and are hoping to make a sound decision that they are comfortable with at the end of the deal.
A home inspector’s job is to point out each and every deficit and safety violation that they see. So arguing with the buyers about an inspector’s findings will not help you in the long run.
You need to stay focused and calm and communicate with the buyer to resolve any of the issues on the inspection report. This could mean agreeing to pay to have an item fixed, or it could just involve something simple, like providing documentation of a repair.
This is where an experienced real estate agent is vital to keeping the entire communication and transaction as smooth as possible. Agents know how to interpret the inspection reports, they know which issues are vital to address, and which ones are used to reopen price negotiations. Finding an experienced real estate agent is crucial to navigating through these more complex parts of the home buying/selling processes.
10.) What Services Aren’t Included in a Home Inspection?
Some home inspectors may offer additional services, which exceed the scope of a typical home inspection, for an extra charge. Others may not offer these services at all and refer you to a specialized third-party company.
In most cases, the following services are not included with a home inspection.
• Mold – If you or the home inspector notices black mold during the inspection, a full-scale mold test may be required.
• Radon – Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas which can cause lung cancer.
• Termites – This may be recommended if your home inspector sees tell-tale signs of a termite infestation.
• Asbestos – Asbestos examinations are usually only required for homes built before 1989.
• Lead – Lead was commonly used in both paint and pipes in homes built before 1978. Typically, a lead examination is recommended for these older homes, unless there is documentation proving that lead was not used in the home, or was already removed previously.
• Septic/sewer – Home inspectors do not conduct sewer and septic tank examinations. It’s recommended that you have these systems checked by a plumbing professional, as replacing pipes and septic tanks can be extremely expensive.
In general, your home inspector should be able to help you understand which of these additional services you require. You may not need all of them – but in most cases, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
11.) Can You Do a Home Inspection Yourself?
No. Even if you are an experienced homeowner, you simply do not have the professional expertise or training of a home inspector. Home inspectors are familiar with all aspects of:
• Home construction
• Proper installation
• Home safety
• Local code compliance
All in all, this means that a professional home inspector is much more suited to inspecting a home than you are.
It may seem tempting to not hire an inspector to save some money – but the few hundreds you save on a home inspection can save you thousands if it turns out your home has serious structural issues after you have already finalized the purchase.
Please give us a call today if you want more information about the market, buying or selling or are just curious where to start.
We would be honored to help.
I am a 3rd generation Tacoma Pierce County native. After 26 years as a realtor in the community I grew up in, my name is synonymous with Quality Real Estate Representation and Service. I work professionally and tirelessly for my clients to achieve success and an outcome that benefits all involved. I love to participate in community events and represent my city. I have been here my whole life and I love Tacoma!