Inspection day is often one of the most exciting moments of home buying because it’s likely the first chance you have to go inside the home since you made your offer. It’s also usually the last chance you’ll have until a final walkthrough. But more importantly, it’s your opportunity to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into when it comes to the condition of the home.
Home inspections can be reassuring, fun and exhausting all at the same time.
Home inspections don’t just provide you with a list of problems you want to negotiate with the seller to fix or something catastrophic that makes you back out of the deal altogether. It will provide you a detailed report that is something of a “new owner’s manual” for the home. It will include maintenance tips and schedules you should follow.
Finding an inspector
You should hire a licensed, professional inspector to conduct a thorough inspection. How do you choose one? Along with agents, lenders and other home pros, Zillow has lists of inspectors with reviews. You can use the Agent Finder tool to find all kinds of real estate pros, including inspectors. Get recommendations, check their online reviews and study their websites. Get a sample report to make sure what they will produce is thorough. Your agent probably has suggestions but you don’t need to use them.
You will want to be clear on exactly what is and isn’t included in the inspection price. Will they test for lead paint? How about asbestos in the ceiling tiles? Is that part of the basic inspection or will it cost more? The price, though you will pay it, is probably the least of your concerns. Most inspectors are in a similar range of $300-$500 anyway and any fluctuation is a small price to pay for what you will get. Early in the home buying process start researching inspectors and have at least a couple in mind, especially if the market is busy. You’ll need to be sure you can get an inspection scheduled within your contract timeline, so if your first choice isn’t available, you need someone waiting in the wings.
You should plan on being there and your agent should be right there with you the entire time. Chances are the seller’s agent will be there, too to help get any quick answers the inspector might need. Block off the entire morning or afternoon. Home inspections take time and you don’t want to rush through it. During this time, follow along as much as you can. You don’t have to follow the inspector into the crawlspace – they bring protective clothing just for that – but anyplace reasonably accessible, you should go too.
You aren’t being a pest. (That’s a different inspection altogether. If you have any reason for concern, hire an additional pest inspection.) You’re being a student. Inspectors will explain your home’s systems and give you maintenance tips. Those should also be in the final report, along with pictures. But hearing and seeing it in person is helpful. The day of inspection will probably feel like a whirlwind of activity. You may be a little nervous about what the inspector will find. It will help if you make like a Boy Scout: Be Prepared.
In addition to your own eyes, ears and nose, you should get a seller’s disclosure statement before your inspection. Use the statement to help you pinpoint anything you want your inspector to look at. If they disclosed that they had a leaky window replaced or repaired, make sure that gets some extra attention from your inspector.
Disclosure requirements vary by state and sometimes local jurisdictions, so ask your real estate agent if you have any questions about what is included. Disclosure typically comes in the form of boilerplate documents with a series of yes/no questions for the seller to detail their home and their experience there.
One thing to look for is whether any unpermitted work has been done. If so, you could be on the hook for bringing the house up to code should you ever remodel. Even if that’s not even remotely on your radar, unpermitted work needs to be carefully inspected, particularly electrical and plumbing work.
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