During the height of the pandemic, when people were moving homes fast and furiously, some people bought homes sight unseen – with a virtual walk-through as their only basis for making an offer. This was somewhat common when families relocated some distance away, like to another state or cross country. Others may have gone to an open house before making an offer but skipped the home inspection step in the process.
If possible, please don’t skip the process of a home inspection when you’re buying a home in 2023. They are an essential part of the home-buying process and can keep you from spending a lot of money on a home, only to discover too late that there are serious issues with it.
This blog will give you a general idea of what home inspections are and why it’s important to always perform a home inspection before moving forward with the purchase of your new home.
What is a home inspection?
A home inspection is typically performed when a home is being sold and is performed by licensed home inspectors. After you make an offer and the seller accepts it, you enter into a contract and the home is taken off the market.
That contract gives you, as the home buyer, the right to “inspect” the dwelling for damage and defects and compels the seller to allow access to the property for the inspection, usually within seven days from signing. This period is known as the “Home Inspection Contingency.”
To boil it all down, a home inspection is a top-to-bottom review of the structural condition and systems of the home you’re looking to buy, like the plumbing, heating and air conditioning, electrical and ventilation.
Why get a home inspection?
It’s all about trust. If you skip a home inspection, you’re trusting the seller to disclose everything that could potentially be wrong with the house. This is a pretty big risk as some sellers withhold information about problems with a home while others genuinely might not be aware of anything wrong.
After getting a home inspection, the potential homebuyer reviews the report delivered by the inspector and has a choice to make.
- Option 1: Live with the findings and proceed with the transaction
- Option 2: Submit a written list of issues that need to be addressed by the seller before closing
- Option 3: Present the list as the rationale for requesting a lower sales price
- Option 4: Cancel the transaction
Is a home inspection the same as a home appraisal?
Home appraisals are similar but different from home inspections in that they assess a home’s value and are used as part of the home loan approval process to help determine a buyer’s loan-to-value ratio (LTV). For appraisals, the inspector is hired by the lender, not the buyer. This is done to ensure the home is a good investment and to support the lender’s decision to provide a mortgage to the borrower.
What is a home inspector looking for?
A home inspection will evaluate the following areas:
- Appliances, if included
- Exterior foundation
- Roof and attic
- Structural soundness
More specifically, a home inspector will go down their checklist, including:
- Assessing insulation in attic and crawl spaces
- Checking heating and cooling coverage
- Determining water pressure by running sinks
- Evaluating drainage of grading around the foundation
- Examining light switches and electrical outlets
- Flushing toilets to make sure they work properly
- Inspecting roof and gutters for weather damage
- Looking for defects in floors, walls and ceilings, including signs of water damage
- Opening and shutting all windows
- Peering into closets and under stairs to look for mold
- Performing inspection of chimneys and flues
- Taking stock of exterior decks and railings for dry rot
- Testing fuse box and breaker panel
- Walking the foundation to look for cracks and the basement for water seepage
What areas will a home inspector not explore?
The problems home inspectors are looking for are usually evident only at the surface. They won’t damage the building by breaking into walls or ripping up the flooring to look for root causes of issues, but in most cases, they’ll give a “best guess” about what’s out of sight. Unfortunately, the inspection will not detect issues hidden behind the walls and beneath the floorboards.
What if an issue is found in my home inspection?
Most home inspections will turn up something — even with brand-new construction. Some issues may be things you can live with, but it’s the severity (and potential cost) of more significant problems that you should be most concerned with. And it will all be documented in the inspection report.
Once the report is delivered to you, you can communicate in writing all the issues you want to be addressed by the seller before closing. Let’s say your inspector finds that the roof has a leak, which has led to mold growth in a closet in the corner of the house. You can ask the seller to fix the issue or renegotiate your offer.
Some sellers will balk at funding a repair or slashing the selling price because of something that they feel is minor. As the buyer, you need to decide if you’re okay with imperfections you can fix yourself or if you’d rather “walk away” from the transaction. Remember, the sales contract gives you the right to withdraw your offer with no recourse based on the home inspection results.
How much time do I have to get this done?
Keep in mind that there is a time limit to home inspections. Once the contingency period ends, the buyer loses their right to have the home inspected; and to negotiate over defects found in a home. Home inspectors are generally busy people, especially in areas with a lot of new construction or high turnover in property sales, so finding one who is responsive and can quickly turn around an inspection report is often tricky.
Your real estate agent might be able to provide you with a short list of reputable home inspectors, but it’s up to you to hire one. You can also ask friends and potential neighbors — especially if they’ve recently bought their home— if they can make a recommendation.
If all else fails, visit the American Society of Home Inspectors website to search for a vetted home inspector.
Protect yourself and protect your investment
Having a home inspection is not just your right; it’s prudent. And it could save the purchase of your dream home from becoming a nightmare. We hope we’ve addressed some of your questions about the importance of home inspection in the home-buying process. Remember, before you make an offer, know what you can afford. A Movement Mortgage loan officer can help you find a budget you’ll be comfortable with and quickly determine if you can be pre-approved for that amount. Find one here.