By Megan Wild
To make sure you’re not buying a money pit, you need a professional home inspection before you commit.
An inspection should uncover any potential issues so you have a complete picture of what you’re buying.
Finding a Home InspectorMany first-time home buyers don’t realize that it’s their responsibility to hire a home inspector. Make sure you make your offer conditional upon inspection or get one done before you make a bid.
Subscribe to With InterestCatch up and prep for the week ahead with this newsletter of the most important business insights, delivered Sundays.
To find a home inspector, people often turn to recommendations from trusted friends and family members. Your broker might also have an inspector to recommend. While other people’s opinions are helpful, what’s paramount is that you hire someone who is qualified.
Some states require home inspectors to have certifications. For those that don’t, membership in organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors can give you some assurance about an inspector’s professionalism.
What the Inspector Should Look AtDuring a home inspection, the inspector should thoroughly evaluate the physical structure of the home as well as critical internal systems. You should make sure the examination includes the following:
● Electrical system
● Plumbing system
● Heating and cooling systems
● Radon detection equipment, if applicable
● Walls, ceiling and flooring
● Windows and doors
While an inspection will give you an idea of a house’s overall condition, it might not uncover hidden problems such as pests, mold or asbestos. It also won’t turn up flaws in areas that are below ground or otherwise inaccessible to the inspector, like wells and septic tanks. To identify those types of problems, you’re going to need additional inspections.
Editors’ PicksThe ‘Preppy Handbook’ & MeAre You Rich? This Income-Rank Quiz Might Change How You See YourselfHBO’s ‘Succession’ Tries to Get the Merger-Mad Media Industry RightADVERTISEMENT
For example, a Wood Destroying Insect Inspection can identify termites, carpenter ants and other pests. “More than 30 states require a pest inspection before a home loan can close,” Leslie Wyman, the owner of Epcon Lane, a pest control company said. “But even if you live in a state where it’s optional, it’s a really important safeguard.”
What Should You Do During the Inspection?You should make every effort to be present when the inspection is taking place. You can follow the inspector around the house and ask questions so you can learn more about your potential new home. If you can’t make it for the inspection, you should meet with the inspector to go over the report in detail.
If you have questions about potential issues or how to take care of parts of the home, feel free to ask the evaluator. Take care, however, not to get in the inspector’s way. Don’t start inspecting the home yourself, either. If you test a sink while the inspector is testing a shower, for example, you might alter the results.
It’s also important to remember that “an inspection is only a snapshot in time on the day of the inspection,” said John Bodrozic, a co-founder of HomeZada. So if you’re buying a house in the middle of summer, try to consider how the home might perform in different conditions, like the winter or fall.
A Home’s Report CardOnce the inspector completes an evaluation, you will receive a report with the inspector’s findings. Don’t be alarmed if you see a lot of deficiencies noted. Home inspections are detailed, so reports often include between 50 and 100 issues, most of which are relatively small.
The report should include information about how severe each listed problem is, plus estimates on how much it would cost to fix each problem. Ask the inspector for clarifications on this if necessary.
If the inspection finds more problems than you’re comfortable dealing with, you can choose to back out of the sale or try to negotiate to have the seller make the repairs or lower the price. If you’re satisfied with the condition of the home or the shape it will be in after the seller meets the arrangements of your negotiations, you can move into your new home with more peace of mind.
By Wendy Helfenbaum | Jul 17, 2019
AndreyPopov/iStock; realtor.comYou’ve lived in your home for years and haven't exactly been on top of regular maintenance tasks. Now, your windows are covered in plastic wrap to cut down on the cold drafts, your ceiling seems to be leaking, and those shrubs you planted to conceal a few small cracks in the foundation just aren’t cutting it anymore.
Hey, we’re not judging! But if you’re ready to put your home up for sale, know this: Buyers and their agents are going to zero in on all those things that need doing—as well as some things you hadn't even noticed yourself.
So why not get ahead of the curve by hiring a licensed home inspector who can pinpoint what needs fixing?
But if you're willing to invest the time and money, a thorough inspection before listing your property can make it easier to price your home, manage repairs, and even help sell it faster—and for more money.
So what are the some of the reasons why a pre-listing inspection makes sense? Let's take a look.
It can save you if you've neglected home maintenanceIf you have a busy life—or maybe even if you don't—chances are that obsessing over regular home maintenance might not be your No. 1 priority during downtime. Trouble is, letting painting, roof repairs, and other routine chores slide can lead to bigger issues down the road, says Chicago-based Frank Lesh, ambassador for the American Society of Home Inspectors.
“In a lot of cases, people think, ‘I've been here for 30 years; the house is fine. There's nothing wrong with it,’" he says. "But they’re looking at it with rose-colored glasses.”
Instead of worrying what a buyer’s inspector will uncover—and which could potentially kill the sale—be proactive with a pre-listing inspection, Lesh says. This way, rather than being blindsided, you can then decide whether to make the necessary repairs or to account for that deferred maintenance by reducing the list price. Which leads us to…
You can make a bigger profit on your saleSure, a home inspection that you don't have to do is going to cost money. (An inspection for a 1,200- to 1,500-square-foot house in an average market, for instance, will cost between $350 and $600, Lesh says.) But as the saying goes: Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.
After all, if you invest a little more to repair and spruce up anything the pre-inspection reveals, you can justify listing your home at a higher price, Lyman says. Plus, he adds, in most states, home improvement repairs you carry out before selling your house are deductible from the profit you make from the sale.
Sometimes, just knowing that a pro has given the house a proper once-over can persuade a buyer to make a bid (assuming that you actually follow the inspector’s recommendations).
“It minimizes surprises for a buyer, and can give a buyer more confidence in the property," Lyman says.
You won't have to scramble to fix things at the last minuteOnce a buyer’s inspector submits a report, sellers are usually faced with two choices: If problems are found with the house, they can then either slash money from the sale price, or opt to carry out repairs before the closing date. That often leaves sellers in the lurch, having to get work done pronto—and sometimes paying a premium for the rush work.
After a pre-listing inspection, sellers can research contractors and make the necessary repairs within a time frame of their choosing, so that everything is ready before potential buyers even visit the property.
Watch: Surprising Sale-Stoppers That Could Be in Your Home
It'll minimize back-and-forth negotiationBuyers often use their home inspection as leverage, asking the seller (that's you!) for steep discounts based on what their inspector’s report reveals. Not surprisingly, the buyer’s inspection is often where the deal falls apart.
If you’ve already uncovered the issues and addressed them, you can raise the price of your home accordingly, Lyman says. “That gives the buyer less leverage in the request for repair process,” he explains.
Also, in red-hot markets where multiple bids come fast and furious, there's always a chance that buyers might accept your pre-listing inspection without insisting on doing their own. This can make for a quicker sale, Lesh says.
But make sure a pre-inspection doesn’t work against youAs advantageous as a pre-inspection can be, don’t forget that the inspector’s report could be a double-edged sword: Once you know about a problem, you can’t ignore it, Lyman says.
Sellers are legally obligated to disclose any problems that a home inspection unearths.
“For sellers unwilling to do repairs, their own inspection could be used as leverage to negotiate on price and in the request-for-repair process,” he says.
Before committing to a pre-inspection, find out what other sellers in your area are doing. Your agent can help guide you on whether it's necessary to sell for more, or if there's a better—and more affordable—strategy for getting your home sold.
Looking to sell your home? Claim your home and get info on your home's value.
Wendy Helfenbaum is a journalist and TV producer who covers real estate, architecture and design, DIY, gardening, and travel. Her work has appeared in Woman's Day, Metropolis, Costco Connection, Garden Collage, Parenting, Canadian Living, Canadian Gardening, and more.
The realtor.com® editorial team highlights a curated selection of product recommendations for your consideration; clicking a link to the retailer that sells the product may earn us a commission.
August 2, 2019Before you sign on the dotted line when buying a home, it’s a good idea to get a home inspection to make sure you know of any issues with the home’s structure, heating and cooling systems, electrical systems, plumbing and more. If you don’t flag issues with the seller before buying, you’ll be the one responsible for paying for any necessary repairs.
But there are some times when getting a single general home inspection just isn’t enough. These are the signs you should hire an inspector for a second look to avoid a homebuyer nightmare.
The Inspector Recommends a Second Inspection by a SpecialistThe tell-tale sign that you should get another home inspection is obvious. If the initial inspector recommends that you hire a specialist for a second look, don’t ignore their recommendation — the cost of a second opinion will likely be less than the cost of a major repair.
“Most home inspectors are licensed to perform general home inspections only. In the event they find any defects with systems such as electrical, plumbing, structural engineering or HVAC, they have to recommend a secondary assessment and evaluation be performed by individuals licensed in the applicable field,” said Ron Humes, owner and principal broker at HomeSelect Realty. “This would be a valid reason for the buyer to obtain a secondary inspection.”
HVAC Issues in Particular Should Get a Second InspectionSomething as simple as rust on an HVAC unit can be a sign of a much larger issue. So if a general inspector flags something on the HVAC that should be looked at, it’s worth another inspection.
“I had a client who got an HVAC inspector to look at an older, rusty unit in further detail, and it ended up needing to be entirely replaced,” said Jennifer Winton, a RE/MAX Moves real estate agent in Greenville, South Carolina. “The seller did this $4,000-plus replacement while my clients only had to pay $125 for the HVAC inspection. So worth it.”
The Inspector Fails to Flag Issues You Are Already Aware Of“If an inspector omits to mention even minor issues in the home inspection report that you’re already aware of, there’s a good chance more has been overlooked by the inspector,” said Kimberly Blaker, a real estate agent and freelance writer. “Some of those omissions could be major, costly issues.”
Rather than chance it, it’s better to hire a second home inspector to take a look.
The Inspector Is In and Out in Less Than Two HoursQuality home inspections take time, so it’s a red flag if the inspector breezes through yours.
“If the inspection doesn’t take at least two to four hours, depending on the size of the home, it wasn’t thorough,” said Blaker. “A good home inspector takes time to examine every square inch of a home, inside and out. This includes sufficient time spent in the basement or crawl space, attic, garage and on top of the roof.”
The Inspector Doesn't Do Due DiligenceMake sure the home inspector you hire comes prepared.
Inspectors should “take their time testing all outlets that are visible, checking the furnace/air conditioning, plumbing, roof, chimneys, etc. If your home inspector is not taking photos of everything they are checking and/or [are not] equipped with the tools to properly test the above-mentioned items,” that’s a red flag, said April Macowicz, broker associate and team lead with The MAC Group.
The Inspector Comes Across as Inexperienced“Another red flag is if you ask [the inspector] questions about what they are doing or what they are looking for and they cannot properly answer you,” said Macowicz. “You may have someone who is inexperienced, and therefore could miss items that are hazardous or potentially hazardous.”
The Inspector Doesn't Have the Expertise Required to Make Certain Recommendations“If the home inspector gives any sort of ‘findings’ that are not within their scope of expertise, this is a definite red flag,” said Beverly Whipple, a real estate agent with ERA Brokers Consolidated. “I get nervous if I ever see anything that the home inspector took note of that I know they are not qualified to be making — something like, ‘There is settlement damage here.'”
This is a sign the inspector isn’t entirely trustworthy, and it would be worth it to get a second inspection from someone more reputable.
Repairs Have Been Performed Following the Initial InspectionIf the initial inspection found issues or damages that the seller was responsible for repairing, it’s best to get in a set of expert eyes to ensure that things were fixed properly before finalizing the purchase of the home.
“Most buyers get a second inspection after repairs have been performed and defects have been remedied from a prior inspection,” said Brian Ma, a real estate agent with Flushing Realty Group.
You Didn't Attend the Initial InspectionThere are observations an inspector could make that might not fall under a category in their home inspection checklist or make it into their official report, such as things that are OK now but could need a repair down the line. Being there alongside the inspector as they do their walk-through can give you more information than you’d get after the fact. So if you weren’t there for the initial inspection, it could be worth it to get another one.
The Inspector Was Not Licensed in Your StateIf you live near a state border, it’s very possible you could unintentionally hire an inspector that isn’t licensed in your state. If you make this mistake, the seller could deny making any recommended repairs.
“When we go back and negotiate repairs with the seller, the first thing the seller and seller’s agent will see is the inspector you chose was not licensed in that particular state,” Kim Soper, a Lexington, Kentucky-based real estate agent told U.S. News & World Report. “Therefore, your repair request may not be considered valid.”
It’s likely much cheaper to pay for a second inspection than to pay to make the repairs yourself.
The Inspector Isn't Up-to-Date With Building CodesBuilding codes can be confusing, so this part of the home inspection report is often overlooked by buyers. But not carefully checking the inspector’s assessment is a mistake.
“I always recommend confirming the accuracy of code requirements stated by home inspectors,” said Chris Murphy, a real estate agent with Washington Waterfronts. He recalled one inspection during which “the home inspector confused code requirements, and [it turned out he] was completely wrong about requirements after [I] fact-checked his statements with local and international building codes.”
Any issues with the initial inspection report are a sign that you should get a second inspection.
The Inspector Tells You Everything Is FineGetting a perfect report from a home inspector is either a sign that your home really is perfect — or it can be a sign that the inspector overlooked signs of damage or things that need repair. If not even minor issues are flagged, you should consider getting another inspection.
You Just Want the Added Peace of Mind“It is always a good idea to get a second home inspection done before closing on a property,” said Whipple. “This can create sound peace of mind, pose a second option and/or ensure issues that were noted in the first inspection were repaired properly. Making sure you hire a professional with a good history of work and reviews, or that has positive testimonies from other agents is very important.”
Signs You Should Get Another Home Inspection If You're a SellerIn most cases, buyers are the ones who will get a home inspection done as part of the homebuying process, but there are some scenarios in which getting another inspection will benefit the seller.
You're Putting Your Home Up for SaleIf you haven’t gotten a home inspection since you were the buyer of your home, it’s time for another home inspection. Ideally, you’d have the inspection done before listing the home, so you have an understanding of what repairs it needs.
“When selling your home, it is a great idea to get a home inspection beforehand,” said Nick Zolotas, a real estate agent with Herrick Lutts Realty Partners. “Often, you will have sellers who believe that their home has no issues, only to find out after a home inspector picks their property apart that a buyer now wants thousands of dollars off the initial agreed upon sales price. This will take the majority of homeowners by surprise, and really turn the deal sour.”
“If you were to have your home inspection done before putting the property on the market, you could get ahead of certain issues and potentially sell the property for a larger profit with less headaches.”
You Want To Dispute the Findings of a Buyers' InspectionIf you don’t agree or are skeptical of a homebuyers’ inspection, be sure to get another inspection to put any doubts to rest.
“Once the home inspection is completed and the findings are reported to the buyer, the buyer will request necessary repairs from the seller. If the seller wishes to dispute any of the findings, they would be well advised to obtain another home inspection of their own, or better yet, a review of the findings by professionals licensed in the area in question,” said Humes. “A professional licensed in the specific area of interest will always trump a general home inspector who does not hold a license in that area.”
More on Real Estate