Home Inspections: What to Expect
According to real estate experts, home sellers often have this reaction. Home inspections are a thorough, nitpicky review of the home's condition, and it's likely going to reveal a long list of imperfections that may not affect the day-to-day life of its current owners.
For the potential buyer, an inspection is a win-win. It's a way to evaluate all the systems in the house -- from the foundation, to the roof, to the heating and cooling systems -- and it puts pressure on the seller to fix major problems before the home sale is finalized.
Before you go through the process of an inspection, regardless of whether you are on the buyer or seller side, here are a few things you are going to want to know:
Before the Inspection
- Cost: The inspection is typically hired through the homebuyer and their real estate agent before the closing. The cost ranges somewhere between $350 and $500, but most brokers agree that this is a minimal expense compared to the magnitude of the potential savings.
- Timing: The inspection is a one-day affair that takes about three to four hours. It takes place when the buyer and seller have agreed on a price and the contract phase begins. ZipRealty agent Harrison Tulloss, who has represented both buyers and sellers, advises doing this in the very beginning and stipulating that it take place within 10 days. "I want to know quickly before we've gone down the road too far," he says. "Time is valuable."
- Exterior: This is the visual examination of the home's exterior, in which the home inspector will check the structural components, including the foundation and frame of the home, as well as other outer features, like doors, windows and steps. The inspection of the outside may uncover cracks in the foundation, rotted joists (a building's horizontal support), or missing siding. Using a ladder, the inspector will also look at the roof, its drainage systems, the chimney and the skylights. This part of the inspection will document flaws such as missing or worn-out shingles, and rusted gutters.
- Plumbing: Plumbing does more than allow you to take a shower or wash the dishes; it also removes wastewater and gases from the interior of the home. In addition to looking for leaky or corroding pipes, the inspection will examine the water supply and drainage, hot-water-heating equipment and the fuel storage system.
- Electrical: From too many wires in a panel box to a spliced wire, the electrical inspection scrutinizes the wire interior of service panels, the breakers and fuses, and the disconnects. It also checks that your major appliances are functioning properly -- dishwasher, range and oven, washer and dryer -- as well as the smoke detectors.
- Heating and cooling: To catch a leaking boiler or a disconnected flue pipe (a carbon dioxide hazard), this portion of the inspection examines heating and venting systems, flues and chimneys. If the house has wall air conditioners or central air, the inspector looks at the cooling system's energy source and equipment.
- Ventilation: The home inspector will examine the home insulation and mechanical ventilation, searching for mold or water in the insulation, loose insulation or an attic without insulation.
- Interior: The inside inspection covers all the cosmetic blemishes in a house, such as (but not limited to) water stains, a damaged wall, or moldy tile grout.
- Radon and termites: Though not included in the traditional home inspection process, Tulloss recommends that potential buyers also conduct separate radon and termite home inspections.
After the Inspection
- The critical factors: In an inspection, the things that matter, according to real estate investor Armando Montelango. Listed in order of importance are the home's foundation, plumbing, roof and any mechanical aspects, such as the heating or cooling system. Cosmetic flaws are considered next.
- The report and a home warranty: When the home inspection concludes, the buyer and seller will get a final report on the condition of the home and any recommendations for improvement. For further protection, Montelango suggests a home warranty, which he says runs around $500, to cover the costs of any breakdown of home systems -- such as air conditioning, electrical or appliances -- after the closing.
- Negotiation: The inspection is a negotiation process, and usually works in the buyer's favor, say Brendon DeSimone, a broker with Paragon Realty Group. In a dismal economy, sellers are motivated. The sellers are usually either going to fix any serious problems or give a break on the price, or face the alternative that the next buyer may also have the same reservations about the home.
And this is exactly how things played out with the Hayek family, who were relocating to Columbus, Ohio for a new job opportunity. They knocked $25,000 off their list price, to pay for what the inspection had suggested in roof repairs, and secured the sale.
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