Home Inspection ~ Buyer
The purchase of a home is probably the largest single investment you will ever make. You should learn as much as you can about the condition of the property and the need for any major repairs before you complete the purchase, so that you can minimize surprises afterwards.
A home inspection also points out the good things about a house, as well as the maintenance that will be necessary to keep it in good shape. After the inspection, you will have a much clearer understanding of the property you are about to purchase.
A home inspection is a visual examination of the structure and systems of a home, from the roof to the basement. Having a home inspected is like giving it a physical check-up. Remember that the inspector is not a specialist in any one area. He is like a general contractor. If problems or symptoms are found, the inspector may recommend further evaluation by a licensed contractor or a specialist, such as a foundation inspector.
The standard home inspector’s report will review the condition of the home’s heating system, central air conditioning system (temperature permitting), interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement, and visible structure.
The inspection fee for a typical one-family house varies by inspector. It may also vary depending upon the size of the house, particular features of the house, its age, and possible additional services, such as septic, well, or radon testing. Costs are also affected by the inspector’s experience, demand for his services and whether or not he is insured for errors and omissions.
However, do not let cost be a factor in deciding whether or not to have a home inspection, or in the selection of your home inspector. The knowledge gained from an inspection is well worth the cost, and the lowest-priced inspector is not necessarily a bargain. The inspector’s qualifications, including his experience, training, and professional affiliations, should be the most important consideration.
Even the most experienced home owner lacks the knowledge and expertise of a professional home inspector. An inspector is familiar with the many elements of home construction, their proper installation, and maintenance. He or she understands how the home’s systems and components are intended to function together, as well as how and why they fail. An experienced inspector has seen many properties and can see signs of defects that most of us will miss. They are also trained on local and national building codes. What you may see as a “new” electrical box, an inspector will see if it was improperly wired according to code.
Above all, most buyers find it very difficult to remain completely objective and unemotional about the house they really want, and this may affect their judgment. For the most accurate information, it is best to obtain an impartial third-party opinion by an expert in the field of home inspection.
A home inspector is typically contacted right after the contract or purchase agreement has been signed by both Buyers and Sellers. However, before you sign, be sure that there is an inspection contingency, making your purchase obligation contingent upon the findings of a professional home inspection.
It is highly recommended that you attend the inspection with your agent. You will be able to observe the inspector and ask questions directly, as you learn about the condition of the home, how its systems work, and how to maintain it. You will also find the written report easier to understand if you’ve seen the property first-hand through the inspector’s eyes. Because the inspector may be liable if he fails to disclose something, sometimes the written report can sound a lot worse than it really is.
Home inspection costs vary by inspector and property type. An average size single family home can run from $350 to $450 in the Iowa City/Coralville/North Liberty area.
When “shopping” for an inspector, remember that not all home inspectors – nor home inspections – are created equal. Home inspectors have varying degrees of experience, tools and insurance coverage. An inspection that costs only $150 will most likely get you an inexperienced inspector with limited tools and insurance. The expression “You get what you pay for,” couldn’t be more true when it comes to hiring the person who will inspect the largest investment you will every make.
A house can’t really “fail” the inspection. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of your prospective home. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value, or a municipal inspection, which verifies local code compliance. A home inspector, therefore, will not pass or fail a house, but rather describe its physical condition and indicate what may need repair or replacement.
No house is perfect. If the inspector writes up problems, it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy the house, only that you will know in advance what to expect. You may request that the sellers repair the defects or escrow the funds for future repairs if major problems are found. Of course, you will also have the option to void the offer based on your inspection contingency if major deficiencies are found.
Whether or not the report reveals that the house is in sound condition, it was not a waste of time and money. Now you can complete your home purchase with your eyes open as to the condition of the property and all its mechanicals. You will also have learned many things about your new home from the inspector’s written report, and will want to keep that information for future reference.