Don’t let a fresh coat of paint fool you: there could be hidden and unwelcome surprises—anything from termites to mold—lurking in the walls of that house you’re considering. Before you sign on the dotted line, hire a professional home inspector to tour the prospective property from roof to studs and offer a complete analysis on its condition.
Inspections matter. Your new home may be the single largest investment you make in your life. Don't let an unsuspected money pit drain your savings with unexpected repairs. And don’t let an improving housing market pressure you to accept a sub-par property.
How It Works
When you make an initial offer on a new home, be sure to include a home inspection contingency in the contract. The cost to hire a professional inspector can range from $350 to $1,000 depending on the size of the house and location. Consider this money well spent.
The inspection will last several hours to half a day depending on the size of the home. Don't use this time to shop for furniture for your new digs; go with the inspector to tour the property and see first-hand any issues that he or she might uncover. Generally, home inspectors will issue an official written report, with photos, to the homebuyer within 24–48 hours.
What They Can Find
Water damage is the number one concern when it comes to homes. Basement flooding can be a nuisance or it can be devastating. Know what you are getting yourself into. Leakage from pipes or from rain into a home can result in mold, corrosion, basement flooding, and even structural damage.
Roofing, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems don't last forever. It’s important to understand where you are in the life cycle of these major systems before you buy, and it may take the expert to find the expiration date. Home inspectors will also be able to point out if renovations and additions to a home were done properly, legally, and professionally.
Electrical problems can emerge during home inspections. For example, ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) are needed in places near water, such as the kitchen or bathroom. A home inspector can help determine whether a home has enough power and outlets in appropriate places and if the wiring was done safely and correctly.
What’s Next? Go Back and Negotiate
Once you have the results of the report, you can go back to the negotiating table if there are significant issues. For example, you may be able to score an adjustment to the purchase price if there are major repairs that need to be addressed. But you’ll still need to decide if this to-do list, even at an adjusted price, is worth it. Remember, the deal was contingent on your inspection, and you can still walk away.
When jumping into a large purchase like a home, it's best to have your eyes wide open. The price of a home inspection is cheap insurance. Generally, your real estate agent can offer referrals to reputable home inspectors in your area. Look for a credentialed home inspector with a membership in either the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors.
Big Picture Implications
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