Buying a home is probably one of the largest investments you will make. There are many steps along the path to purchasing a home, from financial details like the appraisal and mortgage process to the overall feel of the house and how you imagine yourself using the space. But one step you should never skip is the home inspection. An inspection is different from an appraisal and gives you much more detailed information about the home. That information can contribute to your negotiations on the selling price or may just give you a better idea of what you may have to repair after you move in. But it’s always good to get a professional opinion beyond your own walkthrough of the property.
Is a Home Inspection Required to Purchase a Home?
Typically, a home inspection is not required to buy a home. Lenders will always require an appraisal to determine the value of the home. After all, if you default on your loan, the lender needs to be able to repossess the home and retrieve their money in a foreclosure sale. But an appraisal doesn’t come close to the thoroughness of a home inspection. So while most lenders don’t require a home inspection, it would be a mistake not to get one.
Hiring a professional home inspector usually costs about $300-$500. But what you get in return could save you thousands of dollars. A home inspection can reveal any damage to the home as well as other needed repairs. With the information from a home inspector, you can negotiate on the price and other aspects of your home purchase. It is not uncommon for buyers to request that sellers either repair damage or discount the selling price to cover needed repairs.
If you decide not to do a home inspection before you buy, you are responsible for the state of the home at the time of purchase and any needed repairs.
While most home warranty companies do not require a home inspection—some even advertise “no inspection required”—an inspection can help you with a home warranty claim. The most common reason a home warranty claim is denied is that the warranty company considers it a pre-existing condition. Home warranties do not cover damage that was present when you bought the home (or the warranty). A home inspection report can help prove that certain parts of your home were, in fact, in good working condition at the time of purchase.
What Does a Home Inspection Cover?
Home inspections vary significantly from inspector to inspector or between different inspection companies. However, many areas are commonly covered by almost all inspectors. Similarly, certain aspects of the home are almost always excluded. The American Institute of Inspectors also offers some guidance in their standards of practice.
An inspection should include a visual inspection of the home’s foundation. The inspector will look for signs of sagging or bowing in the floods, walls, and ceiling. They may also inspect the windows to uncover signs of foundation damage. Stairs can also reveal some structural damage.
An inspector will look for adequate working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. If there are sprinklers in the building, the inspector will ensure they are in working order. The inspection should also cover the stability of stairs, railings, and handrails. This category may also include working garage doors and openers.
Condition of Property
The home inspection covers the entire property, including outdoor features. A home inspector will look for damage to driveways, walkways, and sidewalks. If there is a septic tank, the inspector will do a visual inspection for leaks, though they will not inspect the entire system. Fences, gates, and outbuildings like sheds are also included. While outdoors, the inspector will also look for adequate and functional drainage systems. For example, an inspection would note if the ground around the home is not properly graded to direct water away from the foundation.
A home inspector will not go into the amount of detail that a roofer might, but they will still do a visual inspection of the roof. The inspector will look for and damage to the shingles, flashing, gutters, and downspouts. They will also note any damage to the exterior of the chimney.
The inspector will look for any damage to the outside of the house, including damaged siding, peeling paint, or mold. They will also check that all exterior lights and outlets are functioning.
The inspector will check that the attic has sufficient insulation and ventilation. They will also look for any signs of water damage.
An inspection of the interior plumbing will determine that there are no visible leaking pipes. The inspector will also check that all toilets, faucets, tubs, and showers work properly with both hot and cold water.
The inspector will do a visual inspection of all exposed wiring to evaluate it for condition and make sure it is up to current codes. They will also do a complete check of every light switch, ceiling fan, and outlet and ensure that the circuit breaker functions appropriately.
The inspector will check that the stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, microwave, washer and dryer, and all other appliances are in good functioning order. This is especially helpful if you need to make a claim under a home warranty since the inspection report can prove that the problem was not pre-existing at the time you bought the home and warranty.
Heating and Cooling
Your heating and cooling systems include your furnace, air conditioner, water heater, fireplace, and chimney if you have them. The inspector will check all of these to ensure they are functioning and determine how old they are and whether they are due for replacement. This is another area where the inspection report can help with home warranty claims.
If you have a basement, the inspector will visit it to make sure that it is sturdy and there is no water damage. They will check the foundation, walls, and floors. It is critical to look for signs of water intrusion or damage, which could lead to severe damage and expensive repairs. If the inspection uncovers water leakage in the basement, you may want to make your purchase contingent on remediating the basement water issues. If the seller doesn’t want to take care of it themselves, you can try asking for a seller’s credit to help pay for the repairs.
The garage will get similar treatment to the rest of the house. The inspector will take a close look at the roof, ceiling, walls, doors, and windows and inspect the concrete floor for any cracks, bulging, or sinking. The inspection also includes running all lights and making sure the garage door opens with all openers. The inspector will also take a look at any exposed wiring to ensure it is up to code.
What Does a Home Inspection Not Include?
While a home inspection covers a lot of ground, it leaves out some critical areas, too. First, the inspection doesn’t look for any kind of pests or infestation. The inspection may note structural damage from pests, such as termites, but it won’t look for active infestations of insects, rodents, or other pests. Also, the inspection doesn’t cover toxic materials or air quality issues such as radon, mold, lead paint, or asbestos.
One key area that is not covered in most home inspections is a swimming pool. If you are buying a home with a pool, either hire an inspector who explicitly includes pools or hire a separate pool inspector. A pool inspector will examine the pool for structural defects, safety hazards, and functioning pool equipment like heaters, pumps, filters, and jets. While a typical home inspection doesn’t include a pool, we highly recommend getting a separate pool inspection. Pool issues can be expensive to fix and should be included in the final sale negotiations. Also, some pool problems are safety hazards and should be dealt with immediately.
Finding a Home Inspector
Finding a good home inspector is critical. The inspection is the best way for you to know the actual state of the home you plan to buy. If it is not accurate and thorough, you could be left with damage and repairs you didn’t anticipate. So it makes sense to be picky about your inspector. For the best service, prices, and quality, try out one of these TrustDALE certified home inspectors.