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Jun 2016

How Important Are Home Inspections Before You Buy?

If you’re a fan of 80s comedies, you may have seen a movie called The Money Pit starring Tom Hanks, who buys a house based on a photo and the word of a business partner, only to get sucked into months and hundreds of thousands of dollars of repair work. In the end, he pretty much had to replace everything from the floors to the roof to the plumbing. If he had gotten an inspection in the beginning, he may have saved himself some major headaches.

Before closing, you should have at least a basic home inspection and wood-destroying organism inspection (often called a termite and moisture inspection.)

The home inspection

The home inspection should be done by a qualified home inspector who checks out the structural condition of the home, including electrical, heating, venting, air conditioning, plumbing, and roofing. They should also check under appliances and sinks for leaks or other issues that may impact your ability to move right in after closing and live in your house without any issues. Your real estate agent should request the inspection right after you sign the contract and put down your escrow deposit. You want to allow enough time for any repairs or issues to be addressed (if needed), before closing. The time frames, due dates, etc. are all addressed in the contract prior to ratification/agreement to the contract.

You are making a huge investment so it’s important to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting. Unlike other purchases, you can’t simply return the home to the seller if you find something wrong with it once you move in.

The inspector will provide a report of their findings. It should be a detailed report and not just one that evaluates the areas as “good,” “fair,” or “poor.” Your agent should be coordinating all of this based on the contract and should be scheduling this with a trusted and reputable contractor who won’t come back with a vague report. Review the report carefully. If there are defects or issues, make sure you address them before the purchase of your home. If the seller states that they will take care of them, get it in writing and make sure you have another inspection completed before closing to ensure that the items were fixed. Most people do this at the final walk through prior to closing. Depending on the repair needed, you may be able to negotiate a lower selling price. Again, get everything in writing. To help keep the worry at a minimum, your agent should be doing all of this for you. If you accept the home “as is,” you are purchasing the home with its defects and won’t really have any recourse later if you find something wrong.

The termite/moisture inspection

During the inspection, the certified pest inspector checks for damages caused by insects that get into the wood of your home, such as the foundation, roof, doors, etc. They will eat away at the wood, possibly making it unstable. As with the general home inspection, you and your real estate agent should review the report and negotiate any repairs or preventative work that is required, such as having an exterminator treat the house to keep the bugs out. The moisture inspection is usually done at the same time and by the same inspector that does the termite check. This part of the inspection addresses any wood destroying mold, mildew, and any other non-insect wood destroying organisms. Your sales contract will state who is responsible for the cost of these inspections. You may be able to negotiate with the seller to get them to cover the cost of the inspections, which is usually the case.

These are just the most basic inspections. There are several other inspections you may want to consider. Inspections give you peace of mind that you are making a safe and sound investment.

Another inspection to consider is a radon inspection. If you live in an area that has a high level of granite in the soil composition, you may want to consider this inspection. Radon is formed when radium, which occurs naturally where granite is involved, breaks down. Radon gas builds up in the home. It’s radioactive and has been linked to cancer. Septic tank inspections are also available. These are important to make sure that you are not surprised later by a front lawn filled with sewage due to a septic tank that has rusted away and burst at the seams. If you are building your new home from the ground up, inspections will be a regular part of your life during the entire construction as each phase requires. You’ll hear a lot of references to “being up to code.” These are the words your builder needs to hear for the contractors to keep moving forward on your dream home.

One thing to keep in mind is that an inspection may not reveal things that can’t be seen.

This includes things like mold that is hidden under layers of paint, wallpaper, or within the drywall. It doesn’t include lead hidden in paint or asbestos hidden in ceilings or insulation. If you ‘re purchasing an older home, you may want to consider hiring an asbestos or lead expert to look for those things. If you’re purchasing a home in a damp environment, it may be worth the additional cost to have a mold inspection. If it’s possible, see if you can be part of the inspection process and work with your real estate agent to understand the inspection process. Meaning – ask the home inspector if you can be there when they are doing their inspections. Ask questions about the findings in the report. The home inspector probably will not be able to recommend how or who fixes the problems, but they can tell you how they arrived at their results. Check out your home inspector’s credentials, reviews, and references. Ask your real estate agent if they’ve used the inspector in the past and what previous sellers or buyers thought of the home inspection. In the end, you want to make sure that you’ve covered all of the bases and are well on your way to protecting what will most likely be the largest asset in your life. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to talk to your real estate agent or your lender. You need to have any concerns addressed before you close.