Home inspections are an important, if not vital, part of the home buying process. To many buyers, a home inspection can be a stressful and overwhelming time. Here are 10 things you should know about home inspections before buying.
Home Inspections Are Optional – Despite what you may have seen on TV, a home inspection is optional. However, this is one of the largest financial investments you’ll ever make. Don’t you want to know exactly what you’re buying? And yes, this includes newly built properties. Contractors and builders aren’t perfect.
Buyers Are Responsible for the Inspection – When planning for the expenses associated with buying a home, keep in mind that buyers are responsible for a home inspection. This means that you are responsible for paying for the home inspection and therefore you need to take the expense associated with it into account when planning. The home inspector works for you and not the seller and is charged with pointing out potential problems with the property. Occasionally, a seller will do their own home inspection prior to putting the home on the market and while they may share the findings (although they are under no obligation to do so) it is always a good idea to get your own independent inspection as well.
In North Carolina, which is a due diligence state, home inspections occur during the due diligence period. This gives the buyer the security to know that if something is uncovered that would affect their ability or decision to buy the home, their financial loss is limited. The real estate market is hot and home inspectors are very busy. Therefore it is essential to schedule the home inspection as soon as you go under contract. That way you will ensure you have the time needed to properly review the inspection report and negotiate any repairs.
Home Inspector vs. Contractor – Home inspectors and contractors are not the same thing. While a contractor may know how to fix a problem, home inspectors have the tools, knowledge and skills to identify them – even the ones that are nearly impossible to find. Home inspectors are required to hold a specific license. Sometimes a contractor will have their home inspector’s license and while the majority of them are ethical, think of this – who do you hire when a home inspection report requires repairs?
What Does a Home Inspection Cover – Think of a home inspection as a yearly physical with your doctor. The inspector will look at several systems of the home and ensure they are all in working order. Since every property is different the specifics of what is checked can differ. Here are some of the most common things a home inspector will review:
- Foundation and basement
- Any additional structural components
- Interior plumbing systems
- Interior electrical systems
- Heating and cooling systems
- Condition of windows
- Condition of doors and door frames
- Condition of floors, walls, and ceilings
- The attic and any visible insulation
What Doesn’t a Home Inspection Cover – Again, home inspections are like a yearly physical with your doctor, but there are many physical ailments that require a referral to a specialist who have more in-depth knowledge. General home inspections typically don’t cover:
- Roofs or chimneys
- Pests and insects such as Termites
- Septic tanks
- Inside walls (a home inspector is not allowed to alter a property in anyway)
- Structures not attached to the main house
Therefore, depending on the property, you must take into consideration the additional expenses associated with more specific inspections as well.
You Can (and Should) Attend the Inspection – While a home inspector will provide a detailed report of their findings, it’s always a good idea to attend the inspection as well. That way when a home inspector uncovers a potential issue, they can review it with you in person giving you the ability to ask specific questions. You can also ask the home inspector to pay careful consideration to items that are of most importance to you. Depending on the property, you’ll need to schedule several hours in your day for the home inspection. The average home inspection can take around 3 hours, however depending on the age of the property and size this can increase or decrease significantly.
The Dreaded Report – Upon first glance, a home inspection report can be overwhelming. Does the property you’ve fallen in love with really have 30 pages worth of issues? Does everything need a licensed specialist for additional inspector or repairs? The thing to remember is that by law, home inspectors are required to include specific language into their report and they must report everything they find – good or bad. You do not need a licensed electrician to replace a light bulb. However a home inspector must make that recommendation. Review the inspection report with your real estate agent can help you determine what is and is not something to worry about.
Repairs After Inspection are Negotiable – Unlike who pays for the home inspection, who pays for the necessary repairs is up for discussion. Much like negotiating the purchase price and terms of the original agreement, repair negotiations are a give and take process. The best thing to do is prioritize what is most important to you. Larger more expensive items are likely going to be at the top of the list. Nitpicking smaller, more inexpensive items can hinder your ability to negotiate for the larger ones. Pick you battle.
Before making an offer on a property, keep in mind that if it is listed “as-is,” the seller has no intention of paying for any repairs regardless of what the inspection report uncovers. Just because it is listed as so, doesn’t mean the property is in need of tons of repairs. There are a number of other reasons a seller may not be willing to pay for repairs.
As part of the repair agreement, you’ll want to include that all repairs should be made by a licensed contractor or specialist. Just because the seller thinks they can repair leaking pipes, doesn’t mean they can. And a licensed contractor or specialist will likely back up their work with warranties.
You Can Always Walk Away – In North Carolina, a buyer is entitled to walk away from a deal for any reason prior to the due diligence period expiration and not forfeit their EARNEST MONEY. Therefore, if the inspection recovers major, expensive issues or if the seller refuses to make repairs essential to your ability or desire to purchase the property, you aren’t forced into anything.
Keep All of the Paperwork – It is always a good idea to keep all paperwork associated with the purchase of your home. With regard to repairs, you’ll want to know who has made the repair (get the name, contact information and license number). You’ll also want receipts and invoices for the work done.
If you have any questions or if you’re looking to buy or sell, please contact me today. I look forward to hearing from you!