To Inspect or Not….That is the Question

J0406942I work with a number of first time homebuyers who wonder whether they should pay for a professional home inspection. With the cost of real estate and the expenses involved in purchasing a home the question is a good one.

In Virginia when a home is listed a seller has the option to either provide a Property Disclaimer or a Property Disclosure. Unless a seller knows that there is a major problem with the property such as a basement that floods every time it rains then they will most often choose a Property Disclaimer statement. Most sellers don’t know everything about the condition of their home. We all have a tendency to overlook a light switch that doesn’t quite work the way it should. It isn’t dangerous we just don’t think about it.

So getting a home inspection saves the potential for surprise when you move in to your new home. I’ve compiled a simple list of questions and answers that might help you decide whether a home inspection is right for you.

What is a home inspection?
A home inspection is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house, from the roof to the foundation.

Buying a home could be the largest single investment you will ever make. A professional home inspection has two parts. The first part is to ensure that the home you are thinking of buying is in sound condition for its age. The second part is to help educate you on the maintenance of your home for the future.

When do I call a home inspector?
Typically, a home inspector is contacted immediately after the contract or purchase agreement has been signed. Before you sign, be sure there is an inspection clause in the sales contract, making your final purchase obligation contingent on the findings of a professional home inspection. This clause should specify the terms and conditions to which both the buyer and seller are obligated.

What does a home inspection include?
The standard home inspector’s report will cover the condition of the home’s heating system; central air conditioning system (temperature permitting); interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement and structural components.

What will it cost?

The inspection fee for a typical detached home is based on the size and age of the property. Do not let cost be a factor in deciding whether or not to have a home inspection. All you have to do is read the newspaper and find just one horror story about a home purchased without an inspection and you will realize the value of the inspection.

Why can’t I do it myself?
Most homebuyers lack the knowledge and expertise of a professional home inspector. An inspector is familiar with the elements of home construction, proper installation, maintenance and home safety. He or she knows how the home’s systems and components are intended to function together, as well as why they fail.

Can a house fail a home inspection?
No. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of a house. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value. It is not a municipal inspection, which verifies local code compliance. A home inspector, therefore, will not pass or fail a house, but rather describe its physical condition and indicate what components and systems may need major repair or replacement.

What happens after the home inspection?
No house is perfect. If the inspector identifies problems, it doesn’t mean you should or shouldn’t buy the house, only that you will know in advance what to expect Depending on your contract you will have the opportunity to work with your agent to determine if anything during discovered during the home inspection needs corrective action. In Virginia there are two different categories of home inspection items. The first are what we refer to as “Walk-through” items. Those are issues with plumbing, heating and AC that must be resolved by the current owner prior to settlement. For example if the inspector finds that there is a leak under a sink, a non-grounded electrical wire or a non-functioning AC system then the homeowner is required to repair those to a safe and working order.

The other items that a home inspector may find are more maintenance items that you may request that the current homeowner repair but they may decline to do so or offer a credit for you to have them repaired by your own contractor. Each home inspection is different and between you and your agent you can work through all of the details to make sure that you are assured that the home you are buying is in reasonable repair at the time of closing.

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