By Devon Thorsby
It’s the question you can expect from friends and family as you navigate the due diligence process of purchasing a home, especially because it’s hard not to share when you’ve had an offer accepted on the house you hope to call home: “Did the house pass inspection?”
If only it were so simple.
Home inspections aren’t like car emissions tests, where the vehicle will either pass or fail, at which point the owner will have to put in work. If you’re looking at a home inspection this way, all houses will fail because there’s always something that needs work in a building.
But Steve Wadlington, president of WIN Home Inspection in the Nashville, Tennessee, metro area, says the inspection report you receive afterward offers more of a portrait of what’s happening in the house rather than a grade.
“We view it not so much as a pass-fail event, because it’s really, done properly, a snapshot of the functional condition of the home’s major systems,” Wadlington says.
An inspection report should be used to better prepare you for the house you’re about to purchase, as well as tell you if there are any reasons the property may be more trouble than it’s worth. Here are three things to do surrounding the inspection of your future home.
Be present. Benefiting from a home inspection hinges on the fact that you actually schedule one. Some sellers, knowing their property has faults, will list “as is,” meaning they don’t intend to make any changes prior to closing, or a competitive seller’s market may encourage you to try to one-up other buyers by offering to skip the inspection. But you should resist the urge to forego an inspection.
Even if you’re willing to leave the results of the inspection out of the final sale price decision, an inspection is key to knowing what’s going on inside the house. “That’s really the first layer of defense,” says Seth Argo, president of Focus Builders, a custom home developer also located in Nashville.
Not to mention, a home inspection costs almost nothing compared to the house itself. In fact, Home Advisor reports the national average cost of a home inspection is just $324.
Once you’ve scheduled the inspection, it’s important to attend it as well to get the full value. Wadlington says the biggest upside to an inspection is having the onsite dialogue with the professional about what’s going on in the property’s major systems, including the heating, ventilation and air conditioning, water heater, electrical and roof. Having your real estate agent present can also help when it comes to discussing needed changes before or after closing that could affect the deal.
Plus, you can get walk-through expert instruction for your house that otherwise doesn’t happen in real estate purchases. For example, Wadlington says, an inspector will likely show you “where your water shutoff valve is, which doesn’t seem important until a pipe bursts and it’s the middle of the night.”
Go back to negotiations. Should the inspector find some existing problems – mold in the basement or a water heater that will need to be replaced – you have the option to go back to the negotiation table.
A home inspector is meant to be an unbiased third party, so you won’t get recommendations on which issues warrant negotiating for a fix or reduction in price on the house. You won’t be able to get official prices on the cost of a new furnace or electrical panel either, although an inspector can often recommend professionals who can provide a quote.
The inspection most commonly takes place during the first 10 days under contract, when any due diligence on the home can be conducted and discussed between the buyer and seller parties if negotiating for a plumbing fix or a reduced price for new windows is needed. If the deal falls apart during the agreed-upon time period, the buyer doesn’t lose any money.
Nail holes and a creaky front door aren’t worth breaking off the transaction, but an inspector may also find some surprises that could cost you tens of thousands of dollars if not addressed, like a cracked foundation or leaky roof. Argo says it’s those “structural and warrantable defects” that you need to know about before closing on the house.
The results of a home inspection can derail a deal, but it’s more often a breakdown in negotiations when the work needed on the home is revealed in the inspection report. isn’t willing to accept a lower price or the seller isn’t interested in making changes prior to closing.
Use the report as a guide for improvement. Hopefully there are no serious safety threats or systems issues with the home, and you’re able to move forward with the closing schedule. But keep your inspection report on hand, because the information the inspector has provided can be prove useful as a to-do list around your new home.
Most home inspections will note the number of years before the water heater needs to be replaced, any apparent water damage from a possible leak in the roof or even a toilet that appears to be too close to the wall in front of it to follow local building code, among other potential issues. Take the problems noted in the report and prioritize them to tackle over time while you’re living there.
Keep in mind, however, that the inspection will not necessarily provide a detailed account of everything that needs to be changed, particularly because inspectors won’t go into the walls and inside appliances. “A home inspection is not invasive – they’re not going to take parts of an HVAC apart to see something inside. It’s just not part of what their scope of work is,” Wadlington says.
As a result, investigate potentially hazardous issues, such as water damage, mold and a crack in the exhaust on your furnace, early on. There’s a chance the problem is bigger or more dangerous than it looks on the surface.
Whether it reveals your home has been well-maintained or needs some serious love, value the home inspection report as a tool for better preparing to move into your future house. The results of an inspection do have the power to cause a deal to fall through, but ultimately, a house riddled with problems you can’t work out with the seller would likely leave you with a lot of trouble as time goes on.
Article by Devon Thorsby, Staff Writer |May 11, 2018, at 10:54 a.m.