From finding an inspector to dealing with surprises — this is your guide to getting a house checked out.
Not yet. But you’re close. So take a deep breath. Because the most important thing to know about home inspection: It’s good for you, as a buyer. Here’s why.
A Home Inspector Is Your Protector
An inspector helps you make sure a house isn’t hiding anything before you commit for the long haul. (Think about it this way: You wouldn’t even get coffee with a stranger without checking out their history.)
This report is critical to you and your agent — it’s what you’ll use to request repairs from the seller. (Don’t worry, your agent will take care of this task for you with your consent.)
The Inspector Won’t Check Everything
Generally, inspectors only examine houses for problems that can be seen with the naked eye. They won’t be tearing down walls or using magical X-ray vision, to find hidden faults.
Finally, home inspectors are often generalists. A basic inspection doesn’t routinely include a thorough evaluation of:
- Swimming pools
- Septic systems
- Structural engineering work
- The ground beneath a home
- Fireplaces and chimneys
If you’re concerned about the safety of a fireplace, you can hire a certified chimney inspector for about $125 to $325 per chimney; find one through the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
It’s Your Job to Check the Inspector
Now you’re ready to connect with someone who’s a pro at doing all of the above. Here’s where — once again — your real estate agent has your back. He or she can recommend reputable home inspectors to you.
You’ll want to interview at least three inspectors before deciding whom to hire. During each chat, ask questions such as:
- Are you licensed or certified? Inspector certifications vary, based on where you live. Not every state requires home inspectors to be licensed, and licenses can indicate different degrees of expertise. ASHI lists each state’s requirements here.
- How long have you been in the business? Look for someone with at least five years of experience — it indicates more homes inspected.
- How much do you charge? The average home inspection costs about $315. Homes over 1,500 square feet can run $350+. Be sure to ask your agent for their most trusted and affordable inspectors.
- What do you check, exactly? Know what you’re getting for your money.
- What don’t you check, specifically? Some home inspectors are more thorough than others.
- How soon after the inspection will I receive my report? Home inspection contingencies require you to complete the inspection within a certain period of time after the offer is accepted — normally ten to fifteen days — so you’re on a set timetable. A good home inspector will provide you with the report within 24 hours after the inspection.
- May I see a sample report? This will help you gauge how detailed the inspector is and how he or she explains problems.
Sometimes you can find online reviews of inspectors on sites like Angie’s List and Yelp if past clients’ feedback is helpful in making your decision.
Take extreme reviews (“she was the best inspector ever”) with a grain of salt; compare a provider’s reviews on several sites; don’t let a few bad reviews cloud the positives; see if a contractor has addressed negative reviews.
Show Up for Inspection (and Bring Your Agent)
Block out 2 or 3 hours for the inspection. The inspector will survey the property from top to bottom. This includes checking water pressure; leaks in the attic, plumbing, etc.; if door and window frames are straight (if not, it could be a sign of a structural issue); if electrical wiring is up to code; if smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working; if appliances work properly. Outside, he or she will look at things like siding, fencing, and drainage.
The inspector might also be able to check for termites, asbestos, lead paint, or radon. Because these tests involve more legwork and can require special certification, they come at an additional charge. *Ask your agent for reputable termite company to inspect the home. Most times in the Springfield area, the termite inspection is free.
Get Ready to Negotiate
Once you receive the inspector’s report, review it with your agent. Highlight your biggest concerns and questions and your agent is there to guide you with their experience with home defects.
Legally, sellers are required to make certain repairs if your contract was agreed upon this way. These can vary depending on what city you live in. Most sales contracts require the seller to fix:
- Structural defects
- Building code violations
- Safety issues
If there are major issues with the house, your agent can submit a formal request for repairs that includes a copy of the inspection report. Repair requests should be as specific as possible. For instance: Instead of saying “repair broken windows,” a request should say “replace broken window glass in master bathroom.” Your real estate agent will write this for you, so don’t stress!
- If the seller agrees to make all of your repair requests: He or she must provide you with invoices from a licensed contractor stating that the repairs were made. Then it’s full steam ahead toward the sale.
- If the seller responds to your repair requests with a counteroffer: He or she will state which repairs (or credits at closing) he or she is willing to make. The ball is in your court to either agree, counter the seller’s counteroffer, or void the transaction.
At the end of the day, remember to check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling about all of this. You need to be realistic about how much repair work you’d be taking on. At this point in the sale, there’s a lot of pressure from all parties to move into the close. But if you don’t feel comfortable, speak up. Your real estate agent should be there to console, listen and provide advice for you.
The most important things to remember during the home inspection? Trust your inspector, trust your gut, and lean on your agent — they likely have a lot of experience to support your decision-making.
That’s something to feel good about.