Insist on a Home Inspection Before Buying Your House

You've found the home you want, at the right price, and the house looks like it's in pristine condition. But always keep in the mind that, particularly when the home is for sale by the owner, the home has been "dressed up" to accentuate its best features and minimize its potential flaws. Before you close on the purchase of a home - or sometimes even before you make an offer - you should insist on an independent home inspection by a professional inspector.

Many sellers have had inspectors and appraisers look at the home for purposes of the sale, and are aware (or should be) that buyers will likely ask for another inspection independent of their own. This article will focus on why inspections are necessary, what to look for during house inspections (as well as inspectors), and when to have homes inspected. 


Why are Home Inspections Important? 

You've seen the shiny buffed floors and sparkling granite counter tops, and maybe you've even flushed all the toilets, but before you put down a deposit and agree to take on a mortgage, you need to make sure that everything you don't see is in good working order. You'll want to make sure the heating or A/C unit isn't about to die, the foundation isn't silently cracking, and the roof isn't about to spring a huge leak. If you arrange for a house inspection by a professional before the sale goes through, the problem is still the seller's. If you choose not to have a home inspection done, the problem, unfortunately, becomes yours.

The number of home inspections performed increases each year and according to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), over 90% of home sales involve a house inspection. While this number doesn't differentiate between a seller-based inspection and buyer-based inspection, it certainly indicates the significance of home inspections in the buying process.

According to home inspectors, homes are sometimes not particularly well cared for by homeowners, who are slow to fix leaky faucets, replace heating or A/C filters or clunky furnaces. If homes with homeowners living in the property can be uncared for, imagine what conditions a foreclosed home can hide. Mold can grow if the water hasn't been turned off and the environment becomes moist.

Because of the importance of a proper house inspection, you should make the purchase of the home contingent on your approval of a home inspector's report. When making a written offer for the home, simply make the home inspection a condition of the purchase. 


What does a Home Inspection Entail?

Note that a home inspection generally covers moderate to serious issues and does not detail each and every scratch and dent in the home. If you want a more exacting report, you should discuss this with your inspector (a higher fee is likely) and walk through the home with him during the inspection if possible. Not only will you learn more about the process and what to look for, he may give you information on small flaws that he may not include in a report but you might want to be aware of for the future.

A house inspection will run about $200 to $500, depending on the person doing the inspection and factors such as the size of the home, age and type of home. 


What should you look for in a home inspector?

The first thing to note is that most states do not have a certification or licensing process for home inspectors. If your state does not have licensing criteria, there are organizations such as ASHI which are nationally recognized as maintaining and requiring a certain level of expertise and competency from their members. You should make sure that your inspector is a member of such an organization.

Because you want the house inspection to be independent of the seller, you should not take the seller's inspection report at face value. Ideally, you want someone licensed or part of a professional organization. We are those inspectors and are expanding our business from Washington State, where we have performed over 1500 inspections during the past five years under the most stringent standards and regulations in the nation as state licensed inspectors/owners.

Referrals from your realtor, friends or local homeowners works best, as you can take their advice and learn from their past experiences.