From National Association of Realtors, March 2016
For home buyers and sellers alike, the road from initial offer to closing can seem like an endless series of hurdles. One of the most formidable of these hurdles is the home inspection, which seeks to determine the condition of the home's most important features and uncover any potential safety concerns. A thorough home inspection is critical so that buyers can make an informed decision about the final price that they agree to pay.
Home inspectors are licensed by the state or professional associations and are usually bound by a code of ethics. Although they are generally hired by the buyer, they are not parties to the sales transaction and should thus remain impartial. The inspection is mostly visual; inspectors do not dig too deeply to reveal issues. They will focus on the condition of several essential components, including the roof, foundation, and plumbing and HVAC systems. The inspector will then generate a report detailing his or her findings and make recommendations for future maintenance.
If the home inspection report reveals multiple or significant problems, the buyer may demand that the seller fix them, insist upon a lower selling price, or even walk away from the deal. Therefore, it is in the seller's best interest to prepare for the home inspection by thoroughly examining all areas of the home, including the attic, basement, garage, and crawl spaces, and attending to anything that needs to be repaired. Sellers are generally advised to leave the home while the inspection is taking place, as it will be more comfortable for themselves and the buyers if they are not present while the property is being critiqued.
As the party who funds the inspection and stands to benefit most from it, the buyer should understand what to expect and actively engage in the process. As a buyer, consider the following tips:
· Review the seller's property disclosure before the inspection and use it to formulate a list of questions for the inspector.
· Conduct your own vetting before choosing an inspector. Remember that you are paying for this step in the home-buying process, so you are entitled to have someone whose credentials you trust. Your agent may recommend an inspector, but feel free to do your own research.
· Attend the inspection. The majority of inspectors are comfortable with the buyer and buyer's agent being present during the inspection. Do not be shy about asking questions; having the inspector explain the condition of the property to you at the same time that you are seeing it is far more informative than simply reading the inspector's notes in a report after the fact.
· Ask your agent to decode the inspection report and advise you on which issues are worth requesting fixes.
Do not wait until after closing to investigate issues that may require major repairs. If the inspection revealed a problem that could potentially be expensive to fix, seek out a few quotes prior to closing. Depending on the extent of the problem, your agent may suggest that you amend your offer price.