You bought the house! Now, you need a home inspection.
Congratulations, buyer! You found the "perfect" house and we are now under contract. One of the first steps we will take is to have an inspection of the home.
Why? A home inspection is designed to give you a better understanding of the systems and overall condition of the home you're buying. Otherwise, you’d have to rely on your own knowledge and experience, or you'd ask me--and neither Jeff nor I are experts on a home's condition. A home inspection should point out questionable conditions and/or potential safety-related concerns in the home you want to buy.
When? We have 5 days from the date of acceptance to get this completed.
Who? You can use any inspector you want, but if you want recommendations, we can help you.
How much? The inspection will cost you anywhere from about $500 and up depending on the size of the home and it is paid at the time of the inspection. Additional tests, such as for radon, are an additional fee between $200-300.
What does it cover? A home inspection should cover:
- Exterior, porch and deck
- Foundation and walls
- Chimneys and roofs
- Windows, doors and attics
- Electrical components and plumbing
- Central heating and air conditioning
- Appliances that are staying with the home
- Basement/crawlspaces and garage
What about a radon test? Radon is pretty prevalent in our area and in most cases we encourage you to have a radon test during your inspection. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas and comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil. You can’t see radon. You can’t smell radon and you can’t taste radon. There are specific protocols for testing for radon in real estate transaction. There is a separate fee for this test. If radon levels are elevated, we will ask the seller to mitigate the radon prior to closing.
Should I do a well or septic inspection? In most cases we will have negotiated a contract in which the seller pays for these tests. We should expect a clean report of both systems prior to closing.
At the inspection: Jeff or I will be at the inspection and I encourage you to go as well. If you can't be there for the whole time, you should try to come at the end. The inspector will point out any issues of concern and will often say something like, "this is not as bad as it looks...here's the solution." A good inspector will also show you items that you need to keep any eye on and budget for future repairs. The inspector will also show you where your water shut off is, electric breaker, pilot light, etc. This is a valuable time to see the details.
This is also the perfect time to bring other family members to see the home. Bring a tape measurer so you can measure for your furniture. If you are planning on getting new flooring or paint, you may want to schedule all these contractors at the same time so you can get a jump start on estimates. We don't want to be inconsiderate of the seller's home and continually ask to see the house during the pending period. The inspection will take a solid 2 hours so this is your opportunity to take notes of all the details.
After the inspection: The inspector will point out some things during the inspection, but he or she will email you a full report. This report is exhaustive and includes every single item of note. It can appear overwhelming. But let's walk through it together.
Okay, let's get real. No house is perfect.
Real life scenario: You saw the house on Saturday. Fell in love with it. Dreamed about it that night. Wrote an offer on Sunday. Chewed your fingernails off waiting for a the seller's response. Monday, your offer is accepted and you go out for a celebratory dinner. Everyone is SO excited!
Wednesday, you go to the inspection. By Wednesday afternoon you begin to believe you are buying a death trap.
Thursday morning you get a 55 page report from the inspector that shows every single slip of peeling paint, every loose tile, a dirty furnace and a cracked sidewalk. Thursday afternoon, you hate this house! It's in terrible shape, it's going to cost you [ludicrously high number here] dollars to fix it, the whole house is probably going to cave in if one of the little pigs walked by.
Thursday night: BREATHE!
This is still the house you love. You didn't suddenly stop loving it because of a slow drain or a loose toilet. Before you make a rash decision, let's talk about the report. In most cases we can work everything out with the seller and deliver to you a house that is safe and that will meet your needs for many years.
Here's the tough love:
You are not buying a new house. The appliances are probably not new. The roof may only last another 3 years. You may have to put money into this house in order to make it what you want it to be. But the seller does not have to pay for it.
Specifically, and let me get all technical here, this is what the contract says about the inspection:
The request for repairs shall only cover the major components of the real estate, limited to:
- Central heating and cooling systems, plumbing and well system, electrical system, roof, walls, windows, doors, ceilings, floors, appliances and foundation.
A major component shall be deemed to be in operating condition, and therefore not defective, if:
- it does not constitute a current threat to health or safety and
- performs the function for which it is intended, regardless of age or if it is near or at the end of its useful life
Minor repairs, and routine maintenance items and painting, decorating or other items of a cosmetic nature, no matter the cost to remedy same, do not constitute defects.
A request by Buyer for credits or repairs in violation of this shall allow Seller to declare this Contract terminated.
So what does this mean? Your report will itemize many many things about the home. But you need to ask yourself:
- Is this a minor repair or routine maintenance item?
- Is it working, even if it is old?
- Is it part of a major component?
- Is it dangerous or present a current threat to my health and safety?
Many buyers get so nervous about the inspector's report that they ask the seller to repair items that don't meet the test above. If you decide to do this, the seller can cancel the contract without giving you a chance to respond. Even if the seller does not cancel, we run the risk of annoying the seller to the point that the rest of the transaction is very troublesome. And, if we were in a multiple offer situation, the seller may have another buyer waiting in the wings.
I always recommend you ask yourself a few questions:
- If an inspector came to my house--what would they find?
- Is everything in perfect working condition in my current residence?
- Do I think my current place is a death trap? Probably not. If I were the seller and were presented with my lists of demands, how would I respond?
- Are the items big enough to risk losing the house? They may be. Sometimes you do need to walk away from a house, even if you love it.
Here is the bottom line: If a major item is not working properly, we'll ask it be repaired. If something is not safe, the seller should make it be safe. But, we can't expect the seller to make the house be new.
Once we have had a chance to examine the report, you'll present what needs to be addressed to your attorney who will formally request a remedy from the seller's attorney. At this point, everything needs to go through the attorney in writing to minimize confusion and so that everyone understands what is expected. The seller may agree to some, all, or none. The seller may offer an alternative like a credit or home warranty.
We'll explore these options together and come up with a solution that gets you a safe (but not new) house with everything in proper working condition.
This can be a stressful part; but, if you understand the current contract and expectations, we can get through this as hassle-free as possible.