The Home Inspection Process: What Buyers Need to Know

By The Real Estate Book Staff

You’ve successfully navigated the intricacies of the home buying process, from deciding what kind of neighborhood you want to live in to getting approved for your mortgage. After taking a tour, picking a desired property, and agreeing on a sale price, it’s time to seal the deal and put the finishing touches on the purchase agreement. 

But wait! Have you made sure that there is a clause in the contract ordering a home inspection yet? 

Buying a home is one of the largest purchases you’ll ever make, so it’s important to know exactly what you’ll be getting when all is said and done. While there are a number of ways to reduce the possibility of buyer’s remorse, ordering a detailed home inspection before finalizing the purchase agreement is arguably the most vital of all, especially for first time home buyers who have less experience with the buying process. 

The Benefits of Ordering a Home Inspection

Home inspections are key in paving the way towards a smooth real estate transaction. During the inspection, a professional will take an in-depth look at the home’s HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems to ensure that everything is in good order. The inspector will also check to see if there are any problems with the windows, doors, floor, structural components, or the home’s foundation.

If they discover previously unnoticed issues that will require major work, or even small ones that need simple cosmetic repair, that will affect the final purchase price. While most potential defects are minor, a problem with a home’s HVAC system or its structural integrity can seriously affect its price. 

Keep in mind that a home is not evaluated on a “pass or fail” basis during the inspection. Instead, the inspection serves as an objective description of its condition, with a list of what might need repair or replacement immediately or in the near future. In addition to how they can affect the negotiation, an inspection will give you, the buyer, a much better idea of the costs that you might incur in the first few years after the purchase.

Trust, but Verify

There’s also an indirect reason why ordering a home inspection can be valuable. Because it can be a lot of work for a seller to prepare for an inspection, it’s a good way to see how conscientious the current owner is. If they’re worried that the home inspector will find that they used shortcuts or cheap repair methods to disguise problems, they’re more likely to balk at the possibility of an inspection. If they do, take that as a red flag.

The value of home inspections is reflected in the proverb “trust, but verify.” Even if the sellers seem to be lovely people and the house looks like it’s in pristine condition during your walkthrough, it’s still important to get a professional opinion and make sure you aren’t walking into a maintenance nightmare.

The Cost of a Home Inspection

The cost of a home inspection depends on several factors, including the size and age of the home and where it’s located. The pricing scheme can also vary, with most inspectors either charging flat rate fees or by square footage. Either way, they should tell you the total cost of the inspection up front, before it takes place. Some inspectors charge hourly rates, so keep in mind that inspections usually take between two to four hours depending on the home. 

It's important to communicate clearly and ask questions to understand how thorough the inspection will be for the price you will be paying. Generally speaking, you should expect a home inspection to run at least a few hundred dollars. That may seem steep, but consider flipping the script and asking yourself what the potential costs are of not ordering a home inspection. For most home buyers, a detailed home inspection is well worth the cost, if only for peace of mind. 

Ordering a Home Inspection

While the buyer usually pays for the inspection, this is up for negotiation and can be written into the purchase agreement if both parties agree.

Finding a certified home inspector located near you is easy thanks to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) search portal. Keep in mind that most inspectors are more than happy to let buyers attend the inspection, giving them a valuable opportunity to ask questions and get to know the house that they are planning to buy.

Learn more about finding the right house for you on our blog

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