With all the assorted fees and costs that come with buying a home, skipping the home inspection can seem like a good way to save money. But foregoing the inspection could end up costing you thousands of dollars later, even on new construction. Here’s how to optimize this important process of the home-buying experience to get the most out of your money:
Why a Home Inspection Is Important:
- It can save you a lot of money in the long run in the form of avoiding expensive repairs or building code violations.
- It can help ensure your personal safety against fire hazards, unsafe structures, or various types of poisoning.
- It may be required for insurance purposes or certain government loan programs.
When a Home Inspection Happens:
- Usually, the inspection takes place after you are under contract to buy the home, but you can request that one take place before that.
How to Find a Home Inspector:
- Choose the inspector yourself. It's not wise to let someone who has a financial interest in the sale to pick the inspector for you.
- Ask friends, relatives, and neighbors for recommendations.
- Find an inspector who is registered with one of the major inspector licensing organizations like American Association of Home Inspectors, American Society of Home Inspectors, National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers, National Association of Home Inspectors, or National Institute of Building Inspectors. In most cases these organizations have websites that allow you to search for a certified inspector in your area.
- Read reviews online at websites like Yelp or Angi (formerly Angie's LIst).
- Research whether your state has a government organization that licenses or oversees inspectors. If so, check for complaints against an inspector. Also check the Better Business Bureau for any complaints.
- Ask to see a sample report from an inspector. The more variety in the types of inspections they perform the better. If you can find an inspector who does septic or structural analysis evaluations, this will save you money since you won’t need to bring in separate inspectors for those.
- Ask a prospective inspector what happens if they miss something that costs you money after you move into the house. Many carry “errors and omissions” insurance, which is like malpractice insurance for inspectors. Even if they don’t have this type of insurance, they should have some kind of process in place for resolving mistakes, such as arbitration.
What the Inspector Should Check:
- Air conditioning
- Insulation (visible)
- Water heater
How Long Does an Inspection Take:
- The average inspection lasts 3-4 hours.
What a Home Inspection Costs:
According to homeadvisor.com, you can expect to pay anywhere from $279 - $399, with a national average of $338 for a home inspection. Smaller homes (under 1000 sq. ft) could be as low as $200. Large homes (more than 2,000 sq. ft.) could cost you $500 or more. Keep in mind that this is not a time to be looking for a cut-rate deal.
What a Home Inspection Typically Doesn't Cover:
- Mold or mildew
- Radon, methane, radiation, or formaldehyde
- Swimming pool problems
- If your inspector doesn’t cover inspections for these things, it’s worth your time and money to bring in separate specialists in these areas.
What You Get After the Home Inspection:
- An inspection should always culminate in a detailed written report, ideally with photos of potential problem areas. The report should include unlivable problems, items that will need to be replaced, and items that will need close monitoring going forward.
What to Do If the Home Inspection Reveals Problems:
- Ask that the seller fix them before the deal goes through.
- Negotiate a better price or money up front for repairs.
- Walk away from the deal.
What You Can Do on Your Own:
- Inspect the home purchase agreement, or have your lawyer do it, to make sure there is an inspection contingency included.
- Before the inspection, ask for disclosures from the seller of any problems they know about. This is required in some states, but it always best to make sure you have this information.
- Be present for the inspection to follow along, take notes, and ask questions.
- Consider getting a second opinion if you aren't entirely comfortable with the first inspection.
- Ask the inspector if they think there are other types of inspections you should get (asbestos, lead, mold/mildew, etc.) and what benefits/drawbacks there might be for them.
- Set aside time before closing on your purchase to perform a final walkthrough of the property, checking as much as you can about the property’s day-to-day functionality.
Your home inspection experience will give you peace-of-mind. It'll give you a solid introduction to the workings of your new home, lessen the likelihood of an immediate repair, and let you plan for the maintenance you'll need in the future.
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