What is a home inspection and why is it important?
A home inspection is perhaps one of the most crucial stages in the process of acquiring a home. It’s the buyer’s last opportunity to discover problems with the house before purchasing. And it’s a chance for the seller to address those problems and negotiate pricing with the buyer.
What do home inspectors look for?
Here’s a full list of what the inspector will review
- Heating system
- Central air conditioning system (temperature permitting)
- Interior plumbing and electrical systems
- Attic, including visible insulation
- Windows and doors
- Structural component
What to expect from a house inspection as the home seller
It’s in your interest as a home seller to provide quick and easy access to everything on that home inspection checklist. Here are some ways you can help:
- Leave keys (for instance, for your electrical panel), and label where the inspector can find them
- Make sure all pilot lights are on for fireplaces and furnaces, even in summer, so the inspector can check the heating and other appliances
- Tidy your basement. There needs to be an unobstructed path down the steps and through to your furnace/HVAC unit/water heater and anything else that needs inspecting
- Tidy your attic same as your basement
- Clean up key areas in your yard so the inspector can easily access your crawl space, drainage access points, or septic tank
- If the home is vacant and the utilities have been shut off, have them reconnected
Being helpful won’t necessarily buy you a better report, but even professionals appreciate thoughtfulness.
Next steps after a home inspection
If the home inspection report showed only minor and expected problems, the home buying process should continue as planned.
You may choose to give the seller, or the seller’s Realtor, a list of minor issues to fix. Getting the owner to fix a leaky faucet, replace a missing doorstop, or re-attach a downspout will shorten your to-do list after moving in.
After these repairs have been completed you may want to do your own walk-through inspection to make sure all the items on your list got fixed.
Addressing serious issues
If your home inspector uncovers safety or structural issues, you’ll have a more important decision to make: Should you still buy the home?
If you do want to move forward, you’ll need:
- Additional inspections — Home inspectors are not necessarily specialists on any one aspect of home construction. A specialist such as a structural engineer should assess the condition of the home to determine what work and cost will be needed to fix the problems
- Negotiating — You’ll need to request repairs as a condition of buying the home. The seller may agree to lower the price if you’ll still buy the home in its current condition. Or the seller may agree to fix the problems before closing
- Following up — If the home needed significant repairs such as foundation lifting or water diversion, get the expert who diagnosed the problem to come back out and check the quality of the repairs
Using the home inspection as a guide
Home inspections provide valuable information before you buy a home. But they can help you make decisions after closing on the home, too. Your home inspection report could serve as a guide to scheduling and planning future repairs. For example, if the report noted the HVAC system was 15 years old and uses an inefficient blower, you’ll know to start planning ahead for replacing the system in the next few years.