A Buyer's Guide To Home Inspections
After months of searching, you’ve finally found the house of your dreams and are ready to put in an offer. While you may be overwhelmed with excitement, one aspect of home buying you shouldn’t overlook is the home inspection.
What is a home inspection?
A home inspection is a visual, non-invasive evaluation of the house intended to provide you with a general understanding of the condition of the property at the time of inspection.
This is often your last opportunity to discover any problems related to the house before you commit to buying. Are there any structural problems? Is the roof in good shape? Does the HVAC work properly? Are there signs of water intrusion? An inspection from a good home inspector can help answer these questions to help you be more informed and give you piece of mind. After all, your home purchase is likely the largest investment you’ll ever make. For these reasons, we always recommend adding a home inspection contingency to your purchase contract.
What is a home inspection contingency?
A home inspection contingency is a common clause added to purchase contracts that give you time to have the house professionally inspected for any problems before fully committing to purchase. It also allows you the opportunity to leverage any inspection findings in negotiations with the seller. Maybe the shingles are worn or the air conditioning is on its last leg. Sometimes, the seller may be willing to lower the home price to account for these deficiencies. Other times, major issues might make you change your mind about purchasing the house. With a home inspection contingency, you can usually back out of the contract and only lose your due diligence fee.
We highly recommend you always have a home inspection contingency in the purchase contract. Though sellers may find offers without this contingency more enticing, do you really want to waive your opportunity to back out if the home does have issues?
What if I don’t have a home inspection contingency?
That’s okay too. While it may limit your negotiating ability if there are issues with the home, it generally doesn’t prevent you from having an inspection. This still gives you valuable information about your home and allows you to proactively address any issues once you move in.
What does the home inspection process look like?
Overall, the home inspection process is pretty simple
Put an offer on a home
Once accepted, find a reputable home inspector in your area
Contact the home inspector and schedule a time to perform the inspection
Coordinate with real estate agents and/or the seller to ensure the home inspector has access to the home.
Attend the home inspection where you’ll gain valuable info and they’ll point out any concerns
Home inspector provides a full written report of their findings, usually within 3 business days
Use this information to negotiate with the seller if necessary
How do I find a good home inspector?
One of the best places to start is recommendations from friends and family. If there’s an inspector they’ve have a good experience with in the past, you’ll have a better idea of the quality of their services. Your realtor will also usually have a few recommended home inspectors. While these can also be a good option, do your own research to ensure they will provide a comprehensive, quality home inspection that is completely unbiased.
When you’re evaluating potential inspectors, you want to ensure you’re getting an experienced home inspector. While you can certainly learn a lot in a classroom, the home inspection industry is one where you really need solid field experience to know what to look for. An experienced inspector will be able to pick up warning signs and understand potential problems better because they’ve likely seen it before. Ask your inspector about their experience and request a sample report to see first-hand the type of work they’ve done.
How much does a home inspection cost?
Home inspection prices vary based on the size and age of the home but in general, expect to pay between $300 and $600 for your average single-family home in the Raleigh NC area. You’ll generally pay more for larger and older homes since these require more work to inspect. As with any service industry, prices will also vary from one inspector to the next. We don’t recommend selecting a home inspector solely based on price since this this is not a good indication of quality. Inspectors with cheaper prices are often new or less experienced and home inspections may not be their primary job. Inspectors with more experience are generally more expensive, but the extra $50-100 is often well worth it to get a quality inspector that knows what to look for. Check out our article on Average Home Inspection Cost in Raleigh NC (2022) for more info.
Should I attend the home inspection?
Yes, you should absolutely try to attend the home inspection. There are some inspectors that may not prefer this, but most inspectors want their client’s to be present. The home inspection is your chance to see any issues with the house first-hand. It also gives you the opportunity to ask your inspector as many questions as you like. Not only will you have a much better understanding of what defects may be present, but you’ll often get a bunch of maintenance tips along the way and gain a better perspective on how minor or major any issues are.
What happens if the inspector does find issues?
No house is perfect, so you should expect the home inspection to uncover some issues. The number of issues generally isn’t too important, but it’s the severity of the defects that you really want to understand.
If all of the issues are relatively minor, you’ll probably continue through the buying process as normal. You may ask the seller to fix some of these before you move-in or you may decide you can live with them and fix later. On the other hand, if there are more sever issues such as major structural damage or safety hazards, you may need to think a bit harder about whether the home is the right investment. You might want to get additional inspections from a specialist or get quotes to fully understand the extent of the damage and cost of repair. The seller may agree to fix the problems or reduce the sale price of the home to compensate. In some instances, you may not want to continue with the home purchase and that’s where your inspection contingency can be important.
If nothing else, you’ll have a list of home maintenance items and a guide to help you plan for future home improvements or repairs. Maybe you find out the furnace is old and worn, so you can start planning for a new unit.
Can a home fail the inspection?
No, a house doesn’t pass or fail a home inspection. It’s not like municipal inspections looking for building code adherence. Its simply an objective evaluation of the condition of the home to indicate what areas are in need of repair or replacement.
What do inspectors look for?
The NC Standard of Practice published by the NCHILB provides a complete list of what inspectors are required to evaluate as part of a home inspection. At a high level, this includes heating and cooling systems, electrical, plumbing, foundation and structural components, roofing, exterior, insulation, ventilation, interiors, windows, doors, and built-in appliances. As the inspector walks around the home, they’ll be evaluating each of these items and looking for any signs that might indicate a problem. The goal is to assess the overall condition of the home and point out any areas of concern to help educate the client.
It’s important to remember that a home inspection is a visual, non-invasive evaluation of the home. This means there may be items that are hidden from view that can’t be fully inspected. Think of plumbing or electrical lines that run behind the walls, your inspector will not be able to fully assess the condition of these items. Likewise, if there are seller belongings that block access or hide things from view, a home inspector is not able to evaluate these areas.
Inspectors also won’t generally comment on cosmetic issues such as scuffs or dings on walls. The focus is on finding any issues which effect function of the home’s systems and not necessarily overall aesthetic.
What’s in the report?
If you attended the inspection, the report will mainly be a summary of items the inspector already discussed with you on-site.
The report should have a summary page with a concise list of any issues found along with pictures. That’s followed by a full report that will go through each area inspected, what was inspected, comment on general condition, point out defects in more detail, provide general information and list inspection limitations. Any issues will also be accompanied by some recommendations about what do or who to contact for repairs or further inspection.
At Wake Forest Home Inspections, we provide comprehensive digital reports typically within 48 hours of the inspection.
What about sellers?
Sellers can get home inspections too! This is a great way to get ahead of the game and prepare to put your house on the market. A home inspection can give sellers an idea of what issues the buyer’s inspector will likely find and give them the opportunity to proactively make repairs or improvements before the home hits the market. This can help get you top dollar for your home and avoid delays once under contract.
If you’re selling your house and the buyer is having a home inspection, there a few items you can do to help.
Tidy up and make sure all areas of the home are clean and accessible
Ensure utilities are on and all systems are operational
Make sure there aren’t any locked doors that won’t allow the inspector to access
Remove obstructions around HVAC systems and electrical panels
If you have any more questions or are looking to get a home inspection in Wake Forest NC or the greater Raleigh / Durham area, contact Wake Forest Home Inspections!