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Home Buying 101

Contracts and Closing

What to Expect When They're Inspecting

Home Inspection Basics
When homes are put on the market, they’re typically “dressed up” to accentuate their best features and minimize potential flaws. So before you close on a home, it’s important to get a home inspection by a professional home inspector. A home inspection is a complete evaluation of the property from top to bottom, inside and out. It discloses the physical condition of the home to the potential buyer, ensuring that there are no safety-related problems or adverse conditions that would affect the buyer’s investment.

Most buyers get professional inspections only after they’re under contract, and closing is made contingent upon their approval of the inspection results. Depending on the location, size, and age of the home, a home inspection can take two to four hours and cost between $200 and $500. If you’re thinking about skipping this part of the home-buying process, don’t! The additional expense is well worth it when compared to the costly repairs you could face after the sale of the home has been finalized.

Inspector Responsibilities
Home inspectors have two major responsibilities: to evaluate the overall condition of the property and to educate the buyer about the home and its major components. As a buyer, you want the inspector to be thorough, tough, and frank. Ideally, this person will be licensed or affiliated with a professional organization and be independent of all parties involved in the sale. To find a good home inspector, ask for referrals or visit the American Society of Home Inspectors at www.ashi.org.

During a home inspection, the inspector should check structural elements, the exterior, the roof and attic, systems and components, plumbing, electrical, appliances, and the garage. Afterward, you will receive an official report detailing the inspector’s findings. It should note every item that is defective or in need of servicing, and may even include recommendations about how to remedy certain issues identified at inspection.

It’s important to note that home inspectors typically do not check for asbestos, lead, mold, mildew, methane, radon, wood-destroying organisms, or other environmental hazards. Other inspections must be ordered to evaluate these issues.

Buyer Responsibilities
Prior to the date of the inspection, you or your realtor should request disclosures about the condition of the home and potential hazards to the property. While not all sellers are aware of these problems, this information can be useful to your inspector because it can help him or her follow up on known issues.

It’s in your best interest to accompany the home inspector and ask questions throughout the inspection process. Not only will you learn more about what to look for, you may also get information about small flaws that might not be listed on the official inspection report. While these issues may not be “deal breakers,” it’s often useful to be aware of them so they can be monitored for future maintenance.

Protecting Yourself
When drafting a contract, you can elect to include a home inspection contingency clause. This will protect you in the event a home inspection uncovers issues that you and the seller can’t resolve. Some negotiating might be required, but sellers are usually willing to make minor repairs, lower the asking price, or offer a credit to the buyer. If you are given the option, consider getting your own estimate, hiring your own contractors, and supervising the repairs. If more serious issues arise, the home inspection contingency clause allows buyers to back out of the contract.

If the inspection report shows that the house is in good condition, you can proceed with the purchase, knowing that you’re getting what you’re paying for.

Final Walk-Through
Shortly before closing, you should do a final walk-through of the home to ensure that the property is in the condition agreed upon at contract. If repairs have been completed as expected, then you’re one step closer to becoming a homeowner!