Some Home Inspection Tips for Buyers

Homebuyers want home inspection tips as they consider making a large financial investment. Tips about home inspection are especially valuable for those who have not purchased a house before. This article is intended to provide such readers the most important pointers to follow so that the real estate buying process is not so overwhelming.

The home inspection tips contained herein address three primary concerns, namely, how to select a home inspector, how to ensure you get the inspection you want and need, and how to get the most benefit out of the inspection report. These pointers apply whether or not you are working with a real estate agent. In fact, if you are working with an agent, these tips will help you get more involved so that the agent doesn’t make all or even some decisions unilaterally.

Our first tip is to consider why you should have the house you plan to buy inspected. There are various motives or reasons for doing so, the most common of which is to avoid buying a money pit. Sometimes the lender requires an inspection, and in general it’s a good idea to discover what may need to be remedied prior to closing. Also, though at one time a home warranty policy was commonly incorporated into the purchase agreement (perhaps seller and buyer sharing the cost), today the home inspection is in essence the only step taken to protect one’s investment.

But this makes it all the more important to get a report that covers all the bases and serves as a kind of owner’s manual to help you get acquainted to your new residence. Unfortunately, too often the inspection is somewhat rushed or even cursory. Minor problems might get glossed over and occasionally a serious major defect is missed. In such a case, if damages occur down the road, the buyer has some recourse by filing a claim, assuming the inspector is bonded. But the liability may be limited to the price of the inspection.

So our second tip is to find a home inspector who is thorough and who writes a complete report that puts everything he finds in proper perspective. If something is wrong, it is important to know what the implications are, just how serious the problem is, and how necessary it is to fix it.

To accomplish this, your inspector should not be too beholden to the real estate agent. If his primary goal is to please the agent (so he can continue to get referrals), he may take shortcuts. (Agents in general prefer quick inspections and summarized findings of major issues only.)

Don’t ignore or discount an inspector referral from your agent, but ask for more than one name and research them. (Most inspectors have a website with sample reports, and you may find there or elsewhere reviews or client testimonials appraising their work.) Be sure you are going to get the kind of home inspection you want before choosing the inspector.

Our third tip builds on the first two and is similar to them. The first tip was the why, whereas the second advises care in determining who inspects the house and how it is inspected. This next tip advises taking care to establish what is inspected.

A number of things can cause an inspector to exclude items from the inspection. Examples are Standards of Practice, his contract, the utilities not being on, inaccessibility due to blocking objects or locked doors, and dangerous situations. Some of these things are under the inspector’s control, some are not, but he is not liable for unintended exclusions and will charge the same fee despite them.

Thus, we recommend reviewing the contract carefully, identifying normally excluded items you want included and possibly normally included items you don’t care about. Also, be sure that lender requirements and constraints will be accommodated. Discuss changes to the list of exclusions and inclusions with the inspector, potentially negotiating a reduced inspection fee.

Then, we advise leaving as little to chance as possible. Ask the inspector what his expectations are to ensure that all inclusions are actually inspected. Relay this information to your real estate agent, who is responsible for seeing that the expectations are met by making arrangements with the owner via the owner’s listing agent. Now, any unintended exclusions that arise would suggest a deliberately uncooperative seller.

Our fourth tip is to get maximum leverage out of the inspection report. Study all findings in the body, not just the major items listed in the summary. If you followed our second tip faithfully, there should be nothing unclear, vague, or out of context. Even so, don’t hesitate to ask the inspector for explanations or elaborations, who should be more than willing to comply.

Some findings may be purely informational and not defects. Some defects may be more or less trivial and not worth pursuing. Serious problems can be addressed in three different ways: as deal breakers, causing you to withdraw your offer; as things you want the seller to remedy prior to closing at his expense; or as conditions you will accept possibly with some form of compensation such as reduced sales price.

We advise against sharing the inspection report with the seller or listing agent. You have paid for it and it belongs to you. The lender may require a copy, but you may request him to keep it confidential. Simply work up a brief contract addendum with your agent covering items falling into the last two categories mentioned in the previous paragraph.

By following these home inspection tips, you stand the best chance of minimizing if not eliminating home-buying surprises.

Best Home Inspection Tips

What are the best home inspection tips? Should you hire a home inspector?  If you are new to buying a home or even if you have purchased homes in the past, it’s always easy to overlook a problem. Even professional home flippers make mistakes and find unknown problems after closing. But if you take the time to do a pre-inspection before you make an offer, you can save yourself lots of time and money.

Before you look at a house, you should arrive earlier than the Realtor and drive the neighborhood. Look carefully at the conditions of the homes in the neighborhood. Take a street photo as well as a picture of the exterior of the house you are looking at. If you look at a lot of houses, a digital photo will help you keep clear in your mind what the good and poor aspects of this house are.

Remember to bring a flashlight with you. Often empty homes do not have utilities and some areas of the house do not have adequate lighting to inspect fully.

Here’s my list of the best home inspection tips:

  1. Inspect the roof carefully for worn or curly shingles. A worn roof can cause lots of problems inside that you might not see if water has infiltrated the structure and mold has built up.
  2. Look at the foundation walls carefully for cracks or signs of poor drainage. Foundation problems can be either a big red flag or an opportunity to get a really low price from the seller.
  3. Look for stains on the ceilings – this could be another sign of roof problems
  4. Check the windows for proper operation and signs of rot. Does it look as if they are allowing lots of air infiltration. If they are double pane windows, is there moisture between the two layers of glass?
  5. If there is a crawl space or basement look for telltale signs of termites. A pocket knife can help you check how solid the wood is.

Once you have made an offer on a house it is a good idea to hire an home inspector. I’ve used home inspectors to learn the skills needed to be able to do a pretty thorough inspection. 

Home Inspection Tip – Move Your Clutter!

When any self respecting housewife invites company for dinner, she cleans the house to impress her guests. If you’re selling your home and are having it inspected, as you should, you’ll need to do some house cleaning, too. That’s not so you can impress your home inspector, but so he can do his job.

Many times home inspectors can’t fully do what they’re supposed to do because certain areas of the home are inaccessible, due to clutter. When it’s time for your home inspection, you want to get your money’s worth. You don’t want the report to say, “Inspection limited due to the excess possessions blocking access and view.”

This isn’t about being a neat freak. The American Society of Home Inspectors ASHI┬«, Standards of Professional Practice, says inspectors are not to report on components or systems which are not observed. Your inspector isn’t required to disturb insulation or move personal items out of the way. If you’ve got furniture or plants in places your inspector needs to see, like the doorway to a utility closet, you’ll have to move that stuff. Clear off any snow and ice if necessary as well.

What if the water heater, electrical panels, or attic are places your home inspector can’t get to? Those are areas he must check if your home is to be inspected properly, and if you’re going to get the report you need. The bottom line: Don’t let junk ruin your home inspection.

In some homes water heaters are found in utility closets or garages. If the water heater is surrounded by clutter, your inspector can’t tell if there are possible problems, such as a fire hazard. If an electrical panel has been improperly installed, but is hidden from view, your inspector won’t know that, and neither will you. What if that panel causes a fire for the next home owner?

Walk through your home before your home inspection is to take place and make sure all doors and passageways are accessible. Move stored items out of the way or elsewhere altogether. If the home being sold is vacant make sure that the power, water and gas remain on so that all systems are operable and can be inspected. If items on the report can’t be inspected, you as the seller may be asked to have the home inspected again after areas in question have been cleared out. Similarly, if you’re the buyer, you can ask for another inspection. Another option is to request that the seller pay for a warranty if a certain component is not inspected.

Granted, if a home to be inspected is being lived in, there will be personal possessions throughout the house. Some areas will be less accessible as a result. If you’re the seller, make sure things can be moved out of your inspector’s way.

Show some common courtesy and make sure key areas around your property can be seen by your home inspector. You may not be trying to impress him at a dinner party, but you’ll make his job easier, and you’ll get a more complete report. That, after all, is what you’re paying for.