By Megan Wild, NYTimes
You’ve finally found what seems to be the perfect home. It’s got all your must-haves and some of your nice-to-haves, too. It looks like it’s in excellent condition, but merely looking like it’s in good condition is not enough when it comes to such a huge financial decision.
To make sure you’re not buying a money pit, you need a professional home inspection before you commit.
An inspection should uncover any potential issues so you have a complete picture of what you’re buying.
Finding a Home Inspector
Many first-time home buyers don’t realize that it’s their responsibility to hire a home inspector. Make sure you make your offer conditional upon inspection or get one done before you make a bid.
To find a home inspector, people often turn to recommendations from trusted friends and family members. Your broker might also have an inspector to recommend. While other people’s opinions are helpful, what’s paramount is that you hire someone who is qualified.
Some states require home inspectors to have certifications. For those that don’t, membership in organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors can give you some assurance about an inspector’s professionalism.
Interview potential inspectors before hiring one. Ask about their experience and whether they’re familiar with the type of home you’re buying. Find out what will be included in the inspection and report.
What the Inspector Should Look At
During a home inspection, the inspector should thoroughly evaluate the physical structure of the home as well as critical internal systems. You should make sure the examination includes the following:
● Electrical system
● Plumbing system
● Heating and cooling systems
● Radon detection equipment, if applicable
● Walls, ceiling and flooring
● Windows and doors
While an inspection will give you an idea of a house’s overall condition, it might not uncover hidden problems such as pests, mold or asbestos. It also won’t turn up flaws in areas that are below ground or otherwise inaccessible to the inspector, like wells and septic tanks. To identify those types of problems, you’re going to need additional inspections.
For example, a Wood Destroying Insect Inspection can identify termites, carpenter ants and other pests. “More than 30 states require a pest inspection before a home loan can close,” Leslie Wyman, the owner of Epcon Lane, a pest control company said. “But even if you live in a state where it’s optional, it’s a really important safeguard.”
What Should You Do During the Inspection?
You should make every effort to be present when the inspection is taking place. You can follow the inspector around the house and ask questions so you can learn more about your potential new home. If you can’t make it for the inspection, you should meet with the inspector to go over the report in detail.
If you have questions about potential issues or how to take care of parts of the home, feel free to ask the evaluator. Take care, however, not to get in the inspector’s way. Don’t start inspecting the home yourself, either. If you test a sink while the inspector is testing a shower, for example, you might alter the results.
It’s also important to remember that “an inspection is only a snapshot in time on the day of the inspection,” said John Bodrozic, a co-founder of HomeZada. So if you’re buying a house in the middle of summer, try to consider how the home might perform in different conditions, like the winter or fall.
A Home’s Report Card
Once the inspector completes an evaluation, you will receive a report with the inspector’s findings. Don’t be alarmed if you see a lot of deficiencies noted. Home inspections are detailed, so reports often include between 50 and 100 issues, most of which are relatively small.
The report should include information about how severe each listed problem is, plus estimates on how much it would cost to fix each problem. Ask the inspector for clarifications on this if necessary.
If the inspection finds more problems than you’re comfortable dealing with, you can choose to back out of the sale or try to negotiate to have the seller make the repairs or lower the price. If you’re satisfied with the condition of the home or the shape it will be in after the seller meets the arrangements of your negotiations, you can move into your new home with more peace of mind.
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