Heard of the home inspection blues? After viewing dozens of homes over many weeks, you've selected the perfect house. The price is negotiated! The contract is signed! Plan the house-warming party! Call the movers!
But what's the REALTOR® droning on about...home inspection? You shush her while you dream of serving pancakes to smiling children on a sunny morning. You can see the Christmas tree in the front window....the gardens you'll plant in the spring.
In the blink of an eye your REALTOR® changes...from the chirpy cheerleader who loved every house to a dour-faced skeptic who is muttering about "material defects" and "health and safety". She says you will have to actually pay money to some crabby guy to pick the house apart and destroy your dreams. You begin to develop a case of the home inspection blues.
You aren't expecting a perfect house, you assure your REALTOR®. But suddenly, everyone you've ever met has a bad house story. You hear about houses sliding off foundations and furnaces that blew up in the dead of winter. You begin to pray that the crabby guy can see through walls. Now the home inspection blues have settled in for a long visit.
But shake off that gloomy feeling. The home inspection is a time to learn about the house and make sure that it's safe. It's a time to make sure that there aren't problems that exceed the buyer's resources to address in the future. In Illinois, where I work as a St Charles IL real estate agent, the home inspection is supposed to identify defects in the major mechanical and structural elements of the home such as:
- Any malfunction in the heating and cooling systems. (But old doesn't mean malfunctioning)
- Clear evidence of structural problems such as a cracked foundation or rotted wood in a staircase
- Plumbing issues such as toilets that don't flush or faucets that are not working.
- Electrical system problems such as an overloaded service box
The home inspector is also responsible for noting possible environmental hazards that require further evaluation, including radon. asbestos, soil contamination, mold or gas leaks.
There are many gray areas of what a seller can be asked to address after a home inspection. If the questionable component of the house was to code when it was built, the seller may not be required to make the change. For example, we now know that bathroom fans should be vented to the outside of the home, not into the attic. A home inspector might recommend this be changed as an improvement to the house.
I always recommend that a buyer have a professional home inspection and would insist on a signed waiver if it was declined. The home inspection is intended to make sure that a buyer knows about problems, issues and defects in a home so that they are not taking on more than they expected.
So hire a great home inspector and learn as much as possible from him (or her) about the house. Then work with your REALTOR® and attorney to make a realistic list of requests from the seller.
Note: I am a licensed REALTOR® in Illinois, so these observations are made based on my experience and our state laws. Please consult with local professionals for the requirements for home inspections in your area.