Buyer Advice: Home Inspections

Buyer Advice: Home Inspections

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By Stacey Edwards

Congratulations! You’ve just agreed on a price for your new home. That home can provide many years of enjoyment for you and your family, and may also offer a nest egg for your retirement years.

Before you go to closing there is one important matter that needs to be addressed: a home inspection. Although it may not be a requirement to finalize the deal, many mortgage companies require a home inspection. Regardless, having your home inspected by a qualified individual is important, as it can help you save thousands of dollars in repair costs that you may have missed. For a fee of up to $400, a home inspection can more than pay for itself, provided that the following is covered and addressed by the inspector:

Major systems — Critical to any home inspection is for a home’s major systems to be checked.  These include electric lines, plumbing, heating and air-conditioning and appliances.

Your inspector will determine if the electrical box, outlets and connections are adequate and in good working condition. Plumbing problems, if these exist, can be uncovered as well. In his written report to you, your inspector will give his opinion on the condition of major appliances that are part of the sale including the refrigerator, stove and dishwasher.

Structural components — Home inspectors will bring with them a ladder and will get on the roof to check its condition as well as gutters and down spouts. He’ll inspect the chimney, flashing, foundation, interior and exterior walls, windows and doors.

In his report, the home inspector may give his opinion when certain components will need to be replaced. For example, if the roof is aged, but otherwise is in good condition, then he may say it has at least five more years before it will need to be replaced.

Inside matters — Besides checking major systems inside of your home, a home inspector will often include other matters such as the condition of flooring, lighting fixtures, a ceiling fan, fireplace and more.

The inspector’s report may detail the condition of the carpeting or flooring, bathroom tiles and the home’s alarm system. If any of these items are needing replacement, his report should reflect that information.

Yard and garden — Typically, a home inspection does not look beyond the house unless there is a detached garage. With a detached garage you’ll want the inspector to check its structural components and, if wiring or plumbing exists, the condition of these systems to and in your garage.

Most reports do not include information about yard and garden items. However, if a tree branch hangs over your home or a bush obstructs a door or an outside outlet, he may recommend that these problems be addressed before closing.

Not covered — Basic home inspections offer fairly thorough coverage of you home inside and out, but not all tests are included with the basic package. For example, if a radon test is required, you will pay for that separately. A termite inspection may also be required, something your inspector may not be able to handle. In this case you may need to contact a pest control company for a separate inspection.

If a pool or spa is present on the property, your inspector may not include this with his report. Also, septic tanks, underground sprinkler systems and asbestos paint may not be part of his inspection. Don’t avoid having costly “extra” inspected separately — a cracked pool can cost you thousands to repair.

Handling Repairs

When your home is being inspected, your agent should be present to ensure that everything is checked according to your requirements. Your inspector will take pictures, write up a report and offer an evaluation of the property.

The seller does not have to handle every issue listed on the report. If the home is sold in an “as is condition” then the seller is not obligated to make any repairs. Typically, your attorney will strike this notation from the sale agreement allowing you and the home owner to negotiate what repairs will be handled or if the price will be adjusted accordingly.

Finally, when it comes to home inspectors, not every state handles these people the same. Some states require home inspectors to be registered and licensed, while other states may require inspectors to complete schooling before they can inspect homes. Ask for references from your inspector and understand what fee you’ll be charged for his service. Remember, those items not part of the inspection may incur a separate charge, with payment made directly to that individual.

Author Information

Stacey Edwards writes for Environmental Data Resources, an environmental issues company that provides Radius Maps, Historical Aerials, and Sanborn Maps.

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