Here at Solutions, we often get asked by our new clients if they really need a home inspection when buying a home.
As Virginia is a “Caveat Emptor,” or “Buyer Beware,” state, it’s really the only way to see if the home has any defects or hidden issues as most Buyers don’t have the necessary training to look for these. A home inspection is one of the best consumer protection services available.
An inspection is a thorough and systematic physical evaluation of the condition of a residential property – its general integrity, functionality, and overall safety and its various components. The purpose is to ensure that Buyers know exactly what’s being purchased, prior to completing the transaction.
An inspector will evaluate the foundation, framing, roofing, site drainage, attic, plumbing, heating, electrical system, fireplaces, chimneys, pavement, fences, stairs, decks, patios, doors, windows, walls, ceilings, floors, built-in appliances, and numerous other fixtures and components.
In all homes, even brand new ones, some building defects will inevitably be discovered. All pertinent findings are detailed in a written report for the Buyer’s reference and review, and the inspector will make a complete verbal presentation of these conditions for those who attend.
At Solutions we always recommend, if at all possible, that a Buyer be present at an inspection, especially with a notebook in hand, as an inspector will often pass along valuable info on what to look for, pay attention to or how to make a simple fix.
A report helps a Buyer to make educated decisions about a home purchase. Buyers can also determine how much repair and renovation will be needed after taking possession, which problems are of major concern, which ones are minor, and what conditions compromise the safety of the premises.
The bottom line is to help a Buyer avoid costly surprises after the close of escrow so, therefore, it’s an indispensable component of a well-planned purchase.
How to Choose a Home Inspector
To aid in choosing a qualified home inspector use the following criteria:
Are they licensed?
In most states, the only home inspector standards are those enacted by professional associations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), and similar state organizations. Membership requires adherence to strict standards of practice and participation in ongoing education. Specify membership in one of these recognized guilds, and beware of those who claim adherence to these standards without being members.
What’s their experience?
Home inspectors are often perceived as general contractors who happen to inspect homes. Although building knowledge is essential to a home inspector, construction itself has little or no relation to the skills of forensic investigation.
A home inspector is primarily a property detective – someone who observes and ascertains defects. They work to protect the Buyer’s interests.
Do they have sample reports?
Request a copy of a previous report. The best format should be detailed and comprehensive, and easily interpreted, making a clear distinction between defective building conditions and ‘boiler plate’ verbiage. A quality report lets defect disclosure stand out distinctly, in contrast with less pertinent data.
What’s their reputation?
When choosing an inspector, the final selection should be your own. New and inexperienced inspectors often obtain professional recommendations, regardless of competence or lack thereof. The best ones are often labeled as ‘Deal Killers’ or ‘Deal Breakers.’ Someone with this reputation is likely to provide comprehensive consumer protection.
Avoid skimping on the cost
The price of a quality inspection is typically between $300 and $400 for an average size home. Lower fees should be regarded with suspicion, as they often identify those who are new to the business or who spend insufficient time performing the inspection.
A home is the most expensive commodity you’re likely to purchase in a lifetime. One defect missed by your inspector could cost 100 times what you save with a bargain inspection.
When you hire an experienced, qualified home inspector, there’s no question as to whether unknown defects will be found; but rather what, where, and how serious, dangerous, or expensive the defects will turn out to be.
Most Buyers spend 15 minutes to an hour walking through a home prior to making an offer. But what about foundations and structural framing, attic construction, insulation, ventilation, and roof conditions? These are just a few of the hundreds of considerations included in a home inspection.
An inspector can alert you to red flag issues involving the electrical wiring and fixtures, fireplaces and chimneys, gas fixtures such as furnaces, water heaters, cook tops, and ovens, railings at staircases and decks, tempered safety glass in required locations, and automatic reverse of garage door openers.
They can also forewarn you of problems involving faulty ground drainage, defective plumbing, substandard construction, firewall compliance, building settlement, leakage, general deterioration, inoperative fixtures, and so much more.
The Home Inspection is Limited To What’s Visible
An inspection is limited to conditions that are visually discernible. Specifically excluded are those that are concealed from view, such as items contained within walls, ceilings and floors, or buried beneath the ground. According to ASHI standards, inspectors aren’t required to perform dismantling of construction or excavation of ground surfaces to discover conditions that aren’t normally visible.
Most inspectors are careful to define the scope and limitations of their inspections. These parameters are generally outlined in either the contract or the report or both – nearly all will clearly specify that concealed items are outside the scope of the inspection.
Do New Homes Need a Home Inspection?
The belief that a new home is flawless, simply because it’s new, is an unfortunate piece of popular mythology. Even when the builder warrants the work for one full year, such guaranties are of no benefit unless inherent defects are discovered. Unfortunately, many types of building problems and safety violations don’t become apparent for many years. A faulty wiring condition might not be revealed until it damages your computer or causes a fire. Other defects might only be discovered when you finally resell the property, and the Buyer decides to hire a home inspector.
The cost of an inspection is incidental when compared to the price of a new home.
Is the Seller responsible to make these repairs?
Sellers aren’t required by law or by contract to produce a flawless house.
With a home inspection, most repairs are subject to negotiation between the parties of a sale. Sellers maintain the legal right to refuse repair demands, except where requirements are set forth by state law, local ordinance, or the real estate purchase contract.
Legal obligations include earthquake straps for water heaters and smoke detectors in specified locations. Contracts usually stipulate that fixtures be in working condition at the close of escrow, that windows not be broken, and that there be no existing leaks in the roof or plumbing.
Before you make any demands, look for conditions that compromise health and safety or involve active leakage. Most Sellers will address problems affecting sensitive areas such as the roof, fireplace, gas burning fixtures, or electrical wiring.
If the house isn’t brand new, it’s unreasonable to boldly insist upon correction of all defects as this can alienate the Seller and kill the sale. Your willingness to accept minor problems may persuade a Seller to correct conditions of greater substance.