Home Inspection (cost, checklist, how long home inspection takes, & more)
Few people would ever buy a home without viewing it first. After all, any sensible buyer would want to see first hand what they are getting. However, the person who buys a home without a home inspection is doing this without a full knowledge of potential issues.
Inspections are a good idea even for newly built homes that pass construction codes. Home inspections in such cases are an extra layer of protection against construction defects that would otherwise require costly repair work later on.
HOME INSPECTION CHECKLIST
A home inspection is a visual examination of its structural integrity and its foundation. The inspection includes the roof and walls as well as the home's systems such as the plumbing, various electrical elements, and the heating and air conditioning. Appliances are also checked. The inspector will look for evidence of water damage, mold growth, and other common home issues. The inspection is not an appraisal of the home's value nor does it determine if building codes were violated. It is an assessment of the current condition of a home.
In addition to pointing out problems, the inspector should also make recommendations on any maintenance needs such as changing the AC filters, leaning AC ducts, adding more soil to places around the foundation of the home where the water may not properly drain, trimming back landscape and trees away from the home to reduce pest infestation, etc. He should recommend the required type of professional such as an HVAC specialist, roofer, electrician or plumber. He should never recommend a specific person or company because this calls into question the neutrality of his assessments and therefore his trustworthiness. A home inspector should have no allegiance to any particular recommended company. He should, rather, simply tell you to follow-up with an HVAC company as an example.
It is not uncommon for a home inspector to recommend contacting a specialist in a certain area of expertise. Recommending the buyer follow-up with a specialist in a certain area is very common in the inspector's final report. Don't freak out as a buyer. It doesn't mean the house is not in good condition. It simply means the inspector may have noticed something of concern and he or she is not licensed to diagnose a possible issue any deeper than a surface glance and initial opinion.
In particular, first time home buyers tend to get anxious if the inspector recommends contacting a specialist. The inspector is simply trying to be careful, diligent and looking out for the best interest of the client. From my experiences, and in 99% of the cases, there are no additional, major issues once the expert comes to follow up on the home inspector's recommendations.
A home inspection is NOT a 100% guarantee or warranty that the home is completely free of defects. The home inspector will NOT move furniture, appliances, look inside walls, drain pools, etc... The home inspection is NOT free. It is NOT done by city inspectors or anybody with a public or government agency. This is a private home inspection for which the buyer pays the inspection fee out of their own pocket to a private home inspection business.
A Common Myth about Home Inspections
A common misconception by buyers is that a home inspection is a "pass" or "fail" type of inspection. This is not true in the private sector. A private home inspection (such as you will have) will simply be a report by the inspector about the overall condition of the home, the home's systems and its components. A pass/fail home inspection is only done by city inspectors at the time the home is being constructed. City inspectors will give home builders a pass or fail during certain stages of the home's construction. This is known in the home building business as a "green or red tag." If the home builder receives a failing grade, Mr. or Ms. Home Builder must remedy the issue to the inspector's satisfaction & local code requirements. Again, your home inspection is not a pass or fail grade but rather a general report. A very detailed report, but still just a report.
Important Note about Home Inspections on Condos
Condo inspections will differ from single family home inspections. When you purchase a condo, you are only responsible for "wall to wall" issues. Meaning, you only have liability for repairs for issues inside the interior of the unit. Your HOA dues go to repair problems like roofs, sometimes HVAC systems (check with the HOA first), plumbing issues between the walls, etc... Therefore, a condo inspection may not be as in-depth as a single family home since the home inspector will generally not inspect items covered by the the HOA since you, the buyer, are not responsible for the issues should they arise.
However, and by law in Texas, the HOA bylaw documents, rules & regulations must be delivered to a buyer during the time the buyer is purchasing the contract and must be done prior to closing and taking possession. Read these condo documents. They will state specifically what each condo owner is responsible for when it comes to unexpected home owner issues. In Texas, a buyer may terminate a contract with a certain number of days depending upon what the new buyer finds in the the HOA bylaws. If the new buyer finds a clause or bylaw that he or she cannot live with, they may terminate the contract.
HOW TO FIND THE BEST HOME INSPECTORS
Some buyers view the home inspection as an expense rather than protection against purchasing a problem home. Treating it as an expense causes the buyer to choose the least expensive inspector. These are people with the least experience and skill. Professionals who are good at what they do cost more money but will give a thorough and competent inspection. While a personal referral from friends and family is best, you can also get a list of referrals from your real estate agent, google reviews on possible home inspectors, check out websites for professional home inspector accreditation and more. Ask for several referrals and interview them to find the best one.
The National Association of Realtors also has a great article on their website titled "Field Guide to Home Inspections."
The following is a list of national websites and home inspector organizations where you may search for local inspectors.
- National Association of Home Inspectors - "The National Association of Home Inspectors, Inc. (NAHI) was established in 1987 as a non-profit association to promote and develop certified and licensed home inspectors in the home inspection industry. NAHI strives to promote excellence and professionalism in the Home Inspection industry; to provide home inspector standards of practice and a code of ethics for home inspectors in the USA."
- American Society of Home Inspectors - "The American Society of Home Inspectors, Inc. (ASHI) is a non-profit organization and was established in 1976. ASHI is the largest national professional organization of home inspectors with members throughout the United States and Canada."
- Housing Inspection Foundation - "The Housing Inspection Foundation (HIF) is an organization of professionals dedicated to the promotion and development of Home Inspection. The Housing Inspection Foundation was created to provide members with Information, Education, Standards, Ethics, and Professional Recognition."
- National Institute of Building Inspectors - "The National Institute of Building Inspectors (NIBI) has provided educational and training programs for the home inspection industry and related professions since 1987. NIBI evolved from training programs and is recognized as one of the oldest home inspection training institutes."
POSSIBLE QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN HIRING A HOME INSPECTOR
Congratulations! You've found your dream home in a great neighborhood. You've been diligent in choosing the right school district and the perfect locale for your commute to work, so why not continue that careful selection process in one of the most critical decisions you will make before you commit to the purchase?
Here are important questions to help you select the best home inspector:
Are you a member of a professional home inspection organization?
A reputable home inspector will be a member of at least one home inspection organization, such as the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). There are several nation-wide and numerous single-state organizations. Any of those are acceptable alternatives.
Belonging to one of these associations is important because they require their members to maintain particular professional and ethical standards. While belonging to an organization will not ensure an inspector is an expert, it is probably a good idea to weed out any inspectors who do not belong to any professional organizations. If the inspector doesn't belong to any professional organization... red flag.
How much experience do you have (with your specific type of dwelling)?
It is not a deal-breaker if the home inspector is just starting out in business, as we have all started somewhere ourselves. That said, at the very least, choose someone with experience in home construction or home repair, as well as someone with extensive home inspection training. It is even better if a second, more experienced inspector will be assisting during your inspection.
Be cautious about claims of high qualifications and long experience. Beware of clever wording like “10 years of industry experience.” Hauling drywall and hanging doors does not exactly equate to 10 years of “Home Inspection” experience.
What will you actually inspect?
The report should, at the minimum, ensure all applicable state construction requirements have been met. An inspector should check every visible facet of your home, including the water heater, furnace, electrical box, roof, basement and attic. It is desirable the inspector be in physical shape to access all of these areas, including those needing a ladder or a flashlight.
You should review a sample report in order to confirm all of the to-be inspected areas. If there are any additional areas that want checked, be sure to note them before the inspection begins.
The inspector should be knowledgeable enough to clearly explain any problems found and recommend actions for those problems, from specific repairs to replacement.
What will the report look like, and how long will it take to receive my copy of the completed report?
It is a good idea to request a sample report before deciding on an inspector. A reputable inspector will not hesitate to show you a sample, and if he is reluctant to provide one, this is a red flag. It is also important to confirm the inspector’s report will meet the requirements of your lender.
24 hours is a typical amount of time for you to receive your copy of the report. However, many inspectors now carry a laptop and printer with them to the inspection. If they do, you may get your report on-site following the inspection.
Can I be at the inspection?
If the inspector refuses this request, it is a red flag. I've never seen a respectable inspector not allow a client to be at the inspection. In fact, while it will take the inspector some additional time to complete the inspection with the client present, most inspectors would invite you to be there so that they can explain their findings as they happen.
The inspection is a great chance for you to learn all about your future home and to see first-hand any problems that might be discovered. Take advantage of this opportunity to see your prospective home through the eyes of an expert.
How much time will the inspection take?
A reasonable amount of time for a single inspector to completely check a single-story house is two to three hours. If additional buildings or large properties are involved, additional inspectors may be brought in.
An inspector who promises a quick hour or 90-minute inspection is not doing you any favors. It is possible a fast inspection will overlook important details.
How do you keep your home inspection knowledge up to date?
An inspector's commitment to continuing education and training is a good measure of his or her professionalism and service to you, the consumer. Continued professional development is especially relevant for inspecting properties with unique elements or newer "smart" homes which require additional or updated training.
A final note: Why isn't price included in the questions to ask? When you are hiring a home inspector, it is more important to choose the most qualified one for your property's needs, rather than the best bargain in town. Is it really worth saving $50 if due to lack of attention, your inspector should miss an expensive problem?
HOME PEST INSPECTION - YOU'LL NEED THIS TOO!
Most home inspectors will ask the buyer if they would like a pest inspection in tandem with the home inspection services. It will cost a little extra to have a licensed pest control company come to the home and check the home for bugs, termites, rats, snakes, etc... However, this is money well spent. In our area of the country, we tend to have termite issues. While it will cost a little extra to your total bill (maybe $100 to $150 in our neck of the woods), it will give you peace of mind that your home is termite and bug-free when you take possession. It is absolutely money well spent. A few home inspectors are also licensed pest control technicians, but most are not. More than likely, the home inspector will work closely with a pest control company who charges a nominal fee to come inspect the home as part of the overall inspection.
If you choose not to get a termite and bug inspection and decide to save $100 or so, think of the headache and cost if the home does end up having termite issues. Most home inspections are done during the "option period" (or a time where the buyer may back out of the home if there are major issues). Spending that $100 or so extra dollars during the time when you may walk away from the home if it is stuffed with termites seems like money well spent to me.
SHOULD I GO TO MY HOME INSPECTION?
Buyers may be present at a home inspection from the very beginning or wait until the end when the inspector is finished. Some buyers like to be there from the beginning while other clients tell me that they want to wait until the end. Here's how that works -
First, an average home inspection takes between 2-4 hours depending upon the size of the home, scope of the inspection, etc... If you are a buyer and you are there from the very beginning of the process, you may follow the home inspector around and ask whatever questions you wish to ask. However, please know that you will be there for the approximate two to four hours that the home inspector is doing the inspection.
Being at the inspection in person will give you a better sense of the home's condition than the report alone. It is an opportunity to observe the inspection and to ask questions. Being there and listening to the inspector's feedback will give you a sense of the seriousness of any issues found. Without this knowledge, you might spend money on minor issues before focusing on problems that pose a serious threat to your health or to the house. A clear picture of the home's condition allows a more informed decision on whether the house is right for you.
If you wait until the end of the inspection to arrive, the home inspector will have a report finished about what he or she observed and found as issues to the home. If you wait to arrive at the inspection until the end, you will be at the home for approximately one hour going over the report, talking with your agent and asking questions to the inspector.
WARNING - THE AVERAGE HOME INSPECTION REPORT IS USUALLY 25-30 PAGES IN LENGTH. Know this is completely normal. Do not have a meltdown when you see the length of the inspection report. You, your agent and the home inspector will go through the report at the end of the inspection and, again, you may ask the inspector whatever questions you have. The inspector works for you. Don't be shy about your questions and do not think that any question you have is a "dumb question." You don't do this everyday and both your agent and the inspector know that. However, they cannot read your mind so be sure to ask your questions.
Why is the inspection report so long? For both liability protection to the inspector and because of state requirements, a home inspector will mark any issue he or she finds a "faulty." These issues could include things as simple as a faucet leaking when in use to the drain pan being rusted under a hot water heater to a loose toilet bolt on the floor. Other things the inspector may mark as an issue may be because city building codes have evolved to become stricter since the home was originally constructed. These code items are not required to be "brought up to code." Rather, the home inspector will simply bring these issues to your attention and educate you about requirements of the new code since the time the home was built. These are very minor repairs and issues. But, again, the inspector will mark these items as "deficient" to give the client any and all knowledge the client needs about their new home. Again, all of this is very normal.
YES, HOME INSPECTIONS FOR SELLERS, TOO
While home inspections are primarily a home buyer's tool, they are useful to sellers as a way to spot overlooked repair issues before placing their home on the market. Resolving these issues allow sellers to ask for a top price. Advertising that your home is in excellent condition because you followed all repair recommendations from a recent inspection, places you in a unique position compared to other sellers in the market. This means a faster and smoother sale of the home which is always better for the seller, especially if he or she requires the funds to buy another home.
A home inspection is vital to buyers because it protects them from buying problem homes that will require expensive repair work. For sellers, it makes their homes more marketable and brings about a quick and smooth selling process. For more information on ensuring that your home buying or selling experience is a smooth one, contact us at our website or call Knox & Associates Real Estate Brokers at 972-342-0000.