THE BUYER’S GUIDE TO INSPECTIONS
If you’re in the market to purchase a home, one of the most important steps in the process is a home inspection.
The inspection is your opportunity to identify both major and minor issues prior to purchasing a home.
In a “balanced market”, or in a “buyer’s market”, home inspections are a standard part of the process; however, in “seller’s markets”, buyers often feel the need to forego inspections (more on this in a future post).
Inspection contingencies allow you, as a buyer to back out of your purchase offer, without penalty, should there be issues of concern that you’re not able to resolve with the seller. There is, of course, a short timeframe in which you can do this.
WHAT A HOME INSPECTION COVERS
Your inspector will look at certain visible elements of the home, both inside and outside. Depending on the size and complexity of the condominium or home, the inspection will take anywhere from 1 ½ to 6+ hours.
An exterior inspection includes a review of the:
- Roof, gutters, eaves, chimneys
- Walls and siding
- Grading (whether soils are sloping toward or away from the home)
Inside the home, the inspection will assess the:
- Foundation and crawl space
- Electrical system, fixtures, and outlets
- Heating and cooling systems
- Appliances (water heater, kitchen appliances, washer/dryer)
- Dryer exhaust
- Fire door (if there is an attached garage)
- Presence of smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, radon detectors, etc.
- Ventilation systems (fans, ducts, etc.)
- And more!
WHAT YOUR INSPECTOR WON’T LOOK AT
Your inspector is looking for visual clues that might indicate current or potential issues. However, your inspector cannot take any invasive actions during the inspection.
For example, the inspector can’t cut into the drywall, remove electrical panels, plumbing fixtures, or outlets.
And since inspectors are trained to have general knowledge on a wide range of home-related issues, they generally are not experts in every (or any!) area. However, if the inspector uncovers a problem that will require additional knowledge, they may suggest additional inspection by an expert.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT AFTER THE INSPECTION
After the inspection, your inspector will prepare a written report which is typically supplemented with photos. This will be emailed to you and, with your permission, to your agent. A copy of the report is not provided to the seller by the inspector.
The most helpful inspection reports group findings into three categories:
- Safety issues
- Major defects
- Minor defects
The report may also indicate if an item(s) need replacement or if it requires servicing, repair, or monitoring. In large part, the Inspection Is Intended to educate the buyer on Items they should focus on In the future as they take over homeownership.
Once you have the results of your inspection, it’s decision time! This is where your agent will be an invaluable ally in putting together your strategy, and the paperwork to support it.
Regardless of whether the problems are big ones or little ones, you can ask the seller to make repairs. Alternately, the seller could offer a credit at closing and you can then fix the problems yourself after you move in.
If the seller won’t work with you to resolve the issues and you have an inspection contingency in your contract and you’re within the timeframe to do so, you may be able to terminate your contract without losing your earnest money.
FINDING A GOOD INSPECTOR
Washington State, where our team works, is one of the few states which requires both classroom training and field inspection training before they can be licensed to practice.
Each home inspector has varying levels of experience and thoroughness. Your real estate agent is a good referral source for inspectors. You may also want to reach out to friends and family for their recommendations.
We work with outstanding inspectors with whom we have strong relationships. If you’d like a recommendation, just reach out. We’d be happy to help!
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