What to look for and how a home inspection impacts your offer
The home inspection is a valuable part of the home buying process as it allows you, the buyer, to make sure there are no hidden costs on repairs after your move-in day. After the home inspection, you will have the option to further negotiate a better price for the home, request repairs, or back out from the purchase and get your deposit back.
BUT, you must include an inspection condition of your offer.
Let it be known, no home is perfect. Every home has flaws that a home inspection will uncover; the question is how many flaws the home has and how expensive those flaws are to fix them.
We talked with top real estate agents, expert home inspectors, and over one hundred homeowners to summarize the top things you should look for during a home inspection so you can get a full picture of what you are buying.
On This Guide
- Finding a Professional Home Inspector
- What to Expect During a Home Inspection
- What to do During a Home Inspection
- Home inspection checklist
- Understanding a home inspection report
- What to do after the home inspection
- Can the home inspection ruin the deal?
Finding a Professional Home Inspector
The best way to find a good home inspector is by getting referrals from friends, or family members but you’ve got to make sure you hire a pro; the home inspector you hire should have at least five years of experience inspecting homes like the one you want to buy, be a qualified home inspector and have an extensive number of positive reviews online by previous clients.
Hiring a home inspector is you doing your due diligence, so do yourself a favor and find a reputable inspector. He or she will be your protector who will make sure the home is not hiding flaws like a leaky roof, faulty plumbing or raccoons living in the attic, a damaged foundation wall, and more.
Sites like the American Society of Home Inspectors can give you a sense of what to expect when it comes to how to find a good home inspector.
You are not just hiring a home inspector, you are hiring the person that will help you inspect your potential investment to ensure you buy a home that is dependable and safe for the people that you care about to live in.
Do not hire a home inspector recommended by your realtor
The real estate transaction needs to be independent of the home inspection; some home inspectors get a lot of referrals from real estate agents which creates a conflict of interest.
It’s an unwritten rule but when a home inspector gets a lot of referrals from a real estate agent, they won’t want to derail the transaction by pointing out negative things about the home.
However, if you hire a home inspector independently, that increases your chances of getting truly independent advice. Also, make sure you choose an inspector with excellent online reviews; everyone can say they are an expert, but the proof is what a previous client would have to say about the inspector.
What does a home inspector do?
The home inspector has three main tasks they have to accomplish; these are:
- Identify visible flaws the home has
- Suggest whether the flaws need an immediate fix or not
- Prepare a written inspection report detailing their findings and recommendations
How much will the home inspection cost and how long will it take?
A home inspection can cost between $350 – $650, depending on the size of the home, location, and the quality of the expertise of the inspector.
As relates to the length of time a home inspection takes, expect no less than three hours, although, for larger homes, the process can take up to six hours.
The duration of the home inspection will be determined by the following factors:
- Home size
- Number of flaws the home has
- The thoroughness of the home inspection
- The expertise of the home inspector
What to Expect During a Home Inspection
During a home inspection, the inspector you hire will thoroughly evaluate the physical condition on which the home is in; the main areas covered include:
- Foundation, walls, ceilings, and flooring
- Appliances, lighting, windows, and doors
- Electrical system, plumbing, and water supply
- Heating and cooling systems
- Insulation, roof, and attic
- Condition of interior and exterior walls
- Signs of water damage, pest infestation, and mold
- Anything needing repair
Limitations of a home inspection
A home inspector is not able to move furniture or cause damage during a home inspection. This means that is the seller is knowingly or unknowingly hiding something behind drywall, under a carpet, under newly installed floor or freshly painted walls, the inspector will likely not identify those issues.
In short, if a problem is not visible or hidden, chances are the inspector won’t find them. Also, the inspector won’t check everything; for example, if there is mold in the attic, but there is little space to go in to take a look, then the inspector won’t inspect that area.
Lastly, most home inspectors are generalists; they can tell you there is a problem, but they won’t tell you what it may cost to fix them; they will recommend you hire a contractor to get a cost estimate.
Let’s explore what a home inspection IS NOT
A home inspection is not:
- An insurance policy, against future repairs or a warranty
- An invasive or destructive exercise
- Intended to identify concealed defects
- A cosmetic or design review
- Intended to predict future performance or life expectancy
- An environmental review or energy audit
A home inspection only checks for visual cues to problems. For example, if the foundation has a crack, but the crack can’t be seen because the current owner covered it with drywall, a home inspector will not see that crack because the inspector is not allowed to make damage to the property.
What to do During a Home Inspection?
Your home inspector will ask you to be present during the home inspection, so make to allow some time to come along for the tour. You will likely learn more about maintaining a home than you have up to this day. I’m not kidding!
When I bought my first house the inspector I hired asked me to join him during for the inspection and told me the process would take about three hours; I figured it wouldn’t. I asked myself, how could someone spend three hours inspecting a small house?
To my surprise, three hours went by fast, and I learned a lot about not just the home but also how to easily identify defects when viewing homes; this made me a better, more informed home buyer.
Ask questions during the home inspection
You’ll have the chance to ask questions during the inspection process which will give you insights that you won’t find on the inspection report.
Remember that the inspector is hired by you, and for you so they will be able to answer questions about the condition of the home without bias. Some of the questions you should ask are:
- How do we fix it?
- How bad is it?
- Show me how it works
- How long will it last before it needs to be replaced?
All homes have flaws, so the inspector will find many imperfections; some will be serious defects that must be fixed, and others will be more like “beauty marks”; what’s important is to be aware of the various flaws so that you can make an informed decision of whether you want to go ahead with the purchase and at what price.
Home Inspection Checklist
Knowing what to expect during the home inspection and what the home inspector does can help you guide you through the process.
Home inspectors will thoroughly check the home for defects; this will include all visible areas of the home including checking for the quality of the roof, insulation, plumbing, heating and cooling systems, insulation, the interior and exterior of the home.
Here’s a home inspection checklist of the main things a home inspection will cover:
Understanding the Home Inspection Report
There is no such thing as a perfect, flawless home, so most inspection reports will list dozens of defects or imperfections. The important thing is to find out the seriousness of the defect, whether it requires fixing, and how much the repair is likely to cost.
The main things you will need to look for on the inspection report are:
- What the defects are
- How serious the defects are
- Are Repairs Needed
There will also be a recommendation section where the home inspector will provide details the defect represents a safety issue, whether an item needs replacement, repaired or monitored closely.
Most of the issues will be minor and won’t require fixing, but some defects can be a deal-breaker. Read the inspection report carefully, ask questions, and talk with your real estate agent about the best way to move forward.
For reference, here is a sample inspection report.
A good home inspection report contains photographs, notes, checklists, and recommendations; it will give you a sense of the condition of all areas of the home, the home’s systems and equipment as well as an opinion on the overall condition of the roof, structure, floors, appliances, and more.
What to do After Getting the Home Inspection Results
Here is an industry secret, come closer! The standard with home inspectors is to talk soft at the inspection and write hard in the report. This is because inspectors know most home buyers won’t read the report. If a home buyer decides to sue later on a detailed inspection report will help prove the inspector’s case.
After reading the inspection results, you will have several options to choose from:
- You can ask the seller to fix the issue.
- You can choose to renegotiate the purchase price and ask for a discount from the seller so that you can account for the repairs that will need to be made.
- For problems that are a deal-breaker or too expensive to fix, you can walk away from the purchase and get your deposit back. Note that your offer must include an inspection condition to be able to choose this option.
Some home buyers decide to negotiate a reduction in the purchase price if they discover items that need repair
What are red flags found in a home inspection?
Some minor defects are easy to fix, but some issues are red flags that you should seriously think about before going ahead with the purchase of a home.
- Foundation & structural problems: This is one of the costliest fixes
- Mold, pests, and odors: mold and pests can lead to serious heal problems
- Stains on the walls and/or ceilings: It’s a sign of current of present water leakage problems.
- Electrical system issues: Most system problems are easy to fix, but some problems such as replacing the electrical panel can be costly.
Can the home inspection ruin the deal?
Think of the inspector as an educator; an advisor that will walk with you through the house explaining specific things about the property.
The home inspector is a critical member of your home buying team; he or she is there to protect your interests by making you aware of the exact condition of the home.
As it relates to home inspection, deals typically fall apart for the following two key reasons:
1. The buyer had a higher expectation or was unprepared
Discovering a roof that is leaking water into the attic may be a deal-breaker for many buyers; others may ask the sellers for a discount or get the seller to fix the issue before the purchase can be final.
Most buyers nowadays expect a level of luxury and comfort; chances are they did not take a course or learned about what to look for when going house hunting. If the home inspection uncovers a problem that the buyer cannot reconcile with and does not want to deal with, then the buyer will most probably cancel that deal.
2. Hidden unexpected problems were found
The number one reason why most home buyers walk away from a deal after the home inspection is when the inspection reveals something that significantly changes what the buyer thought was buying. It is not the home inspection that can kill a deal, it is finding unexpected problems vs. expectation that can kill a deal.
The Bottom Line
A home inspection is a valuable tool in the home buying process; it can reveal problems that you could use to negotiate a better purchase price from the seller, get the seller to fix the defects or you can choose to walk away from the purchase.
It will cost you a little bit of time and money but in the long run, you will be glad you did it – or else you open yourself to the huge risk of buying a money pit.
By joining the inspector during the inspection, you will learn more about maintaining your home than you have learned up to this day and get a checklist of items that you can use to keep your home safe which means you can save tens of thousands in the long run.
Are you ready for the next step?
If you want to learn more about what to look for during the home inspection and learn step-by-step instructions on how to buy a house, you should check out our Home Buyer’s Online Course.
This is an interactive course designed in an easy to understand format where you will learn how to buy the home you want, at the price you want, and achieve successful homeownership.