Your first clue that a home inspection is important is that it can be used as a contingency in your purchase offer. This contingency provides that if significant defects are revealed by a home inspection, you can back out of your offer, free of penalty, within a certain time frame. The potential problems a home can have must be pretty serious if they could allow you to walk away from such a significant contract.
What a Home Inspection Examines
Inspectors vary in experience, ability and thoroughness, but a good inspector should examine certain components of the home you want to purchase and then produce a report covering his or her findings. The typical inspection lasts two to three hours and you should be present for the inspection to get a firsthand explanation of the inspector's findings and, if necessary, ask questions. Also, any problems the inspector uncovers will make more sense if you see them in person instead of relying solely on the snapshot photos in the report. The inspector should note: whether each problem is a safety issue, major defect, or minor defect which items need replacement and which should be repaired or serviced items that are suitable for now but that should be monitored closelyA really great inspector will even tell you about routine maintenance that should be performed, which can be a great help if you are a first-time home buyer. While it is impossible to list everything an inspector could possibly check for, the following list will give you a general idea of what to expect.
Home Inspection Short Comings
A home inspection can't identify everything that might be wrong with the property - it only checks for visual cues to problems. For example, if the home's doors do not close properly or the floors are slanted, the foundation might have a crack - but if the crack can't be seen without pulling up all the flooring in the house, a home inspector can't tell you for sure if it's there. Furthermore, most home inspectors are generalists - that is, they can tell you that the plumbing might have a problem, but then they will recommend that you hire an expert to verify the problem and give you an estimate of the cost to fix it. Of course, hiring additional inspectors will cost extra money. Home inspectors also do not check for issues like termite damage, site contamination, mold, engineering problems and other specialized issues. After the InspectionOnce you have the results of your home inspection, you have several options. If the problems are too significant or too expensive to fix, you can choose to walk away from the purchase, as long as the purchase contract has an inspection contingency. For problems large or small, you can ask the seller to fix them, reduce the purchase price, or to give you a cash credit at closing to fix the problems yourself - this is where a home inspection can pay for itself several times over. If these options aren't viable in your situation (for example, if the property is bank-owned and being sold as-is), you can get estimates to fix the problems yourself and come up with a plan for repairs in order of their importance and afford-ability once you own the property.
Bottom line on Home InspectionsA home inspection will cost you a little bit of time and money, but in the long run you'll be glad you did it. The inspection can reveal problems that you may be able to get the current owners to fix before you move in, saving you time and money. If you are a first-time homebuyer, an inspection can give you a crash course in home maintenance and a checklist of items that need attention to make your home as safe and sound as possible. Don't skip this important step in the home-buying process - it's worth every penny.