You’ve done it. After touring countless properties, you’ve finally found the perfect home for you and your family. And better yet, the seller has agreed to your offer!
Now, you just need the house to pass inspection.
This might feel like a formality. Like something you are supposed to do. But trust us, a home inspection is a crucial step in the home buying process. This is a big investment, and a professional inspection is one of the best ways for you to find out exactly what shape that investment is in.
Unfortunately, most people don’t have much experience when it comes to home inspections. What does a home inspector look for? What happens if the house fails inspection? Will we miss out on this house because we are asking for an inspection?
That’s why we put together these 9 home inspection tips for buyers so that you can not only better understand the home inspection process, but also have a better expectation of what to do with the inspection report.
1. Make the inspection part of the contract.
Speak with your real estate agent about ways you can require a home inspection as part of any offer you put on a house.
Typically, a contingency clause will be added to any offer or contract on a house that will specifically allow for the buyer to either back out of the deal or renegotiate should some problem be identified during the inspection.
This contingency clause will specify a set period that you have to get the house inspected.
If you’re worried that this might scare the seller, don’t be. The vast majority of homes sold have an inspection done before closing. This is a standard request, so home sellers should be prepared to have the home inspected before the closing. If they push back on this, that might be a red flag that there are issues in the home that they hope will go unnoticed.
2. Don’t hire the cheapest inspector.
Remember that the home inspection process is about protecting you—the buyer—from purchasing a home with major issues.
It’s easy to think that the inspection is some hurdle that you need to pass before you can get to the exciting stuff. But this isn’t something where you just want to bring in somebody to rubber-stamp their approval. You want a professional who is going to take their time and do their job the right way.
So when it comes time to hire a home inspector, make sure you hire someone you can trust. Ask for recommendations from your friends, family, and your real estate agent. Make sure they are licensed and insured for the work you are hiring them to do. Ask to see a sample report, which not only allows you to see how detailed their reports are but also get an idea of what they will be looking for during their inspection.
You want a professional inspection run by someone with experience who knows what they are doing. To do anything less would be a true waste of money.
3. Pre-Inspection Checklist
It’s a great idea to make sure that your professional inspection is done by…well, professionals! But that doesn’t mean you as the home buyer should not be involved as well. You should be an active participant in the inspection, and some of that requires a little bit of work before the inspection begins.
First, do a visual inspection of the property yourself. A pre-inspection, if you will. If there are cracks in the walls, shingles curling up, gurgling pipes, or anything else that appears off, mention it to your home inspector and have them take a closer look at it. If nothing else, it will be good to get a feel for the home and the property.
It’s also a great time to come up with a home inspection checklist of things you want to be addressed. Those items might include the foundation, the roof, the electrical panel, the air conditioner, plumbing, appliances, doors and windows, the driveway, and the garage.
It’s best to not assume that an area you are concerned about is going to be automatically covered by the inspection.
4. During the Inspection
One of the most important home inspection tips is to be present at the house during the inspection! Yes, it might be inconvenient and you might have to get out of work for a few hours, but it is worth it.
As we mentioned previously, you’ll want to have a checklist ready. Walk around and point out anything that looks questionable. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is your new home, don’t miss out on a great opportunity to learn more about it. Lastly, take plenty of pictures. A picture is worth a thousand words, so snap as many pictures as you can. They will all go to help create a record of the state the home is currently in.
Of course, make sure you don’t get in the way of your home inspector and don’t do anything that would put yourself or others in harm’s way. And if for whatever reason you are unable to make the inspection in person, coordinate a time where you can speak with the inspector to go over the inspection report in detail.
5. Order some extra inspections and testing.
A typical home inspection covers a lot of areas, but sometimes a more specialized inspection or test is needed. This could be a termite inspection or testing for mold. There might be areas a specialist is needed to come out and take a look at something, whether it’s plumbing, electrical, or the HVAC system.
Keep in mind that these extra inspections and tests don’t necessarily mean that the property is a bad investment or isn’t safe. It just means that a closer look is needed. So don’t be scared off if it is recommended you call a specialist. At the same time, don’t choose to ignore the issues altogether. That could be a very costly mistake.
6. Don’t expect a perfect report.
Nothing in life is perfect, certainly not your home inspection report.
With all the numerous things the inspector is looking at, it would be unrealistic to expect for everything to come back working perfectly. It’s important to remember that the report is designed to give you an accurate assessment of the current state of the home.
This is NOT a pass or fail test. You should expect some, if not several, deficiencies to be discovered during the inspection. The trick is to identify which of them are minor, and which are major concerns that need to be addressed.
7. Make an effort to read and understand the report.
The home inspection report will contain a lot of information and can be somewhat intimidating—especially for first time home buyers. But it’s important to read through the document, looking not only at the deficiencies and areas that might need to be improved, but also at the strengths of the home.
It doesn’t matter whether your house is 30 years old, 10 years old, or brand new construction. Odds are good there’s going to be something identified on the report.
Make sure you educate yourself enough to understand what the document is telling you. Go over it with the professional who did the inspection, having them explain what everything means. Talk with your real estate agent to see if these are issues that they think they can get the home seller to pay for, or if there are major issues that you want to be fixed before you purchase the home.
You can’t make a smart and educated decision about what to do with the report if you don’t understand what is in it.
8. Know what should be fixed, what you should get credit for, and what you should leave be.
There are three broad paths forward for every deficiency found during a home inspection. You can either ask the home seller to fix the issue before closing, ask for a credit on the price of the home so that you can make the repairs yourself, or leave it be.
Most issues that will be discovered are minor enough that you could decide to not even bring them up. Are you really going to walk away from a sale because of a light bulb that needs to be changed?
Unfortunately, sometimes there are major structural issues that are identified by the inspection. And you have every right to ask the seller to either make the repairs themselves or lower their asking price so that you can pay for the repairs.
Keep in mind that the seller also has the right to refuse, and the deal could fall through. You’ll have to decide whether losing out on the home or being forced to pay for the repairs yourself is worse. Either way, if an inspection identifies major issues, please do not ignore it hoping the problems will go away on their own.
9. Make sure to re-inspect any repairs.
The last of our home inspection tips seems obvious but is forgotten by so many.
If the first home inspection identified issues that the seller agreed to fix, make sure to have those repairs checked! Ask for receipts to prove that the repairs were done, but also have your own inspector head back out to make sure everything was done properly. You want to make sure that the seller didn’t cut corners, or tried to do it themselves and didn’t do it properly.
While this might carry an extra cost for you, it’s one that is well worth it and could save you from an even bigger expense down the road.
As a potential home buyer, getting a professional inspection should be seen as a critical step in the home buying process. And hopefully, with these home inspection tips for buyers, you’ll be able to get the most out of the process and have confidence in your investment.
At BIS, we have more than 40 years of inspection experience in both commercial and residential inspections. We are licensed in general contracting and engineering, and know what to look for that can potentially save you thousands of dollars in repair costs.
Call us today to have a qualified professional provide an accurate and detailed assessment of your potential new home’s condition.