Congratulations on buying a home! Where is it? When are you moving in? Does it have your dream kitchen? So many questions, just like when you’re expecting a baby, right? When’s your due date? How are you feeling? Is it a boy or a girl? Have you picked a name yet? Sheesh! There are so many similarities between expecting a child and, well, expecting your first home. Both are life-altering transitions, and let’s face it, both are incredibly expensive. So just like an expectant mom will undergo ultrasounds and myriads of tests, expectant homeowners will also need to have some tests performed on their baby, their new home.
When writing an offer with buyers, as their Realtor, I always advise them on which inspection contingencies to elect and which to waive. What inspections we decide to perform will be a function of the location and construction of the home.
The most common types of inspections are:
- Home Inspection
- Wood Infestation – think termites, carpenter ants, basically anything that would try to eat your house. ALL mortgage lenders will require this inspection to be performed.
- Radon – usually only performed in homes with basements. Radon is a naturally occurring element that tends to collect in basements, especially ones without airflow.
- Well/Water Supply – only needed if a house is not hooked up to public water supply
- Septic – only needed if a house has a septic system
- Lead – all homes built before 1978 probably have lead based paint in them somewhere, but it’s most likely buried under layer upon layer of latex paint by now.
Very rarely would you elect to perform no inspections whatsoever. However, this might happen if you’re hoping to buy a hot property that is fielding multiple offers. You might waive your right to perform inspections to make your offer more attractive to the seller. As your Realtor, we would carefully discuss this option to make sure that your interests are protected.
One of the first things you’ll do after having your offer accepted, after doing a happy dance, is schedule your inspections. Now not everyone knows a home inspector or radon testing company. I am always happy to recommend home inspectors to my buyers – I use several different companies based on the specifics of each home, and only work with people I trust.
A radon or wood-destroying insect inspection is pretty self-explanatory, so most common confusions surround the Home Inspection. But if you know what to expect going in, what questions to ask your home inspector, and how to interpret the home inspection report, you’ll be just fine, I promise!
What does a home inspector actually inspect, anyway?
Almost all home inspectors will check the following systems:
- Heating and Air Conditioning Systems
- Electrical systems
- Roof, within reason – some inspectors climb onto the roof, some use drones- this all depends on how the roof is constructed and the individual inspector
- Attic and visible insulation, if accessible
- Walls and Ceilings
- Doors and Windows
- Visible Foundation,
- Driveways and (sometimes) sidewalks
As always, if you have a particular concern about a specific system, I would always recommend having a licensed professional (roofer, electrician, chimney sweep, HVAC company, etc) come in and inspect that particular system.
What should I do during the home inspection?
As your Realtor, I always meet everyone for the beginning of the home inspection, to provide access to the home and make sure everyone is comfortable. After that, I make myself scarce. I have a tendency to want to chat and socialize (BIG shocker, I know!), so to make sure that the expectant home buyer and the home inspector have the space to focus on the home inspection, I get out of the way.
During the home inspection, you should focus on asking the home inspector questions that will not only help you as a future homeowner, but will also help you interpret the home inspection report you’ll receive after the inspection. Here are four main types of questions I recommend buyers ask during an inspection:
- How do I maintain _________ ? Ask about frequency of cleaning, filter changes, servicing, etc. This is very useful information to have about your home.
- Can you explain what __________ means? For example, if your home inspector tells you the breaker box has double taps, you’ll want to ask for clarification, so that you can understand the issue he/she is pointing out.
- Is this a big problem or a little problem? You don’t want to go all Chicken Little “THE SKY IS FALLING” for every single item listed in a home inspection.
- How does this house compare with others you’ve seen? Your home inspector has seen everything, I assure you.
What do I do with this 35+ page report?!?
- Step 1 – DON’T FREAK OUT! Yes, these reports are a million pages and make it seem like it’s a miracle the house is still standing, I mean, the inspector found 40 pages of problems, right? Nope, no house is going to be absolutely perfect, not even new construction.
- Step 2 – Call ME. I have a pretty good idea of how much it costs to address the vast majority of issues brought up in a home inspection. I know how much it is to have a new breaker box installed, how much a plumber would cost to come out and address a myriad of issues, and even how much installing pull down steps for an attic, among other things. That’s why you’re trusting me to take you through this process.
- Step 3 – Once we’ve gone through the report and prioritized the issues found, we’ll start negotiating with the sellers for either credits or repairs.
The most important thing about a home inspection is that it’s preparing you to own that home. Just like reading all the newest parenting books and blogs will prepare you (kind of) for having a baby, a home inspection will teach you how to maintain the systems in your home, what repairs to anticipate, the projected life span of your roof, etc. Most importantly, a home inspection will send you into that new home with eyes wide open so that there should be no unanticipated surprises lurking in the basement when you move in.
And best of all, your home won’t start to roll its eyes at you after 12 years or so, and it will never ask you for an iPhone, and your house will never be embarrassed by your sweet dad jokes. So maybe buying a home isn’t exactly like having that baby after all.