Home Inspections for Prospective Buyers

Prospective home buyers always have the option to ask for a Home Inspection Contingency prior to closing on a property. A few years back when it was a seller's market, it wasn't unusual to see buyers give up that option to increase the chance of having their offer accepted when competing with multiple offers on the same property. A contract with fewer contingencies is more appealing to sellers than one with numerous contingencies. However, relinquishing one's right to a home inspection contingency can be very risky. We strongly recommend prospective buyers include a home inspection contingency in the contract for a property whether it's a seller's or buyer's market, and even new construction homes. After all, a home is one of the biggest investments you will make. Most home sellers have to provide either a disclosure or disclaimer statement regarding material knowledge of the property. Most sellers choose to disclaim, meaning they are selling the property with all its improvements "as is," with no representation or warranties as to condition. With this in mind, you will need to take the initiative to get more detailed information about the overall condition of the home prior to purchase. Remember the adage "Buyer Beware"? Well, this is an instance when you need to be proactive and not fall victim to negligence or ignorance.

A word about new construction -- ideally, you would have your inspector perform a pre-drywall inspection and a final inspection just prior to delivery. Builders will insist that this is not necessary since their construction is subject to building inspections along the way. Our experience is that a home inspection is just as important, if not more so, on new construction.

In a home inspection, a qualified inspector takes an in-depth, unbiased look at your potential new home to:

  • Evaluate the physical condition: structure, construction, and mechanical systems
  • Identify items that need to be repaired or replaced
  • Estimate the remaining useful life of the major systems, equipment, structure, and finishes

Benefits to the BuyerEliminates property condition surprises

  • Reduces the need for lengthy negotiations
  • Helps assure fair market value and price
  • Provides valuable information regarding expenses you may incur after closing
  • Allows you to budget for home improvement costs

The following are the A?Top 10 DefectsA? that are commonly seen during Home Inspections.

  1. Roof leaks due to poor flashing and/or roof material failure due to poor installation
  2. Water penetration in the basement or crawlspace due to poor surface water control
  3. Electrical Safety issues due to age of home or home owner A?do it yourselfA? repairs
  4. Deterioration of interior wall material behind shower and tub areas
  5. Safety concerns associated with improperly installed decks, stairs, and railings
  6. HVAC unit and distribution system problems due to age, workmanship or alterations
  7. Structural concerns such as improper construction and/or alterations, or excessive unbalanced load
  8. Fire safety issues related to wood burning fireplace chimneys. We recommend buyerA?s include a fireplace inspection by a certified chimney inspector as a separate contingency in the contract. Typically home inspectors are not qualified to perform thorough inspections of chimneys, and you could be faced with shelling out thousands of dollars after closing. Having a report that includes defects or needed repair gives you the leverage to negotiate with the seller.
  9. Wood deterioration caused by termites (Most lenders require the home to be inspected for termites by a certified pest/termite specialist prior to closing.)
  10. General fire and safety issues

We strongly recommend homebuyers attend the inspection with the home inspector and expect the inspection to last up to two hours. This is your time to receive first-hand information about the condition of the property, how the house operates, where the main shut-off valves to the utilities are located, and much more. Remember you paid the home inspector to find defects and deficiencies in the house, so don't be surprised by his list of recommendations. Any defects that are discovered during the inspection should be thoroughly explained to include possible causes and solutions.

Focus on the big items such as structural concerns, electrical issues, roof, and appliances. Choose your battles carefully and ask that the seller either repair (using a qualified tradesman) or credit the estimated cost for correcting the deficiencies at settlement. Always ask for copies of receipts for work completed to correct the deficiencies. If you're meticulous about how the work is executed then it may be best to ask for credit at closing, and you supervise the work to be done to your satisfaction.

The cost of the home inspection is usually based on various factors such as square footage, and sale price, of the home. A typical charge of $1 per $1,000 of the sales price is not uncommon. So, on a $300,000 home the fee for a home inspection would be $300. Ask your Realtor (TM) if they can provide you with a list of inspectors to choose from and you can call to discuss what each inspector charges and how they conduct their home inspections. Choose an inspector who holds membership in an organization such as ASHI or the applicable state-required organization. We find that our clients prefer inspectors that can provide a computer-generated report on-site at time of inspection and a report that includes digital photos for clarification. Your inspector should be available to assist you even after the home inspection. Questions may come up prior to or after closing that you failed to address during the home inspection. Mildew stains and odors scare buyers, especially now that toxic black mold is such a hot topic. An important thing to remember is that most home inspectors are not qualified enough to evaluate a mold or mildew problem. If you or the inspector suspect mold then you need to find a qualified professional to analyze the problem and provide options for remediation.

Radon is another issue that can be addressed during a home inspection. If you have a radon contingency in the sales contract (and you should!) your home inspector will be able to refer you to a technician who can place and retrieve the testers that measure the level of radon in the home. The testing firm needs to be listed with either the National Radon Safety Board, or the National Environmental Health Association. Be sure to mention your interest in checking for radon levels during your initial discussion with the home inspector. He will need to know in advance to make the necessary arrangements for placement of the radon testers. Expect to be charged an additional $100-$150 for the radon test.

No one would buy a car without first test driving it to make sure it isn't a lemon! The same applies when purchasing a new home. The price of a home inspection is minimal compared to the thousands of dollars it might cost you if you purchase a home requiring excessive repairs.

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