The offer on your new home or rental property has been accepted! What happens next?
In this guide, we’re going to discuss the benefits of getting a home inspection. We’ll also review a list of items you want to be sure are verified by your home inspector.
Escrow periods typically last 15 – 45 days, and during this time you’ll want to hire a reputable home inspector for the job. Your realtor should be able to recommend a professional if you don’t have anyone in mind.
Make sure your realtor has a long history of doing business with them.
Benefits Of A Home Inspection (for buyers and sellers)
For The Buyer
When a buyer views a home for sale, they get a pretty good idea of its condition and features during the walkthrough. But if there’s an issue relating to a flaw in the design, foundation, roof, or structure. How would they know? What about a big problem like flooding or termites? You have to be trained to look for those issues.
A home inspector is trained, and that is why you hire them. After there onsite visit they’ll provide you with a full written report and highlight all the big problems for you.
Having this extra information can be used to negotiate the fixes and contingencies for the final deal. If you have not already, check out my guide to Negotiating A Deal On Real Estate.
For The Seller
There are a number of benefits to the seller by having the property inspected. The seller can provide the buyer with tangible proof they’re not hiding any major problems with the property and everything will be disclosed up front.
As a seller, the big advantage is that a home inspection can cover you later on if any legal problems were to come up with the deal. Like the buyer suing you for a structural issue relating to the property.
You can use the home inspection report as leverage that everything was disclosed correctly and you did not know any major issues existed.
As a seller, home inspection reports give you a huge legal advantage defending your case, and you’re protected from the threat of legal action down the road.
I’m no lawyer so don’t quote me on that, but think about it! Anything that is written out and fully disclosed does make a good case for you.
Working With A Home Inspector Checklist
When working with a home inspector, you want to avoid telling them how to do there job. Just be aware of the following items and verify they get checked. If you think of something not on this list, that’s OK, just add that item to your own list and review it with the home inspector.
The general things to check for are:
- Dirt and Drainage on your lot – Does water flow away from the house and foundation? Do the gutter spouts have pipes to draw the rainwater away?
- Roof – Find out when it was replaced, or when the warranty on the existing roof expires. Find out what type of roof it is – if it’s a shingle roof, did they install new shingle over old shingles? That happens sometimes, and it’s bad if more than two shingle roofs are layered on the same structure. A house just cannot support that much weight – shingles are heavy!
- The exterior of the house – Wires, paint, rot, cracks in the stucco, falling gutters, windows, loose trim boards, asbestos around the home – make sure to check if any of these conditions exist.
- The attic – Check up there for any signs of frame damage or water damage from the roof. Very important!
- Interior – Check out unlevel or soft floors, do they feel soft? That could be a sign of wood rot. Feel around window cracks for air or water flow. Look up high on the ceiling drywall, is there any weird bubbling or discoloration? That could be a sign of water damage.
- Electrical & Gas – When was the electrical wire and outlets last updated? Is it grounded properly? Is it all original and the house is from 1908? Are there enough gas lines or electrical outlets to support all of the typical appliances such as a heater, air conditioning, oven, dryer, washer, etc.
- Crawlspaces and Basements – Check under the home for any weird smells. There should be plenty of ventilation too. Also check for any critters living under there like rats, mice, raccoons, etc.
- Smells in the house or flooding – Could be a sign of cat pee, mold, or something else growing on the walls. That could lead to expensive repairs or potential health problems. Could be a dead animal too.
- Appliances – Are these a part of the deal? Are they new, under warranty, maintained, and/or installed correctly? Are the refrigerator, washer, and dryer included? It’s important to ask and get it in writing. For example, I once was told that the fridge was part of the deal. It was not in the contract, and when the deal closed, the owner said, “Oh, we can leave it there for 300 dollars?” Hmm, it matched so I paid. I felt like a sucker though.
- Proper heating and cooling – Does the house have central air and heat? Or, does it have a less common solution called in-floor radiant heat? There are many different possibilities for heating and cooling. It’s important to understand exactly what type of system you have in your new home, and how it’s maintained.
My life lesson about heating systems
I once bought a house with an old in-floor radiant heating system. It used a boiler that pumped hot water into copper piping that ran into the foundation. It worked great in the beginning but stopped working a few months later. The closed piping system had a water leak in it.
The home inspector could never detect something like that. I abandoned the entire system and installed radiant wall heaters that ran on oil instead. It worked out in the end; however, the lesson here is to make sure your home inspector gives you a thorough report on the heating and cooling system. So you don’t end up in a bind!
One last lesson.
Home Inspectors are very professional and knowledgeable. Just make sure they don’t overlook something like going under the house. I know someone who had a home inspector who did not do a full check under the house because they felt like they could skip it.
Boy, was that a mistake, they found thousands of dollars in damaged sewerage pipes leaking under the house after they moved in. The clean-up and installation of new pipes was a costly oversight, to say the least.
Home Inspectors are a big part of the escrow process. Ask them as many questions as you need so you can understand if your new property has any red flags to be concerned about.
If big problems come up after the home inspection, it’s OK to renegotiate the terms of the contract, or walk away from the property altogether.
I’ve only had to walk away from one deal in the middle of escrow. It’s not fun, and you get over the frustration pretty quickly. You have to move forward not back.