What Happens During a Home Inspection?

Home Inspection Process Home inspections are a vital part of the home buying process; they allow homebuyers to know what they’re actually getting for their money.

The home inspection process usually occurs after the seller accepts a contingent offer on the house. The prospective buyer’s Offer to Purchase typically includes an inspection contingency clause, which allows the buyer to withdraw the offer if the inspection turns up a major problem affecting the safety, integrity, or value of the home.

The American Society of Home Inspectors maintains high standards for its members and makes it easy to find a certified inspector in your area.

New home inspection costs vary by location and size of the home, but are typically in the ballpark of $400. The buyer pays for the inspection unless another arrangement has been previously agreed upon. It’s a smart investment that could potentially save thousands of dollars by uncovering major maintenance or repair issues before the buyer is legally obligated to the house.

What to Expect From a Home Inspection

The home inspector will examine both the exterior and interior of the house. Then, he or she will compile a report regarding the condition of:

  • Plumbing and electrical systems
  • Heating and air conditioning
  • Roof, attic, and insulation
  • Walls, ceilings, and floors
  • Windows and doors
  • Foundation and basement
  • Structural elements such as support beams

If you're wondering how to prepare for a home inspection, just know that you really can't, nor should you. When and if issues are discovered, the buyer has the opportunity to request repairs, or some other type of modification of the contract. This is usually the best way to approach it without wasting time and money on unnecessary repairs. The seller may agree to pay for needed repairs or offer an allowance so the buyer can fix repair issues after purchase.

An inspection report is a description, not a pass-fail examination. A real estate agent will provide counsel, but it is up to the buyer how to proceed based on the results of the inspection report.

In cases where neither the buyer nor the seller is willing to make the repairs, the buyer can typically withdraw the contract without penalty, assuming there aren't any previously agreed-upon terms preventing contact termination -- for example, if the buyer previously waived their inspection contingency.

What a Home Inspection is NOT

A home inspection is not invasive, meaning the inspector will not cut into walls or take things apart.

This means that possible latent defects such as hidden mold, or a pest infestation may not show up on the report. If the buyer suspects a particular environmental problem such as termites, or if the home has a swimming pool, an additional, specialized inspector may be needed. The inspector usually does not check to see whether appliances such as the washer and refrigerator are in working order.

An inspection is not intended as leverage for price negotiation. In most cases, the offer has already been made and accepted based on the visible condition of the house. This is not to suggest that buyers shouldn't feel compelled to further negotiate on price, based-upon major flaws discovered during an inspection -- seeking a price reduction would be normal in that case.

What Are the Laws About Home Inspections?

A home inspection is not required by law, but it is highly recommended by both legal and real estate professionals. Most states do have seller's disclosure laws requiring the seller to be transparent about any known defects in the home. Federal law requires owners of homes built prior to 1978 to warn potential buyers about the presence of any lead-based paint.

How Can a Real Estate Agent Help?

A real estate agent is a great asset during the home inspection process, acting as the buyer’s representative and advocate. Ideally, the agent attends the inspection, reviews the report, and assists the buyer in seeking clarification on any matters with the inspector.

A agent can help the buyer understand the results of the inspection and offer advice on what to do if the inspector’s report is less than satisfactory, which may result in suggesting the buyer seek modification of the sales contract. Can you negotiate home price after inspection? Yes, and this is the real benefit of working with a trusted, knowledgable real estate agent. The agent will provide an objective perspective that counterbalances the emotional investment of the potential buyer, which may otherwise blind the buyer to the home’s flaws.

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