Home Inspections: Don’t Bet the House

Is it always necessary for home buyers to get a home inspection? What about condo buyers? Let’s take a look at the reasons for getting an inspection and consider what they’re likely to uncover, as well as what they won’t. 

Reasons to Get a Home Inspection

Buying a home is a major decision that involves both finances and emotions. It’s easy to fall in love with a home, prompting many home shoppers to want to throw caution to the wind and charge full steam ahead with the purchase. In a seller’s market things can unfold quickly and making an offer that does not include a home inspection can give would-be buyers a leg up. It’s important not to succumb to this temptation. The love you feel for your new home could dissipate quickly if major problems are uncovered. 

For obvious reasons, sellers may not be motivated to disclose all of the faults that are hidden in their home. In some cases they may be genuinely unaware. Entering into such a massive financial agreement without completing your due diligence is akin to taking your life savings to the casino. Don’t do it! 

What are Home Inspectors Looking For? 

The number of problems that a good home inspector may uncover is extensive, and the review involves a home’s exterior, interior, and the components within. They’ll look at the foundation and basement, checking for leakage. They’ll inspect fuse boxes and electrical outlets. They’ll ensure that the plumbing is in good order, as well as HVAC systems. Floors, walls, ceilings, windows, attics, crawl spaces, roofs, eavestroughs, property grading, and appliances will be inspected as well. Not only will your home inspector seek to protect you from financial damage, but from life-safety hazards as well, potentially uncovering mold or faulty wiring that could cause a house fire.

Are Inspections Necessary for Condo Purchases?

Many people consider inspections less critical for condominiums, but they’re still not a bad idea. Oftentimes condo inspections will only pertain to the unit itself; appliances, walls, water damage, plumbing, and the like. Other condo inspections will be more extensive and will examine common areas and elements of the condo building, such as elevators, parking spaces, common areas, and the building’s exterior and outdoor property. 

Unlike detached homeowners, condo buyers will be able to share the misery of future large scale structural issues with the other tenants. Elevator or roofing problems, for example, will often fall under the domain of the condo board. This doesn’t mean they won’t be expensive! An inspection will help you identify likely future problems and anticipate potential assessment fees or condo fee hikes. 

What Will Home Inspections Find?

Home inspections won’t find everything, but they’ll always find something. Some inspections are more thorough than others, but few inspectors will have the ability to see inside walls, pipes, sewer lines or chimneys, or behind electrical panels. 

It’s also important to note that no one person is an expert on every aspect of a home. If a home inspector does flag a major problem, they’re likely to refer you to a specialist for further assessment. 

It’s also worth mentioning that most assessments will find something amiss with the home. Homes, like people, all have slight imperfections, so don’t be deterred when your home inspection report lists a few flaws. Your home inspector should be able to help you put these flagged items into context; are they inconveniences to overcome, or absolute deal-breakers? 

What Happens if the Home Inspection Reveals a Major Flaw?

Many potential buyers will include a home inspection contingency in their offer, giving them a certain period of time (often 7 days) to walk away penalty free if the inspection reveals a substantial issue. In a sellers’ market, some sellers will not agree to such a clause. Prudent buyers will consider this a red flag. In some cases lenders will require a home inspection as a condition of providing financing. 

In most cases the home inspection simply serves as a launching point for a negotiation. The selling party may agree to fix the problem or to provide a discount from the agreed upon price. Minor problems are often simply considered the price of doing business. Like any negotiation, it really all boils down to which party is more desperate to seal the deal. 

With so much on the line, it’s important to err on the side of caution. You’ll want to select a home inspector with a good reputation. Do your own homework as opposed to simply trusting the suggestion of the seller or real estate agent. 

Home inspections typically take between 1 and 3 hours. Ultimately, the home inspector will provide you with a detailed report, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to be present during the inspection. Seeing the process with your own eyes and asking questions will give you a more thorough understanding of the home you’re about to purchase. The peace of mind that comes from a home inspection will ensure that your first night in your new home will be one you spend sleeping soundly.