What is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is a non-invasive internal and external examination of the property conducted by a licensed inspector.
A reputable inspector will spend hours carefully reviewing a property to evaluate its condition. They will check the structure/foundation, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, appliances, windows, roof, and look for evidence of leaks or high moisture in the basement, etc. They look for anything that could impact health or safety. The size of the home and the problems discovered will ultimately determine the time it takes to complete the inspection.
Buyers should have a home inspection contingency in their purchase contract that gives them a specified period of time to schedule and complete the general home inspection and any other inspections they wish to have done. The period of time to complete the inspections is typically within 7 days of an accepted contract. Upon inspecting the property, the inspector may deem other inspections to be necessary and to be completed by reputable licensed professionals. These are typically done within 7-10 days of an accepted contract
It is not uncommon for a home inspector to find several defects. No house is perfect. Issues found are usually grouped into three different categories: Safety or Health Issues/Action Required, Repair Item/Action Suggested or Required, and Minor Non-Essential Issues that are typically more Routine Maintenance related. As a LAST resort, buyers may choose to terminate the purchase contract if unforeseen problems surface that make them very uncomfortable or they cannot get the seller(s) to remediate or either reduce the price or credit at closing the cost of remediation.
Types of Inspections
Besides a general home inspection, a buyer should consider other inspections such as a:
- Radon inspection
- Well inspection (when there is no public water)
- Septic inspection (when there is no public sewer)
- Pool inspection to check the structural integrity and mechanicals are working correctly
- Pest inspection to check for the presence of termites, carpenter ants, and rodents
- Mold inspection to ensure there is nothing present
- Lead paint inspection for homes built before 1978
How Long Does a Home Inspection Take?
The time to complete a home inspection varies based on the size of the property. Most inspections take between 2-4 hours to complete.
Homes with basements and attics will take longer than those with a slab foundation or no attic space. Some inspectors are more thorough than others and take their time.
How to Pick a Home Inspector
Home inspectors play an integral role in most real estate transactions so picking the right home inspector is important. Here are a few things to consider in your search for a home inspector:
- Get 3 references from your realtor
- Look for a company that is bonded and insured
- Choose an ASHI-certified or InterNACHI inspector (These are highly respected organizations that offer home inspectors higher levels of training and certifications. ASHI certified is short for the American Society of Home Inspectors. Homebuyers can feel extra confident working with an excellent home inspector when they are ASHI certified)
- Compare the cost of hiring different companies/inspectors
- Review the home inspector’s reviews on popular review sites like Google & TrustPilot
- See if you can find a home inspector with experience in the type of home you are looking at especially if you are buying a historic home or new construction.
- Ensure that the inspection report will be detailed and specific, with photos.
The Purpose of a Home Inspection
Unfortunately, some buyers occasionally lose sight of the purpose of a home inspection. A home inspection aims to determine if there are severe structural or mechanical defects. The issues should be large enough that they could significantly impact the use and enjoyment of the home now and in the future. An inspector CANNOT remove walls or paneling to look behind them, or pull out appliances to look behind them, or pull up carpet or flooring. It is a visual inspection of the property. If they see something that is concerning, they will recommend that you, the buyer, get a reputable licensed professional to inspect further.
A home inspection should not be to create a punch list that itemizes every minor defect with the home you expect the seller to fix. Remember, you are not buying a new home.
The home inspection is not to be used for renegotiating the offer price with the seller either. If you noticed visual defects before making your offer, do not expect the seller to fix them. You should have factored that into your purchase price when you negotiated your offer. With that said, upon finding major defects via the inspection results, you may ask the seller to either repair the major defects, or ask for a reduction in price or a credit at closing to offset the cost of that repair. Be aware that in a Sellers Market, most sellers expect to sell their homes "As Is".
An excellent buyer’s agent should be able to counsel you on what is worth focusing on and what should be considered trivial.