Home inspections are not required by law, so it can be tempting to skip them. Inspections cost money – and when you’re buying a house the expenses add up quickly and you might feel that adding inspection fees on top of everything else is just too much. On the other hand, a thorough home inspection before you buy can end up saving you money in the long run. An inspection may uncover problems within the property that might give you leverage to negotiate a better price, or may discover problems so severe that you decide against buying the house at all. A home inspection will cost between $300 and $500. All things considered, it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Inspectors are professionally trained to notice all the little details that are easy to miss. Even if you do some research, your expertise won’t come close to that of a qualified home inspector. They’ll have special equipment for detecting the presence of pests and mold as well as the damage caused by these problems. In addition, they’re trained to identify the warning signs of structural, plumbing, and electrical problems that you need to know about before purchasing a home. Skipping the inspection means not knowing in advance about possible problems such as:
- Out-of-date electrical wiring
- Leaky roofs, walls or plumbing
- Termites or other pests
- Structural damage to weight-bearing walls
- Heating or cooling appliances nearing the end of their lifespan
Any one of these could mean a significant expense within the first few years of ownership, and only a qualified inspector has the training to notice the signs that indicate these kinds of issues.
One perceived problem with home inspections is the time it takes to get them arranged and completed. Often it’s only a day or two, but if you’ve found a house you really love, you may feel that it’s too risky to wait in case the property gets sold in the meantime. One way of combating this problem is to make an offer on the house with a home inspection included as a contingency. Basically, this means that your offer on the property is solid as long as the results of the home inspection are to your satisfaction. If the inspection results are not satisfactory, you can cancel the contract without penalty.
What do Home Inspections Cover?
The factors that each home inspector looks at when visiting a home may vary slightly, so it pays to ask exactly what services you’re getting for your money before hiring. A typical home inspection should include the following:
- Structural systems
- Heating and cooling systems
- Roof and exteriors
- Electrical system
- Mold and pests
- Mold, pest and water damage
Hiring an Inspector
Your agent or the seller’s agent may supply you with a list of inspectors to choose from. If this happens, your best bet is to tear that list up. Don’t be tempted to take the easy way out, and don’t be afraid of causing offense if you decide to hire an independent inspector. You can’t guarantee that such a referral will be objective, because as always the agent’s number one priority is closing the deal.
Instead, talk to friends and acquaintances who have had recent contact with home inspectors and can recommend the services of a good inspector. If this doesn’t turn up any possibilities, check the Yellow Pages or the internet. Whatever the source you use, make sure to ascertain the inspector’s qualifications and experience before hiring. The inspector you choose should be a member of a reputable association with nationally recognized professional and ethical standards.