Spending a few hundred dollars upfront on a professional home inspection can potentially save a buyer thousands of dollars in home repair costs. An inspection can reveal past, current, and potential problems; health and safety risks; and items that a mortgage lender might require be fixed prior to closing. Inspection findings can help a buyer prioritize needed repairs. Some seemingly innocuous conditions, if not attended to promptly, can lead to more extensive repairs down the road. A thorough inspection report can also provide negotiating leverage.
A home inspection is a visual and functional inspection of the major elements of a house – roof to foundation. This includes the roof covering and related items, exterior and site elements, garages, attics, kitchen appliances, bathroom fixtures, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, electrical and plumbing systems, hot water heaters, and foundations/crawlspaces. Pools, spas, solar systems, septic systems, and other items may require specialized inspectors. In California, pest inspections are often procured separately and at the sellers’ expense.
There are no perfect homes, even new homes can have issues; what is acceptable to one person may not be to another. A home inspection is invaluable in the purchase process and the opportunity should not be dismissed; it helps a buyer understand the condition of the home and make an informed decision about its current value and potential for future expenses (true cost of ownership). After all, home ownership is not only the largest financial investment a person is likely to make, it also comes with a need to maintain and protect that investment. Purchasing a home is often a bit of a financial stretch, particularly for a first time homebuyer, and the last thing a new homeowner needs is a major surprise that could run into the thousands of dollars.
More than 75% of buyers hire a home inspector. There is often a contractual clause in the purchase contract that makes the sale contingent upon the buyer’s satisfaction with the inspection results. Most people expect the major elements of a home to be in working order. If serious problems are found, the buyer may choose to back out of the purchase. More commonly, a buyer may ask the seller for concessions including to make repairs or for a price reduction to cover repair costs. A quality home inspection report could be the buyer’s best friend in this process.
Far fewer sellers hire home inspectors but the trend for seller inspections is on the rise. There are many good reasons why a seller should consider a pre-listing home inspection. Most sellers want to maximize their profit and correcting deficiencies will put the home in its best possible light, can increase the home’s value and reduce the time the home sits on the market. But sellers have alternatives, they may simply choose to disclose the inspection report findings and account for them in their asking price. A buyer’s offer is now made based on known conditions; and the likelihood for a buyer’s request for repair late in the transaction process is greatly diminished. This helps to take emotions out of the picture and make for smoother transactions.
For either a buyer or seller, selecting a quality home inspector is an imperative. Unfortunately, California does not have formal licensing requirements for home inspectors. So don’t hesitate to inspect your inspector. Here are a few questions to help with that process. What is their background? How long have they been in the inspection industry? What is their formal inspection training/education? Are they a member and certified by a professional home inspection association? Do they carry Errors and Omissions (E&O) and General Liability insurance? Do they stand behind their inspection? Do they have a process or program to resolve customer concerns? Do they recommend you attend the inspection?
Choose a certified inspector and double-check their qualifications. The inspection is only as good as the inspector who does the work. Spend hundreds now, not thousands later.
Dan Cvelbar of HouseMaster Home Inspections contributed to this article. Dan is a retired Air Force Colonel with 24 years of engineering experience and has been providing residential and commercial inspection services in the greater Riverside County since 2009.