Buying a new home is not for the faint of heart. From house hunting to negotiating a deal to inspections, contracts, mortgage applications, packing, moving….it’s stressful to say the least. With each of the three homes we’ve bought, we’ve learned a little more about what we should and shouldn’t do the next time around. From our recent home purchase, we’ve become a lot more savvy about real estate disclosures and home inspections. I wish I could say that our knowledge came from educating ourselves prior to our home purchase but unfortunately it came from several “now we know what not to do” lessons on the backend.
But there’s a bright light here and it’s that I can send some home inspection savvy your way so we can all have an easier home buying process the next time around. I’ve got five tips to share for getting the most out of your next home inspection:
1. Think twice before using the inspector recommended by your realtor. There’s an inherent conflict of interest in using a realtor-recommended inspector – if the inspector finds and reports a number of problems with the house, it may kill the sale of the house. And if this happens too many times, the realtor is likely to stop recommending that inspector, resulting in a loss of business for the inspector. On the other hand, if an inspector downplays findings or doesn’t report too many problems, the real estate transaction is more likely to go through and the inspector is more likely to continue to get referrals from the realtors involved.
It may be that you have a realtor that you know very well and completely trust – in that case, by all means, consider using your realtor’s recommendation. Otherwise, get recommendations from friends & family or, better yet, from unbiased reviews on sites such as Angie’s List. Ask the inspector questions about their training, experience, certification, and professional associations (look for affiliation with the American Society of Home Inspectors or National Association of Home Inspectors).
2. Ask your inspector for their inspection agreement before committing to using him/her. Some inspectors have a “limit of liability” clause that limits their liability to the cost of the inspection. Personally, I would not hire an inspector who requires you to sign an agreement with that clause. A good inspector should have errors and omissions insurance to cover the cost of anything significant that is missed on the inspection. Such insurance is required in some states but not all.
3. Consider getting independent specialty inspections. Whether you have a fantastic or horrible home inspector, there are limits to the scope of the inspection. Did you know that in most states inspectors are required to observe the roof from the ground but aren’t required to go up on the roof to inspect it in more detail? In addition to a general home inspector, consider hiring a licensed roofer, HVAC contractor, plumber, and/or electrician. A pest/termite inspection is also recommended. Yes, it will cost you more money up front but it has the potential of saving you thousands of dollars if they identify problems that you can negotiate having fixed by the seller or, if they are extensive problems, give you the knowledge to know that it may be best to walk away from the deal.
4. In addition to hiring a home inspector, be your own inspector as well. Attend the inspection of the home you are buying and ask the inspector to show you any issues that he/she identifies. Also, do your own visual inspection of each room of the house as well as the home’s exterior. You may be surprised by the number of things that you identify that are not noted by the inspector. Also, read the inspection agreement and note the items that will not be examined by the inspector – you can look at some of those things yourself, such as the condition of any fencing around the property.
5. Read your home inspection report thoroughly and compile a list of questions for the sellers based on the report. For example, if the report states that there is evidence of patching on the roof, ask the sellers if they have ever had the roof patched and, if so, when this was done. Get the sellers’ responses to your questions in writing. Of course, you will also use the inspection report to create a list of requested repairs or closing credits based on issues identified by the inspector.
So, are you feeling home inspector savvy?? Can you believe that I just wrote a post with only one picture?? No worries – I’ll scratch your itch for pretty pictures tomorrow when I show you some of the goodies you can choose from if you win this month’s awesome giveaway! Thanks for stopping by!