Home Inspections: What to Expect

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

The home inspection plays a key role in the process of a home’s sale transaction. This is the stage where the buyer gets a deeper look into whether or not they want to continue with their purchase. It is important that as a buyer you know what to expect from your home inspector and even more important for a seller to be prepared for their home to be looked over with a fine-toothed comb.

Here’s what you should expect:

1. The home inspector will look at a house’s mechanicals (ie. HVAC system, interior plumbing and electrical systems, roof, attic, floors. windows and doors, foundation, basement and structural components) and then provide a written report with results.

2. The inspection, start to finish, usually takes about 4 hours, but could take more time if the home is larger than average, or has more components to inspect.

3. It is important that the purchaser attends the inspection. This is an opportunity to go along with the inspector and ask any questions you may have about the functionality of your future home. You should also take this time to take measurements for furniture and appliances.

4. Not every home is perfect, try not to be as concerned with the quantity of defects. Pay most attention to the major issues (ie. Repairs concerning health and safety). While the minor deficiencies add up, a major item could be a deal-breaker. Consult with your home inspector and real estate agent for the best course of action.

5. The seller is not required to make any repairs or reduce the price of their home based on home inspection results.

How a Seller Should Prepare:

First and foremost, many home inspectors offer a pre-inspection report for you to address any issues prior to marketing your home for sale. The average inspector looks over the condition of the mechanicals and structure of the home. Defects of the mechanicals are most commonly the hang up with a buyer during their home inspection.

While every home has its issues and we’ve never seen an inspection report with zero imperfections, putting the best product forward will ensure you get the best asking price for your home, and lessen the chance the buyers of your home will get cold feet on their purchase.

If a pre-inspection isn’t in your plans, you should at least take a look at a home inspection check list and evaluate the parts of your home that are within your abilities.

Home inspection checklist:

According to the American Society of Home Inspectors’ (ASHI), the following items are what home inspectors will be reviewing during your home inspection:

1. Heating system

2. Central air conditioning system (temperature permitting)

3. Interior plumbing and electrical systems

4. Roof

5. Attic, including visible insulation

6. Walls

7. Ceilings

8. Floors

9. Windows and doors

10. Foundation

11. Basement

12. Structural components

The inspector isn’t going to tear a home apart, inspecting items hidden behind walls or under floors. But they should have access to different areas of the home, in order to complete a thorough home inspection. If some items aren’t accessible to inspect, the inspector may request to come back to inspect that component. Save yourself some time with this list:

1. Leave keys for any locked doors (ie. your electrical panel, or mechanical close)

2. Ensure that all pilot lights are ignited for fireplaces and furnaces (even in the summer)

3. Clear the clutter from the mechanical areas of your basement. The inspector should have space to inspect your furnace/HVAC unit, water heater, electrical panel, sump pump and anything else that should need inspecting.

4. If you store items in your attic, you should arrange it so the inspector can move freely throughout the attic. The inspector will be inspecting the insulation, trusses, vent fan and air-flow through the attic.

5. The inspector needs access to visually inspect your foundation on the exterior. And if your crawl access is on the exterior of your home, make sure the inspector has clear access to inspect.

6. Clear away any vegetation around your well-head and mark your septic tank access.

** important note ** if you have vegetation growing around your well head, you may have coliform in your water. You should test your water to ensure you’re not drinking water with high coliform levels. There should never been any vegetation or cracks of your well head.

7. Utilities should be on for the home inspection. If you’ve turned off utilities, please ensure they’re restored for the inspection.

Who pays for a home inspection?

Almost always, the buyer pays for the home inspections. However, everything is an item for negotiation in the contract of buying a home; some purchasers may insist the seller conducts the home inspection. In our opinion, it is in the buyer’s best interest to hire and pay for an independent home inspection, to ensure a proper inspection is conducted and alleviate any conflicts of interest between the seller and their potentially hired home inspector.

How much is a home inspection?

According to HomeAdvisor, in 2018, basic home inspections ranged from $277-$388, though you may pay well over $400, depending on additional components to the inspection (ie. well, septic, sewer, and pest inspections, as well as other elected environmental tests).

Might there be follow-up costs?

A home inspector may advise a purchaser to have a follow up inspection with a professional, if the item they’re inspecting has a deficiency beyond their ability to inspect. This can include, but is not limited to:

· Radon

· Termites

· Asbestos

· Lead piping or paint

· Mold

· Electrical Issues

· HVAC Issues

How long does a home inspection take?

The length of the home inspection is dependent on the size of home, number of defects, the number of items that need to be inspected, the thoroughness of the inspector and the accessibility to inspect the various features of the home. Expect the inspection to last about 3-4 hours.

Should buyers attend an inspection?

Absolutely! You need to know what you’re buying, how can you understand the depth of your home if you’re not seeing it first hand? During the home inspection, you get the opportunity to ask the inspector questions as you go and get advice about how to address any defects found. Being at the inspection also helps you gauge the level of importance each issue has on you buying the home.

Should sellers attend an inspection?

While you might think being available to answer any questions that come up on the inspection report is a good thing, it actually opens a seller to liability. Home inspectors review every corner of the home, but they’re not licensed professionals in every aspect of your home. Any deficiency a home inspector puts on the home inspection report should be subjected to a licensed opinion.

Most purchasers are more comfortable when the seller is not around for the inspection. During the home inspection, the purchaser gets the opportunity to picture themselves in the home and ask direct questions about the inspector’s findings. When a seller is present for the inspection, the purchaser’s ability to do these things diminishes. Another thing to consider is the purchaser is paying for this information, not the seller. The purchaser may not feel comfortable sharing the full extent of the home inspection they’re purchasing.

Your inspection report lists dozens of defects! What should you do?

No home is perfect. Not even a newly built home. Homes are built by humans, and humans sometimes miss stuff in the building and installing of items on a home. Most inspection reports list dozens of defects.

Keep in mind, the seller is not required to make any requested repairs, or reduce the price of the home based on inspection findings. You’re buying a home in as-is condition and the home inspection is an opportunity for you to know exactly what you’re buying.

You should be most concerned with the seriousness of each of the home’s issues. Many will be so minor you won’t want the purchase to hinge on the repair or replacement of these items. These minor defects probably don’t affect the functionality of the home; the seller obviously had no idea they were deficient.

But some defects could be deal-breakers. Especially if it’s a health or safety defect. These items could affect your ability to close on your mortgage. Have a conversation with your home inspector and real estate agent about your best ways forward.

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