Buying a home is one of the biggest investments most people will make in their lifetime. When you’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a property, you want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. This is where a home inspection company comes in. A thorough home inspection can provide you with peace of mind and help ensure you don’t end up with an expensive money pit of a house. Here’s a look at how a home inspection company can help give you confidence in your home purchase.
The Importance of a Pre-Purchase Inspection
Before you finalize any home purchase, it’s highly recommended you have the property inspected by a professional home inspection company. While it may feel like an unnecessary expense, the several hundred dollars an inspection costs is minor compared to the tens or hundreds of thousands you’ll be spending on the home itself.
A pre-purchase inspection serves several important purposes:
- It can identify defects, problems or safety issues you may not notice on your own. With an untrained eye, it’s easy to miss things like signs of water damage, faulty wiring, or potential mold growth.
- It can provide an objective, unbiased assessment of the home’s condition from a trained professional. As a buyer, you may fall in love with a house and miss or downplay flaws. An inspector has no emotional attachment and can give you the unfiltered truth about the property.
- It gives you an opportunity to learn about the home’s systems and their condition. By tagging along on the inspection, you’ll gain useful knowledge regarding the home’s roof, foundation, electrical, plumbing, HVAC and more.
- It allows you to request repairs or credits from the seller for identified issues. The inspection report acts as documentation that gives you leverage in negotiations.
- It helps you make an informed decision about the purchase. You can use inspection findings to re-evaluate if the home is truly worth the asking price and whether you want to move forward with the transaction.
Without a home inspection, you’re essentially buying the property blind with no idea of the extent of repairs and problems it may have. An inspection removes uncertainty and sheds light on what you’re actually buying.
What to Expect During a Home Inspection
A standard home inspection from a professional home inspection company will be very thorough and detailed. On average, you can expect the inspection to take 2 to 3 hours for a typical single-family home. The inspector will examine the property inside and out, providing commentary and detailed notes the entire time.
Here are some key things the inspector will evaluate:
The inspector will evaluate the age, condition, and remaining life of the roof. This includes looking for damaged shingles, sagging, cracked flashing, and potential leak points. Gutters and drainage will also be examined.
The home’s siding, trim, paint, decks, porches, windows and doors will all be inspected. The inspector will look for cracks, rot, water damage, and other deterioration.
Basement and crawl spaces will be evaluated for signs of moisture intrusion, cracks, shifting, and structural defects. Grading around the house will also be examined.
While much of the structure won’t be visible, the inspector will look for any evidence of shifting, sagging, or modified structural elements inside the home.
Fixtures and supply lines throughout the home will be examined for leaks and proper function. Water pressure will be tested.
The inspector will test a representative sample of switches, outlets, and light fixtures. Special focus will be given to the electrical panel to identify potential safety hazards.
The home’s HVAC system will be inspected for age, capacity, and proper operation. This includes examination of the furnace, heat pump, ductwork, filters and more.
Attics and unfinished spaces will be inspected for adequate insulation and ventilation as well as evidence of water intrusion or vermin infestation.
Appliances included in the sale of the home will be tested to confirm they are working properly.
Water pressure and drainage will be evaluated by running fixtures like sinks, showers and toilets. Pipes will be inspected for leaks.
The inspector will evaluate walls, ceilings, floors and windows inside the home for signs of structural/water damage, quality of updates or repairs, and other deficiencies.
At the end of the inspection, you should receive a lengthy report detailing all the home’s systems and potential issues discovered. Reputable companies will even provide repair cost estimates for identified problems.
Red Flags an Inspector Can Find
There are many potentially costly red flags a home inspector may uncover. Here are some of the most concerning issues an inspection could identify:
- Structural problems – Issues like cracks in the foundation or settling can be extremely expensive to fix and may compromise the structural integrity of the home.
- Roof damage – A worn out or leaky roof can lead to widespread water intrusion damage. Roof repairs or full replacement can cost tens of thousands.
- Electrical issues – Outdated wiring, lack of grounding, overloaded circuits and other hazards increase fire risk and should be addressed.
- HVAC problems – Faulty heating/cooling equipment, undersized HVAC units and improper ductwork will leave you uncomfortable and lead to high energy bills.
- Plumbing leaks – Leaks not only damage walls and subfloors, but continually waste water. Drainage/sewer line issues are also a major headache if not addressed.
- Pest/termite damage – Wood destroying pests can cause thousands in damage and compromise structural integrity if not treated properly.
- Moisture intrusion – Water damage from leaks, flooding, condensation, or seepage can contribute to mold growth and decay.
- Major remodeling done without permits – Work done improperly without permits can impact safety and make insuring the home difficult.
- Outdated/unsafe electric panel – Federal Pacific and Zinsco panels are notorious fire hazards that should be replaced immediately.
If any red flags like these are identified, a good inspector will recommend having specialists further evaluate the issues and provide repair cost estimates.
Key Things to Review on an Inspection Report
When you receive the home inspection report, be sure to review the following sections closely:
Roof Condition: Roof repairs or replacement are a major expense, so pay close attention to any recommended repairs, damage described, or warnings about its remaining useful life.
The foundation supports the entire home. Look for any cracks, shifting, moisture signs, or recommendations for foundation repairs.
Improperly installed wiring and outdated electrical panels/breakers can increase fire risk. Make sure to review the electrical section thoroughly.
HVAC issues affect comfort and energy costs. Look for units nearing the end of their lifespan and undersized for the home.
Leaks and clogs will inevitably happen. Check whether the plumbing system appears in good working order or needs updates.
Appliances included in sale:
Make sure appliances noted as included in the sale are in working condition without defects described.
Signs of water damage:
Water damage can come with huge repair bills. Carefully read the report for any signs of current or past water intrusion.
Pest inspection recommended:
Termite damage or pest infestations can be a costly surprise. Follow any recommendations for having a pest inspection done.
Estimated life expectancies:
Pay attention to the estimated remaining life noted for the roof, HVAC system, water heater, and other components. Short lifespans indicate upcoming replacements.
By focusing on these critical inspection report sections, you can gauge the home’s true condition and make an informed buying decision.
Why Inspection Objectivity Matters
A home inspection only provides value if the inspector is completely unbiased. The reality is that everyone has some level of bias. The inspector may be friends with your real estate agent or simply want to avoid dealing with unhappy clients by downplaying issues discovered. Here’s why inspection objectivity is so important:
- You need the unfiltered truth about the home’s condition – If issues are sugar coated or minimized, you lose your best chance to get a clear picture of what problems the home has before closing.
- Repairs can be very expensive – Large expenses have a direct impact on your bottom line and whether the home is truly worth the purchase price when needed repairs are factored in.
- An objective eye helps compensate for your own bias – As a buyer, you’re likely to miss or downplay flaws. An objective inspector provides a neutral perspective you can trust.
- Documentation of issues protects your interests – Written documentation gives you evidence to request credits/repairs, walk away, or re-negotiate based on problems found.
- Your family’s safety and well-being are at stake – Issues like structural instability, mold growth or electrical hazards directly impact your family’s safety if not properly addressed.
While most inspectors want to provide quality service, each person carries a certain level of bias. By sticking to the facts, prioritizing safety, and providing documentation, a truly objective inspector can give you invaluable peace of mind during the home buying process.
Tips for Preparing for a Home Inspection
Simple preparations before an inspection can ensure the process goes smoothly:
Make sure utilities are on – Gas, electric, and water should all be active so the inspector can test appliances, plumbing, electrical and HVAC equipment.
Clear access to features
Make sure attics, crawlspaces, electric panels, yard, etc. are accessible and not obstructed so the inspector can thoroughly evaluate all areas.
Have all information handy
Provide any home disclosures, previous inspection reports, improvement records, and other information to the inspector for review.
Keep children and pets away
Pets should be secured so they don’t distract or hamper the inspection process. Small children also should be kept away for safety.
Don’t obstruct the inspector
Maintain some distance so the inspector can work unimpeded. Avoid distracting conversation unrelated to the inspection findings.
Take notes and photographs
Document damage areas, concerning findings, and questions to review after the inspection report arrives.
Conduct a pre-inspection yourself
Walk the home and make notes ahead of time of areas that look concerning such as stains or cracks. Point these out to the inspector.
Provide contact info
Supply your mobile number and email address so the inspector can provide updates on arrival time and contact you with any pressing findings.
Make a list of home components you have questions about to discuss with the inspector during or after the inspection.
A few simple preparations will enable the inspection process to proceed efficiently. Work with your agent and inspector to make the process as smooth as possible.
Why a Sewer Scope Is Recommended
While not automatically included in a standard home inspection, having the sewer line professionally scoped by a home inspection company is highly recommended. Here’s why it’s worth the small additional cost:
- It can identify tree root intrusion – Tree roots infiltrating and clogging the sewer line is a common and very costly issue to repair.
- Telescopic cameras can thoroughly inspect the full line – A standard inspection can’t see the full length of underground sewer pipes. Cameras allow the full interior condition to be evaluated.
- It can reveal alignment and flow issues – A scope can identify sections with improper slope, offsets, and cesspools that restrict flow and lead to backups.
- It allows early identification of cracked/broken pipes – With underground pipes, cracks and breaks that lead to waste water leakage often go undetected until it’s too late.
- Inspection reports detail precise sewer line condition – Detailed scope reports and video provide documentation of sewer line integrity to inform your purchase decision.
- Finding serious issues early prevents much larger repairs later – Identifying sections that need repair or replacement before property transfer is far less hassle than emergency sewage situations after moving in.
- It can help ensure the lateral line is connected properly – Cases of improper sewer lateral installation that don’t connect to the main line have occurred. A scope can confirm proper connection.
A sewer scope costs a few hundred dollars on average – a small price to pay for identifying issues that could cost thousands down the road. Contact a home inspection company to schedule a sewer scope along with your standard home inspection.
What to Do if Problems Are Found
If the home inspection uncovers significant problems, you have a few options:
For minor issues, you can request the sellers make repairs or provide a credit equal to repair costs at closing. Get quotes to justify your request.
Renegotiate the purchase price
For more major issues, significant credits or even lowering the overall purchase price may be warranted to compensate for the home’s condition.
Walk away from the transaction
If repairs needed are too extensive or beyond your budget, you’re fully justified to walk away and avoid buying a problem home. Your earnest money should be returned.
Ask for concessions
Even if not making repairs, some sellers may agree to concessions like paying for a home warranty to cover future repair costs of defects found during the inspection.
Complete repairs after closing
If you really want the home despite major issues found, you can always make the repairs yourself after the transaction closes. Budget accordingly.
The purchase agreement should allow you to back out if inspection findings would influence your decision to buy the home. Don’t feel pushed into purchasing a home with substantial problems you aren’t prepared to take on both financially and physically.
Don’t Waive Contingencies
In competitive housing markets with low inventory, you may feel pressured to skip the home inspection or waive inspection contingencies to make your offer stronger. This is never recommended. Here are risks of waiving inspection contingencies:
You lose the chance to thoroughly evaluate the home’s condition – Major latent defects could exist that you won’t know about until you live in the home.
Repairs can remain hidden that are your responsibility after closing – Without an inspection, you won’t know about major upcoming costs like a new roof or HVAC replacement.
It removes your exit strategy if big issues are discovered – Finding serious problems post-closing means you’re stuck with the home and the steep costs to fix them.
Safety hazards could go undetected and put your family at risk – Faulty wiring, structural instability, and other dangers to health are serious risks if not uncovered.
Your loan could fall through without an inspection – Most lenders require an inspection to fund mortgages to confirm the home provides adequate collateral.
It’s illegal not to disclose known issues – Waving contingency doesn’t release the sellers from disclosing known defects that you’re entitled to know about.
An inspection contingency protects you when making the largest purchase of your life. Don’t let the temptation of a quicker sale put your family and finances at risk.
Why Choosing the Right Inspector Matters
Not all home inspectors are created equal. Qualifications, expertise, equipment, methods and reporting standards can vary significantly. Here are factors that differentiate great inspectors:
Proper licensing – Competent inspectors have met experience requirements and passed testing to obtain state licensing demonstrating their capabilities.
The most knowledgeable inspectors have examined hundreds of homes over many years and seen a wide breadth of repair situations.
Technology like infrared cameras, drone videos, and moisture meters allows thorough inspection beyond just the naked eye.
The best stay up-to-date on methods and building codes by completing regular continuing education.
Top inspectors provide comprehensive, well-written reports instead of brief, vague checklists. Photos and cost estimates show problems clearly.
Participating in professional organizations indicates commitment to standards, ethics and ongoing learning.
Errors and omissions insurance provides liability coverage if something unlikely gets missed during the inspection.
Speak to past clients to gauge timeliness, communication style, thoroughness and if they would recommend the inspector.
A few hundred dollars saved upfront leads to false economies if you end up with an unqualified inspector. Do your research to ensure you choose wisely.