Most buyers really don’t know what to expect during the home inspection. Should they attend? How long will it take? Here’s a few tips to help you be prepared and know what to expect.
Should you attend the home inspection? Yes.
If at all possible plan on attending the home inspection. While it is not required for the buyer to be present during the inspection I’ve found that it helps. You get to see the inspector working and can learn great tips about preventative maintenance items. How long will the inspection last? Typically in the 2 to 3.5 hour range.
When do I pay? How much will it cost? Be prepared to write the inspector a check at the time of the inspection. The cost varies between inspectors and the size of the home – a good estimate is $350 – $500
Expect to sign a home inspection agreement with the inspector. The agreement spells out the inspectors responsibilities etc.
The Home Inspector will be visually inspecting many components of the home, you will see them run the dishwasher, test doors, windows, electrical outlets etc. They will move through the home systematically, making notes of their findings along the way. The inspector will wait to go under the home last (if it’s a crawl space) – having already ran water in the sinks, flushed toilets etc it will be easier to notice a leak.
Remember the home inspector is working directly for you and is not tied to the sales contract in any way. Here’s why that’s important, you may hear the inspector say something like, “The sellers will have to fix that”, not necessarily – while it may very well be a legitimate item that needs repairing, the seller is not obligated to make the repair – how you handle the findings from the home inspection report will depend significantly on terms in the offer to purchase. The best way to handle this is to wait for the written home inspection report and then determine which items are of concern and how to address them with the seller.
Here’s a great way to mentally categorize things the home inspector finds or points out. This is not an official method, if you say to the inspector “Is that a category II finding?” it’s not going to mean anything, it’s simply intended to be a help as you process things the inspector finds.
Category I items: think of these as recommendations – things the home inspector may point out that could be done to improve or extend the life of an item. This is not really something you would typically ask the seller for, just good info to have.
Category II items: minor items, again good to know but not really a substantial reason to be alarmed. For example, a closet door latch needs to be adjusted.
Category III items: in my opinion this is really why you are having the inspection, items you want to be aware of before you decide to close on a home, for example, plumbing leaks, broken heating or air conditioning system, foundation problems etc
With any home (even new ones) the inspector will likely find a number of items to report. It’s important to wait until the end of the inspection and look at the complete findings.
After the inspector is finished they will go over their findings with you verbally, followed by a written report, typically the next day. The written report will show their exact findings along with photos.
Once you have received the written report you can evaluate and determine which items to request the seller to repair. Please remember, usually there will be a date within the offer to purchase contract by which any repair request must be submitted to the seller.
The home inspector is reporting if a particular item or system is working or not – they will typically not get into what would be required to repair the item or the cost to do so.
Remember no home inspector is perfect and they don’t have x-ray vision. A clean inspection is not the same as a guarantee. Something can be working today yet break tomorrow. Depending on the age/condition of the home you may want to consider a home warranty.