Navigating the path between the dream of home ownership and getting the keys to your dream home can feel daunting, because of the countless steps in the transaction process. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell which steps are really necessary or what purpose they serve.
Home inspection is one such element that is not mandatory but may be especially valuable to the buyer because it provides an independent, professional evaluation of the home’s condition before you commit to the purchase. Moreover, the results of that inspection may change the price you pay for a home if extensive repairs are needed.
In hot markets like the Silicon and Central Valley areas, where homes are receiving multiple offers, buyers will often take short cuts to end up with the winning bid. One thing they may forego is the home inspection. This can have significant repercussions if a home has hidden damage requiring costly repairs down the road.
Without a home inspection the seller is essentially selling the home “as is,” and the buyer has no recourse to come back later and ask the seller to pay for problems that surface after closing. Without a professional inspection, the buyer has to rely on the things they can see that require repairs.
A professional inspector can identify areas of the home that may present issues later. For example, a roof that may need to be replaced in two or three years would be a considerable cost for the homeowner.
Home Inspection vs. Appraisal
Home inspections are not the same as appraisals. Appraisals are conducted for lending purposes. They enable the lender to estimate the value of the home, make sure it meets property standards and that it is truly marketable for purchase.
A home inspection is arranged by the prospective buyer and conducted by a professional, qualified independent inspector who:
- Looks at the entire physical condition of the home, from structure to construction and mechanical systems
- Identifies areas or items that need repair
- Estimates the remaining useful life of the structure, major systems, and equipment
A home inspection report will cover the condition of the structural components, exterior, roofing, plumbing, electrical, heating, insulation and ventilation, air conditioning and interiors. With this report in hand, the buyer typically works with the seller to determine what repairs will be made, who pays for them and when they will be completed.
The inspection report may actually be a strong negotiating tool for buyers who can agree to finance the repairs for a reduction in the sales price. The report can also help buyers determine if they want to walk away because of the number or type of repairs needed.
Different Types of Home Inspections
The inspection noted above is a general home inspection, but there are other, more specific inspections that can be ordered by the buyer.
For example, a termite/wood destroying organism inspection is designed to uncover signs of wood-boring insects and any associated structural damage.
A radon inspection determines the presence of radioactive gas which is known to be a health hazard. This gas comes from natural sources and can accumulate in confined areas of the home like attics and basements. Gas levels can fluctuate naturally and if levels are high, the American Home Inspectors Training Institute recommends taking steps such as sealing concrete slab floors, basement foundations, and water drainage systems. Those can be costly repairs, so the money saved by foregoing this inspection could end up being a poor decision.
Other inspections to consider include well water, oil tank and septic tank testing, if applicable.
General home inspectors may be qualified to perform all of these tests and/or inspections for additional fees. It is important that you ask your potential inspector about his or her qualifications.
A Word about Condos/Townhomes
Although Home Owner Associations (HOA) often cover the cost of routine repairs to the structure and common spaces, numerous items — especially inside the unit — fall outside the HOA scope and are the responsibility of the homeowner. Getting an inspection can uncover potentially costly defects that the seller may need to address.
Purchasing a home is a big investment, so being penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to a home inspection may not be in your best interest.
Michael Blower is president of the Central Valley Association of Realtors and an agent with Grupe Real Estate. You can reach him at [email protected]