What to expect when you’re inspecting
Once you’ve found your new home, hire a licensed home inspector to make sure it’s in tip-top shape.
Most home inspections take place after you’ve negotiated a purchase contract (an offer), but in some situations, you should consider having the home in- spected before you draft a real estate contract. If the home has been vacant, in foreclosure or has some visible material defects, such as cracked foundation walls, get the property inspected before drafting the contract.
What you discover in a precontract inspection on a distressed property may change your mind on what you’re willing to pay for the home.
All real estate contracts contain a contingency clause allowing the buyer to do a property inspection within five to 10 business days after written acceptance.
Do not waive this contingency; it gives you the opportunity to get a home’s true condition from the sharp eye of an experienced professional who has inspected hundreds of homes.
A home inspection usually takes at least two hours. The inspector will closely look at all the systems and structural elements of a home.
Many buyers believe that they can use deficiencies discovered in a home inspection to renegotiate the purchase price. But unless a major structural defect is discovered, you can ask the seller to repair problems before closing. Communities have varying ordinances and building codes that mandate correcting violations discovered during an inspection.
An inspector will:
- Check the home’s exterior, including roof, chimney, porch, deck and soil gradation away from the property.
- Look for structural cracks in foundation walls and floor problems.
- Check water pressure, plumbing for leaks and proper venting of waste lines.
- Test wiring, electrical outlets and circuit-breaker switches or fuses, and make sure that the electrical system is adequate for the home’s power needs.
- Run all major appliances in the kitchen and laundry rooms.
- Turn on the furnace and air conditioning and note of their age.
- Check all cabinets, doors, windows and screens.
- Make sure the fireplace or wood-burning stove is clean and in good working order, and meet local building codes.
The inspector will give you a final report of all structural elements, mechanical systems and rooms, and will list all the defects he or she discovers, which you should show the home seller when requesting repairs.
What lies beneath
Keep in mind that the inspector can’t check out things they can’t see, like the inside of walls or underneath floors. If he thinks there’s a problem inside a wall, such as mold, asbestos or radon, he will add it to the report and suggest that you hire a specialized inspector who is familiar with these problems. Home inspectors are not allowed to damage a home they are inspecting.