A home inspection is part of a real estate transaction. The idea is that a professional home inspector looks at a property and identifies problems a potential buyer might need to consider. If you’re a prospective buyer, you can go to a home inspection. Either way, the inspector will create a report of their findings.
If you’re buying a home, an inspection can help you avoid the potential disaster of buying a home and then realizing it has structural issues that aren’t fixable or would be extremely expensive to repair. You should have a home inspection before closing on a loan. If there are issues and you’re the buyer you can contact the seller if any major problems are discovered.
An inspection is different from an appraisal, although the two are sometimes confused with one another. An appraisal gives you an estimate of your property’s value. An appraisal doesn’t identify specific problems, and a mortgage company will usually require an appraisal. An inspection isn’t required but is important.
There are also buyer and seller’s inspections. A buyer’s inspection occurs after you’ve made an offer on a home but before closing. If there are certain issues, you might renegotiate. A seller’s inspection is something that happens before a home is listed. A seller might opt to do this to fix issues before they put their home on the market.
What Do Inspectors Look For?
A home inspection isn’t going to look for everything, and there are specialized parts of a home that may require a separate inspection.
A home inspection is a visual assessment of a home’s mechanical systems and structure. This includes windows, doors, ceilings, the roof, and walls. An inspector will look at major appliances, examine the heating and air system, and evaluate the electrical and plumbing systems. Inspectors aren’t there to evaluate if you’re getting a good deal.
Inspectors don’t care about cosmetic issues unless they’re also safety issues.
When an inspector completes a report, you may see that it’s in the form of a checklist, or they might detail problems in paragraph form. It would be unlikely for any inspection not to have some issues unless the home is completely new.
How Does an Inspection Affect the Sale of a Home?
If an inspection brings up issues, then a buyer and seller might renegotiate, or they could end the potential deal altogether.
If you’re the seller and the prospective buyer walks away because of the inspection, you’ll have to put the house back on the market. If a home that was pending or under contract goes back on the MLS, it can be a red flag to some buyers.
If there’s renegotiation, a potential buyer might request that the seller make necessary repairs. They can also request a credit from the seller so they can make the repairs themselves.
A seller might hire their own experts to confirm the inspector's findings before they agree to anything. Inspectors can be wrong.
Hiring an Inspector
If you’re in the process of buying a home, it’s important to hire a good inspector. Look for an inspector with a certification from an organization like the American Society of Home Inspectors or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. Members of these groups must pass exams, complete continuing education, and follow a code of ethics.
You might consider interviewing an inspector as well, and they can share more about their experience. Some inspectors have specific experience in certain areas. For example, you might need an inspector with experience in historic homes.
You can also ask for references from past clients.
Finally, expect to pay anywhere from $300 to upwards of $500 for an inspection. You typically pay this when the service is rendered, and it’s not part of your closing costs.