What Happens During A Home Inspection
As a first time homebuyer, it’s important to know what happens during a home inspection and what to do with the results. The dream home you’ve put an offer on could be move-in ready or may not be as perfect as you think.
What is checked during a home inspection
A home inspection is often performed after the purchase contract is signed and gives you information about a house that isn't apparent at first glance. During a home inspection, the inspector looks at the property and reports on whether it's in good shape, notes any necessary repairs, and predicts how long the components of the house will continue to function properly.
The inspector examines each room of the home, plus closets. During a home inspection, doors and windows are tested to make sure they open and close correctly while proper functioning of electric and plumbing systems is ensured. Detailed notes and photographs of the inspector’s findings will be given to you. Most inspectors will provide an electronic report within a few days.
Your real estate agent may be able to provide a list of inspectors previous clients have used, and of course, friends and family may be able to make a recommendation. The cheapest inspector may not be the best; choose an inspector who can provide a list of references – and check them! Licenses can be confirmed with the Board of Registration of Home Inspectors.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development devised a list of general questions to ask prospective home inspectors including:
- How long have you professionally been conducting home inspections?
- How long will the inspection take and how much does it cost?
- What does your inspection report entail and how long does it take to receive it?
An inspection shouldn’t be confused with an appraisal or considered a guarantee of any kind. An appraisal assesses how much a home might sell for on the market, whereas a home inspection provides an in-depth look at a property's condition and alerts you to potential flaws or safety issues.
Common problems home inspections reveal
As a first time homebuyer, every little thing the inspector identifies may make you feel uneasy. It's important to remember that it’s very common for an inspection to reveal at least one problem. Some problems are relatively minor and are an easy fix, others however, can be costly.
An analysis of more than 50,000 home inspection reports found the average home needed thousands of dollars in repairs, according to a 2019 Repair Pricer study. Doors that don’t function correctly, broken faucets, missing exterior caulking or sealant—which can result in water damage to wires and insulation and may allow mold to grow—and problems with outlets or switches were found in more than half the inspection reports surveyed; each of these flaws is estimated to cost between $248 and $310 to repair.
In addition, GCFI protection, an electrical safety feature that prevents electrocution, was found to be missing in 48 percent of homes in the study, with an estimated price tag of $433 to correct. Forty-five percent of homes had missing or broken smoke alarms, which would cost an estimated $378 to replace, and the same percentage had sheetrock cracks or protruding nails, which are often unsightly and cost an estimated $545 to repair.
Differences between a house and condo inspection
For a single-family home, an inspector checks the home’s interior and exterior space, including the foundation, attic and crawlspaces. For condos, inspectors generally only look at the unit you are considering. In both cases, your inspector will be looking for cracked walls, signs of water damage, and appliance issues.
If purchasing a condo, you may be able to find an inspector who will examine the building your desired unit is in. If not, consider reaching out to the property’s management company to ensure you know important details like how old the roof is and if any special assessments were recently done or are on the horizon.
Waiving a home inspection
Waiving a home inspection may seem like a cost-saving measure by some cash-strapped first time home buyers. While not required by law, closing on a house without having the property inspected first is very risky. The house could have serious problems that you don't know about but can be easily identified by the trained eye. If you waive an inspection, you could end up paying a lot for unexpected repairs after you buy the house.
By skipping a home inspection, you miss out on the chance to renegotiate the price with the seller, to ask the seller to make repairs, or to walk away from the purchase if the home's flaws are too extensive. You could even end up buying a home with safety hazards that would be dangerous to inhabit.
How to get the most out of an inspection
You should attend the inspection with your real estate agent. A good real estate agent will take notes during a home inspection and will later help negotiate with the seller should any major issues be identified. Consider videotaping the inspection with your phone; this way you’ll immediately have an unofficial record of the inspection findings.
Don’t feel like you are annoying your inspector by asking questions - you hired this person to help you determine if the property is worth purchasing. You want to walk away from the home inspection feeling well-informed of the property’s condition.
What to do after the inspection
A good inspector will let you know if there are any red flags during a home inspection. Confirm with your inspector, but most will send you an electronic copy of your home inspection within a few days. Thoroughly review the report and discuss the findings with your real estate agent.
Minor issues, like replacing a window, can often be taken care of by the seller in a timely fashion and won’t delay the sale. In some situations, you may choose to complete the repairs yourself if they aren’t costly. With major issues, such as noncompliance with legal codes or structural problems, you'll likely want to negotiate with the seller to have the repairs professionally dealt with. Another option may be to have the seller reduce the asking price. This is why it’s important to have certain contingencies in place when you make your offer.
When to walk away
If the home you put an offer on turns out to have more issues than anticipated, you may be better off to continue with your house search. If your contract stipulates that you can withdraw your offer depending on the results of the inspection, then you have the option to walk away should the inspection unearth significant flaws. You rightfully may decide you don't want to buy a house with serious structural problems or widespread issues that will be difficult to resolve, especially if you are already at the top of your price point.