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What to Expect With a Home Inspection

You’ve found a house you love. Why do you need a home inspection? In this article, we’ll explain the what, why, when, and how of a real estate home inspection.

Many home buyers place a home inspection contingency in their offers. Some mortgages (such as an FHA loan) require an inspection before they will approve an application, but most do not. So why should a prospective buyer bother?

Let’s dig into the world of real estate home inspections.

What Is a Home Inspection?

Some people get home inspections confused with home appraisals, but they are two very different things. A home appraisal is mainly concerned with ascertaining the value of a property (house, acreage or lot, outbuildings, and all). A home inspection is a much deeper look into the safety and structure of the actual house.

Why Get a Home Inspection?

Imagine buying your dream house, only to find that the roof leaks and there’s a massive mold problem that costs thousands of dollars to remedy. This is exactly what a home inspection aims to prevent. So, even though home inspections are not usually required for traditional home loans, it’s a good idea to get one. No one likes unexpected, expensive repairs.

Who Pays for a Home Inspection? When Do You Need It Done?

Usually, the buyer pays for a home inspection. This is done after the seller accepts the buyer’s offer but before the buyer pays for the house. The actual home inspection should be done within a certain time frame, which is generally specified in the offer.

Many buyers include a home inspection contingency clause in their offer. This means that if the home inspection reveals issues that weren’t already disclosed by the seller, the buyer can negotiate for a better price (to remedy the undisclosed defects) or walk away from the offer entirely.

What to Expect During a Home Inspection

The first step is to find a reputable home inspector; your real estate agent will probably have some recommendations for you. If not, try to find one who is certified by a nationally recognized agency (like ASHI or InterNACHI). Depending on your state, home inspectors may also need to be licensed. Finally, be wary of home inspectors who try to sell you repair services; they may recommend expensive and unnecessary changes.

What happens during the inspection? According to the ASHI, “The standard home inspector’s report will cover the condition of the home’s heating system; central air conditioning system (temperature permitting); interior plumbing system; electrical system; the roof, attic, and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; and the foundation, basement, and structural components. […] If certain areas are inaccessible (locked door, tenant’s belongings in the way) or unsafe conditions (severely steep roofs, poor structural integrity) the inspector will explain the situation and note that they were not able to assess that specific area or system.”

It’s also important to note that while the inspector will look for signs of possible internal structural problems (e.g. water damage marks), they won’t open up walls and check for actual damage. They’ll make a recommendation that this issue be examined by a professional who specializes in that problem.

Most home inspections take a few hours. Buyers are urged to be present during the inspection so that they can talk with the inspector about any concerns. After the inspection, the buyer will receive a detailed report on the condition of the house. If any previously unknown issues are found, the buyer and seller can discuss remediation or price reduction options.

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