Not so fast.
You may locate a house that LOOKS perfect, but that doesn’t always mean that it IS perfect. That’s where a home inspection comes in. The inspection is a crucial part of the home buying process, but many new buyers are unfamiliar with it.
So what exactly is an inspection?
An inspection is essentially a “check up” on a home, done to provide context on the state of the various components of the house. This usually happens after an offer is made, but before closing. It’s important to note that an inspection is not a “pass or fail” procedure; rather, it is an overview of the overall condition. The cost for an inspection can vary – typically it will be anywhere for $200 - $500, depending on area and the house – but will provide peace of mind, as it can uncover issues that may end up costing thousands in the long run.
It’s the responsibility of the buyer to request the inspection, and should be done by an independent third party to ensure it’s done properly. Because the home buying process is one often driven by emotion, using an impartial inspector can prevent too many (or too few) red flags being raised. You can ask for recommendations from friends or family (if you are working with a Service First Loan Officer, they can also provide some names of area inspectors), but be sure to interview them, asking for their experience in the area and with the home type.
An inspection should typically be expected to last around 2-3 hours, as the inspector will be checking several aspects of the home:
- The physical structure of the home, including the foundation, roofing, floors, and walls
- Electrical systems
- Mechanical systems
- Doors and windows
Such a thorough search means that the inspector will be checking everywhere – including basements and attics – but can only report back on what they see. So any components that are hidden or buried (for example, wells or pests) may require specialized inspections.
While the inspector is making the rounds, it’s a good idea for you to tag along so you can get an in-the-moment understanding of the house’s nuances and so that the final report has context. Questions are encouraged, but because the process requires an immense amount of concentration, it’s best to make a note of the questions and ask them at the end.
After everything is checked, your inspector will provide you with an overview of findings (a more detailed report is sent later on, usually within the next few days). The report will provide the statuses of the components that were reviewed. For example, it may mention that the foundation appears to be solid for the age of the home, but that they roof shows damage and may only have 2-3 years before it needs to be replaced.
You, as the buyer, will then be able to take this information back to your agent to discuss how to proceed. Most sales contracts include a clause stating that the final sale is contingent on the results of the inspection, so next steps will be one of the following:
- If there are more issues than you are comfortable dealing with, you can back out of the sale
- If there are several issues but you are confident that you can live with them, you can negotiate with the seller to see if the issues can be fixed or if the price can be lowered to account for the concerns
- If there are few issues (or an amount that you don’t mind), you can proceed to close
With the information gathered from an inspection, you can make yourself a more informed buyer and be confident that one of your largest investments will be a sound one.