Mortgage transactions tend to be long and tedious in nature. There are tons of things that need to be done just to make it to closing, and closing itself can be pretty drawn out as well. The whole process tends to be quite a stressful time for all parties involved.
Of course, when it comes to buying a home, attention to detail is a necessity. After all, a home is almost always the largest investment a person makes in their lifetime. Mortgages are essentially the average person’s largest debt obligation -- and forced savings plan.
One of the reasons for some of the stress during the final stages of the home buying process is the need for third-party assistance for some of the tasks that need to be done. The most notable of tasks include home appraisal, which may or may not be required depending on the type of loan being used, and home inspection. Of the two, a home inspection is the most valuable thing a home buyer can invest in.
Home inspections can help home buyers minimize the risk of costly surprises and hidden hazards after purchasing a home. Home inspections are a practice to ensure that home buyers know exactly what they can expect from the property being purchased, and act accordingly.
Depending on the results from a home inspection, a home buyer might be able to negotiate for a lower price, plan ahead for repairs that need to be done, or even walk away from what could be a financial nightmare.
What Is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is a detailed examination of the physical structure and systems of a house. A home inspection is mostly a visual sweep of a property from the foundation to the very top of the roof.
The job of a home inspector is to observe and record any hazards or builder oversights a house may have as well as to identify areas that require major repairs, and areas that need some maintenance in order to keep the house in good shape.
Simply put, a home inspection is an assessment of a home. Instead of a home appraisal which is another form of assessment that aims to reveal the monetary value of a property, home inspections are done to point out weak points of the home and inform potential buyers of what kind of work the home needs. They can extremely valuable for any home buyer, and pretty nerve-racking for a home seller.
What Is Examined in a Home Inspection?
When a home inspector gets to a property, they typically take their time to examine the home from top to bottom (literally). Home inspectors thoroughly scrutinize a house’s foundation and roof, and every structural aspect in between. They also check the important systems in place that make the home habitable.
Think of home inspections like the multi-point inspections an auto dealer offers as part of their service contract. Much like the multi-point car inspection, a home inspector also has a plethora of points of interest that they must assess for a home. Home inspectors must evaluate the condition of a home’s:
Central air conditioning system
Attic or Crawlspace
Every point on the list is a point to be examined while looking for any shortcomings. Home inspectors are trained to be able to see more in their sweep of a house than the average homeowner even notices after years of living in a home. Their findings can potentially make or break a home purchase deal.
Why Do I Need a Home Inspection?
When all of the different tasks and costs associated with closing a mortgage deal start coming together, you may feel frustrated at how ridiculous some of it sounds. It's easy to wonder why something like title insurance is such a big deal, or how come a home appraiser is necessary, but when it comes to a home inspection, the best course of action is to suck it up and let the job get done. Home inspections are extremely beneficial for a home buyer.
Through a home inspection, home buyers can learn of possible trouble areas that a property might have. Any fault in the structure will be reported, as well as any shortcomings in vital systems like the plumbing or electricity. Knowing how well a house “performs” before signing a sales contract could save a home buyer loads of money, and tons of stress.
Say, for example, You find what seems to be a perfect home. While walking through, everything appears to be flawless. There are no visible signs of wear and tear to be found, so you decide that you’re going to go for it.
Of course, it comes time to get the home inspected, and you eagerly await the go-ahead so you can move into your new castle.
However, upon receiving the report from your trusty home inspector, you find that your castle has a terrible termite problem, that has greatly affected the roof and wooden structural components. On top of that, there seems to be an issue with the plumbing, that will require a professional to be called in in order to fix.
Learning of a home’s faults doesn’t have to mean watching your future castle crumble before your eyes, but it does give you a few extra things to consider, and some choices to make. If you feel that some or all of the items on a home inspection report will be costly for you after buying the home, you may still be able to negotiate your buying price down, using the report as leverage to negotiate. If the report isn’t all that bad, you can plan ahead, and maybe try to borrow a little extra funding to make the necessary repairs.
In the absolute worst case, should the report from the home inspection contain unspeakable (or unfixable for your price range) horrors, then you still have the option to walk away. You can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you dodged quite a financial bullet, and go hunt for a new castle elsewhere.
This is the power a simple home inspection can give a home buyer.
Tips for Hiring a Home Inspector
Just like no two home purchase experiences are ever the same, no two home inspections (or home inspectors, for that matter) are the same either. Finding a trustworthy, reliable, and efficient home inspector as a home buyer puts you one step closer to a successful home purchase. Even a homeowner looking to sell can benefit from a good pre-sale home inspection to be aware of anything that may hinder a smooth sale by turning buyers away.
To that end, choosing a home inspector should take some serious consideration, and as a home buyer, it helps to know what to expect, and what to look out for. Home inspections are never a waste of money, but that doesn’t mean people haven’t had poor inspectors.
Why You Can’t Inspect the Home Yourself
Many people, when faced with closing and the associated costs, would do anything to just get it over with and make it even a little more affordable. As a result, plenty of homeowners have fielded the idea of performing their own home inspection.
We can assure you this is a horrible idea.
As it is, the average homeowner is typically unaware of problem areas in their homes until something literally breaks or ceases to function as it should. The average homeowner simply lives in a home, and maybe handles a few repairs from time to time. These are nowhere near the qualifications necessary to inspect a home properly.
Professional home inspectors are trained individuals, who know exactly what to look for, and where to look. A professional home inspector will have textbook knowledge of the elements of home construction, proper installation, maintenance, and home safety. They are trained and paid to know how the home’s systems and components are intended to function together, in addition to why they fail.
Assuming you have that same knowledge, experience, and training, it still isn’t a good idea to perform a home inspection for your own home purchase, for precisely the same reason they generally don’t let doctors perform certain procedures on their loved ones.
It is not unheard of for a home buyer to completely fall in love with a property that they wish to buy. Those emotions and attachments can seriously affect the judgement of a home inspection.
How to Find a Home Inspector
Finding a decent home inspector isn’t nearly as hard as you would imagine. There are plenty of reputable companies to choose from in the industry. A quick online search of home inspectors in your area should turn out a few good results for you to compare.
For a more direct recommendation, asking around might be the way to go. Asking friends and neighbors about the home inspector they hired for their own home purchase can get you exactly what you’re looking for, or at least point you in the right direction. Every person you ask who has had to have a home inspection should be able to give you not just a recommendation, but a review you know you can trust.
If asking your peers turns out to be a bust, don’t worry. You could always ask your real estate agent since they tend to know many people in all of the different sectors of the industry. Should that also not work out, the American Society of Home Inspectors website offers a way to look up home inspectors in your area.
What to Look for in a Home Inspector
Finding the right home inspector is a necessity. As we’ve mentioned earlier, there are a ton of companies and individuals who offer the service. Still, not all of them will get the job done in the way that’s best for you.
The most important thing to look for in a home inspector is their credentials. Home inspection is a task that requires education and training. A good home inspector also has years of experience to draw from. Every state has different requirements for becoming a certified/licensed home inspector.
Of course, credentials aren’t the only thing to look out for. A good portion of the time, home inspection isn’t the only service that a home inspector will provide. A decent amount of home inspectors double as repairmen or contractors. However, it’s wise to choose a home inspector who only offers home inspection, to ensure that they aren’t simply trying to sell you on one of their other services.
Another point of interest when choosing a home inspector is whether or not they (or their company) are bonded and insured. While this isn’t an actual requirement for a home inspector, it can speak volumes towards the credibility of one.
To be bonded and insured means that they have taken safeguards against being sued by taking out insurance and securing money with an insurance company in the event legal action is taken. Think of it as a kind of extra protection as a client.
Ask If You Can Attend the Inspection
While you may not be a home inspection savant, being present during the home inspection is actually recommended. After all, buying a home is a huge investment of both time and money, so you probably want to stay as close to the action as possible to protect your investments. Many home buyers opt out of this step, but there are simply no drawbacks to being present.
Being present allows you to be shown and educated about all of the shortcomings and potential hazards that a property has. There is no better time to ask questions either. If you have to get the repairs done on your own dime, at least you will have a better idea of how to best focus your efforts.