The larger and more complex your financial transaction, the more important it is for you to be an informed consumer. For most people, the purchase or sale of a home is the biggest and most involved business deal of their lifetime. So no matter which side of the transaction you’re on, it makes good sense to be as informed as possible. That includes knowing as much as you can about the condition of the property so that you can make wise and prudent decisions throughout the entire process.
Now, how do you maximize your knowledge about the property’s condition? That’s where a professional home inspection can help. A professional home inspection is a complete physical examination of property from top to bottom by an independent third party. The inspection covers components that are visible and accessible. This includes structural elements such as foundation, roof, chimneys, walls, windows, doors, insulation, basement, crawlspaces, and attic.
Systems like heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical are also inspected as well as mechanical components such as appliances. Inspectors also look for evidence of wood-destroying insects such as termites. Overall, an inspector identifies potential health and safety concerns, both positive and negative conditions of the property and any conditions that might warrant further specialized inspection.
Inspection results are delivered in the form a written report. Report formats vary and can range from a simple checklist to full narrative or anywhere in between. Preferably you should receive a comprehensive report, with annotated photos, that details findings. It should also include a summary that highlights any items of major concern. When reviewing the inspection report, remember that it is a snapshot in time. This report does not provide a warranty or guarantee for the future. It only reflects property condition and operation of systems on the day the inspection was performed, not any time beyond that.
Requiring home inspections is pretty much standard practice today for homebuyers. The requirement is usually in the form of a contingency clause in the purchase contract that specifies what happens based on the findings from a home inspection. Those findings provide buyers with the information needed to make effective decisions about their next actions in their transaction. Armed with knowledge of present property condition, buyers can better evaluate price, determine what conditions to accept or negotiate remedies for, and make judicious decisions on if/how to move forward with the purchase.
Inspections are not just for buyers though. If you are a seller, contracting for a pre-sale inspection can be beneficial too. You get advance, objective information that helps you set a fair price and address any issues that might delay your sale or even result in the transaction falling through. You get the option to make those repairs before prospective buyers see your home. If you elect not to make repairs, you are able to more accurately disclose any adverse conditions. All in all, you should find yourself in a better position for fewer contingencies and concessions and a quicker sale. Keep in mind that even when you have a pre-sale inspection, buyers may still request a professional inspection of their own.
Typically when buyers request the inspection, they are responsible for covering the costs. Sellers who have a pre-sale inspection done would pay the inspector’s fees. Either way, how much can you expect a professional home inspection to cost? Inspection fees vary by geographic location and size and feature of the property. Typically, you might expect to pay $200 to $500 for a professional home inspection. Prices vary however, and it is a good idea to check and compare costs in your area.
In addition to cost, other obvious questions are: What do you look for when hiring an inspector and where do you look? Reputation, experience, training, certifications and professional affiliations are important considerations in making your selection for an inspector. Friends or real estate professionals may refer you to qualified inspectors. Other sources are your local Yellow Pages directory and online directories of professional organizations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or local professional associations for home inspectors.
No matter which party you are in a real estate transaction, contracting for a professional home inspection is a smart move. With it, you can approach and complete your real estate transaction with the confidence that comes from knowing the good, bad and ugly about current property condition.
Hiring a Home Inspector
You want to know as much as possible about the condition of the home you are buying. One of the best ways to do that is to hire a professional home inspector. The inspector’s job is to perform a comprehensive physical examination of property, including major systems and components. The inspector then gives you an impartial opinion about the current condition of the property, as well as about potential safety concerns and any issues that might warrant further specialized inspection. As you can see, a home inspection is a very important process. You therefore want a well-qualified inspector to perform this examination. How do you find a qualified professional home inspector? And what factors do you look at when choosing one? Consider the following tips:
Finding a Home Inspector
Referrals are an excellent source for finding a professional home inspector. Ask relatives or friends who are homeowners what inspector they used when purchasing their home. If you are working with a real estate agent, you will find that he/she usually has a list of qualified home inspectors in the area. Other sources are your local Yellow Pages and directories on the web sites of professional organizations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (www.ashi.org), National Association of Home Inspectors (www.nahi.org) or National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (www.nachi.org). You can also perform an Internet search to find state associations and/or certifying bodies.
Choosing a Home Inspector
Once you have identified a list of candidates, what factors do you consider when making your choice?
Professional qualifications and experience
You are looking for someone with relevant formal training as well as direct, practical experience and a proven track record in the home inspection business. Find out how many inspections they have performed and whether professional home inspection is their full-time occupation.
References and reputation
Get the names and contact information for at least three previous customers. Then call each one. Ask how satisfied they were with the inspection and the inspection report. Find out if any problems have surfaced with the property that were overlooked in the inspection. Also consider checking with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against the company that the inspector is affiliated with.
Professional memberships and certifications
Is the inspector certified or a member of any professional associations? If yes, determine if the organizations are reputable and recognized and find out what the requirements are for membership and certification.
Errors and omissions insurance provides protection for you if the inspector misses a problem that should have been detected during the inspection. Insurance coverage is one indication that an inspector cares about protecting their customers and plans to be in business for the long haul with a solid reputation.
Request a sample report so that you get a good idea of the scope of the inspection and the depth of information you will receive. Inspection report formats vary from simple checklists to full narrative or anywhere in between. You want to receive a comprehensive report, with annotated photos, that details findings.
What about price you ask? Price is a factor for consideration, but don’t let it unduly influence your decision on which inspector to hire. When it comes to something as important as your home inspection, you do not want to be a bargain shopper. Saving a few dollars on an inspection is not worth the risk of overlooked problems that might cost you a lot more in repairs and stress later on. Besides, you will typically find that home inspections by reputable, well-qualified professionals are in a similar price range. You can expect to pay $200 to $600 for a professional home inspection depending on where you live and the size and features of the property to be inspected.
Sound like a lot of work? It does take time to choose a home inspector. But it is time well spent on the front end versus finding yourself the owner of a “money pit” after your deal is closed.