Sept. 1, 2016
Home inspections are one of the most important steps in purchasing a new home. While a house may look dreamy inside and out, there could be dozens of hidden (and expensive) repairs that are not easily recognizable by the untrained eye. Having a professional home inspector thoroughly review the home you're purchasing is a fairly inexpensive way to protect you and your family from years of frustration and expensive repairs that home warranties and home owner's insurance will not cover.
Why hire a professional home inspector? Can I use a family member who is knowledgeable about construction or the trades?
A home inspector goes through a tremendous amount of training and licensing to inspect homes in a specific and thorough manner. They are not experts in any one trade (plumbing, heating, cooling, electrical) but are trained to identify hazards, potential maintenance issues and items not up to code in all of the construction trades.
Licensed inspectors also have a very specific checklist they work off of to make sure that every potential item in the house and on the property are inspected to the highest standards.
How much does a professional home inspector cost?
This can vary greatly depending on the size of the home and any additional items that may need to be inspected (pools, pool equipment, septic tanks, wells), but for you average sized home in a subdivision with city water and sewer, it will typically range from $250 - $350. Remember, cheaper does not always mean a better deal, more costly inspectors often charge more because they have more experience and are better trained to catch defects during their inspections.
What things should I be worried about from the inspection?
The home inspection will test the functionality, safety and expected life of many items in the home. You'll see pictures and descriptions of nearly everything in the home, but will want to be on the look out for items marked with these categories:
1. Major Defect
2. Minor Defect
3. Safety Concern
4. Maintenance Item
Now, a lot of these items are going to fall into the minor defect category. Home inspectors are not typically "looking" for these types of issues, they are usually discovered during the course of their search for major defects and safety concerns. An example of this would be a scratch or dent in a garage door.
Safety concerns are certainly something to take a close look at, but not all safety concerns create imminent danger to you or your home. For example, a loose electrical outlet housing or uneven sidewalks will not likely cause a catastrophe, but they are items you'll likely want to have addressed soon after purchasing the home to be sure.
Maintenance items are things that will need to be done to the house soon, such as painting exterior wood surfaces or servicing your your air conditioner.
The big items that you need to be on the lookout for are those that fall into the major defects category. These are items that can and often will pose an immediate hazard to your home or family, and/or can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars in repairs.
What should I ask the seller to fix?
In short, you can ask them to fix whatever you'd like, but you have to remember that you're not buying a new home (if you are building a home, you should ask that EVERYTHING on the list be corrected). All homes come with some wear and tear. Resale homes are expected to have some minor defects and maintenance issues, sometimes even a few safety issues that are the result of regular daily use (think about those loose electrical outlets).
But major defects are what you should really be asking for. You shouldn't be purchasing someone else's house problems, and it is expected that a home for resale in regular circumstances should have no major defects, so it is not out of the ordinary to ask for them to be repaired.