Congratulations! After weeks (or months of looking), you’ve finally found your dream home. It looks like it’s in excellent condition, but merely looking like it’s in good condition is not enough when it comes to such a huge financial decision.
To make sure that you are buying your dream home rather than a living nightmare, you need a professional home inspection before you commit. An inspection should identify any potential issues so you really know what you’re buying.
Make Sure Your Offer Includes an Inspection Contingency
Many first time home buyers don't realize that it is their responsibility to find and hire a home inspector. Make sure that your offer includes an inspection contingency. In the DC metro area you can make your offer contingent on an inspection with the right to void the contract for any reason -based on the home inspection. This means that you can do the inspection and void the contract because the house has a roof and walls or because it has a broken window. In other words, you don't have to have a reason to void the contract based on the home inspection. You just communicate to the seller that you are voiding the contract.
How to Find an Inspector
Many people as friends and family members for recommendations. Friends who have recently bought a home can be a great source for recommendations. Your broker or agent might also have an inspector to recommend. While other people’s opinions are helpful, what’s most important is that you hire someone who is qualified.
Some states require home inspectors to have certifications. For those that don’t, membership in organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors can give you some assurance about an inspector’s professionalism. You can (and should) interview potential inspectors before hiring one. Ask about their experience and whether they’re familiar with the type of home you’re buying. Find out what will be included in the inspection and report and how it will be delivered to you - and when. Will there be pictures? What kind of equipment does the inspector use? Does he have a thermal camera? Does he do termite inspections or radon and lead tests?
Make sure the inspector understands your time line. When does your home inspection contingency expire? Can the inspector do the inspection and give you the report in time for you to decide whether to move forward or not?
What Should the Inspection Cover
During a home inspection, the inspector should thoroughly evaluate the physical structure of the home as well as critical internal systems. You should make sure the examination includes the following:
- Electrical System
- Plumbing System
- Heating and Cooling System
- Radon remediation system if present
- Walls, ceiling and flooring
- Windows and doors
- Garage, including doors
What Additional Inspections Should You Get
While an inspection will give you a good idea of your new home's overall condition, it might not reveal problems such as termites, radon, mold or asbestos. It also won’t identify issues in areas that are below ground or otherwise inaccessible to the inspector, like wells and septic tanks. To fully examine those types of problems, you’re going to need additional inspections. For example, a Wood Destroying Insect Inspection will reveal termites, carpenter ants and other pests. Your inspector may recommend that you or the seller call in a specific contractor to examine and correct an issue which the inspector has identified. I frequently see inspectors recommend that the buyer get the HVAC system examinded further by an HVAC contractor or that the chimney be studied by a sweep.
What Should You Do During the Inspection
You should definitely be there during the inspection. You should follow the inspector around the house and ask questions so you can learn more about how your new home functions. If you can’t make it for the inspection, you should meet with the inspector to go over the report in detail.
If you have questions about potential issues or how to take care of parts of the home, feel free to ask the evaluator. This is the time to find out where the water turn off valve is or to learn which way to insert the air filter into the furnace. Make lots of notes becaue the inspector will probably give you hints about how to care for your home. Take care, however, not to get in the inspector’s way and distract him or her from the job at hand which is to do a top notch analysis of your new home.
Once the inspector completes an evaluation, you will receive a report with the inspector’s findings. Don’t be alarmed if you see a number of issues noted. Home inspections are detailed, so reports often include as many as 50 issues, most of which are relatively small. In addition, many inspectors identify issues which are maintenance suggestions for you as a new home owner, such as making sure that the gutters are kept clean or the air filters changed regularly.
The report should include information about how severe each listed problem is. In addition, the inspector may be able to give you estimates on how much it would cost to fix each problem. Ask the inspector for clarifications on this if necessary. If the inspection lists more problems than you’re comfortable dealing with, your contract may allow you to void the contract or ask the seller make the repairs or lower the price. If you’re satisfied with the condition of the home or the shape it will be in after the seller meets the arrangements of your negotiations, you can decide to move forward with the contract and go to settlement. That is when congratulations are truly in order!
If you live in the DC metro area and you have questions about the inspection provisions of our contract or if you are interested in buying a home but are not sure how to start, please give the Lise Howe Group a call. We would love to help you find a dream home and navigate the contract process!