After exploring house after house, you’ve finally found the one you want to call home. You’ve made the offer, you’re in the process of getting the loan, and you’ve started packing: now, the only thing standing between you and your new home is the home inspection.
Most homebuyers know the value of getting a home inspection, but do you know what to do with the information it uncovers? All homes have their issues, and it’s up to you to determine whether you can live with your home’s flaws or ask the homeowner to make repairs to move forward with the purchase.
Here’s what you can expect from a home inspection and what should happen next:
What Happens During a Home Inspection?
Home inspections aren’t as thorough as you might believe. Most inspections can be completed within 2-3 hours, though larger homes may take longer. In some cases, you may be able to accompany the home inspector during the process so he or she can explain their findings as they go.
The inspector will examine the home inside and out, looking for evidence of water damage, code violations (e.g. missing handrails, etc.), electrical or plumbing issues, and foundation issues, among other things. The inspector will also look at appliances, HVAC system, chimneys, sprinklers, light fixtures, and the circuit breaker.
At the end of the inspection, the buyer will receive a written report of all the inspection findings.
One thing that’s not usually included in a standard inspection is mold investigations. If a home inspector notices a severe case, they may document it in their report, but mold is usually a specialized issue that requires its own inspection. Also, home inspectors usually don’t look for termites. This is also a separate inspection that’s not required but can give the buyer peace of mind.
Are Home Inspections Required?
If you’re using a mortgage loan to buy your home, a home inspection is usually not required. Rather, it’s to give the buyer peace of mind and give you a chance to request repairs before you take ownership.
However, most lenders highly encourage a home inspection. FHA loans don’t technically require inspections, but lenders often recommend them in writing.
It’s up to the buyer to determine whether or not they will pursue an inspection, and it will be at the buyer’s cost.
What Comes After the Inspection
Without a home inspection, you’re in the dark about potential issues that could ultimately affect your buying decision. Once you have the report in hand, you can decide how to proceed.
In some cases, you may want the homeowner to make repairs themselves. This can save you the hassle of doing it yourself, but consider that the homeowner may hire the cheapest contractor possible to do the work. Any requests that you make should be backed up with a reason for the request and an estimated cost.
Another option is to ask for a “repair credit” that will allow you to take care of issues on your terms.
Homeowners are required to make certain repairs, such as code violations or water penetration issues (e.g. a wet basement). You can request other major repairs, such as replacing an old roof or HVAC system, but keep in mind the seller isn’t obligated to comply.
In severe cases, the home inspection results may force you to withdraw your offer (this is an option if you make it a contingency in the buying agreement).
Part of your real estate agent’s role is to help you navigate the myriad moving parts of a home inspection, from scheduling the inspection to making requests of the seller to move forward with the contract.
Don’t let a lack of understanding or experience make you forgo the inspection altogether. Even though it’s not required, a home inspection can give you confidence that you’re making the right decision to reach your homeownership goals.
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