Should You Hire a Home Inspector

Do you need a home inspector for your home inspection? Simply put, a home inspection is a visual examination, performed by a trained home inspector, of the exterior and interior structures and systems of a residential home.

A home inspection is usually requested by a potential home buyer (or sometimes a mortgage company) before the purchase of a new home. Inspections can be lengthy or brief in scope but should always include checks of the following areas of a house:

  • Structural system
  • Exterior
  • Roof
  • Plumbing system
  • Electrical system
  • Heating and air conditioning systems
  • Interior
  • Insulation and Ventilation
  • Fireplace and solid-fuel-burning appliances

Do I need a home inspection?
Home inspections are similar to test driving a car before buying a new vehicle. You probably wouldn't walk onto a car lot, pick out a car, and then complete the purchase without first taking the vehicle for a test drive.

Nor is it a good idea to buy a home without first knowing exactly what you're purchasing. If you're considering buying a home, a thorough home inspection performed by a certified, reputable inspector will give you an idea of the condition of a house, alerting you to any potential problems which may arise after the sale is complete.

Knowing an air conditioning system in a home is running inefficiently, for example, will alert potential buyers to the fact they might have higher than normal electric bills during summer months. The inspection may also suggest the unit will need to be replaced in the near future. Considering air conditioning systems can cost in excess of $5,000 per unit, this is a potential expense a homebuyer needs to be made aware of before deciding to purchase a house.

Pros of home inspections
Besides knowing the condition of a home before purchase, having a list of items in need of repair can be used as a bargaining tool when negotiating the price of a home. If, for example, a home inspection reveals minor, or in some cases, major defects in a home, these results can be presented to the homeowner to be fixed before a sale is final.

Another negotiating option is to subtract the cost of necessary repairs from the offering price for a home. With a home inspection report and repair estimates to back up the dollar amount deducted from the sales price, a seller will have a hard time refusing the offer.

Another benefit of a home inspection is peace of mind. Because purchasing a home is one of the largest, if not the largest, purchase of a person's life, knowing you're getting a good deal for your money is a must. A home inspection, while not beyond reproach, can lend a large amount of comfort to a worried mind as well as helping a buyer make a smart purchasing decision.

Cons of home inspections
It's important to note that a home inspection is in large part a visual inspection. If the current homeowner has, for example, furniture against a wall blocking evidence of water or termite damage, a home inspector cannot move the furniture to take a closer look. In most cases, an inspector will make a notation on the final report if an area of the external or internal part of the home was inaccessible.

Another con of home inspections occurs when a home inspector, not properly certified or qualified for the job, is hired. These people are usually fly-by-night operators who will perform a quick inspection, give a brief write-up and charge a lot of money. In the end, a potential homebuyer will be stuck with a worthless inspection report and a bill for services rendered.

To avoid being taken by one of these operations, ask for a solid referral from someone you trust. Usually a real estate agent will have names of recommended inspectors. However, only use one of these inspectors if your real estate agent is your buyer representative (representing you only, not the buyer). If the real estate agent also represents the buyer, it may be a conflict of interest to give a referral.

Another source of referrals is to ask trusted friends, your mortgage loan officer, or to check with your local Chamber of Commerce. Also check to see if an inspector is certified with the American Society of Home Inspectors, find out how long the inspector has been in business, and ask to see a sample report before making your decision.

Lastly, remember it is your right, as a potential home buyer, to be present during a home inspection. If there's any concern as to whether an inspector will complete a thorough assessment, make plans to be present during the inspection. Being at an inspection helps potential buyers not only feel comfortable with the quality of the final report but aids in their understanding of the evaluation, due to the fact that a good inspector will be willing to take the time to discuss any defects found.

Purchasing a home is, by its very nature, stressful. To lower your stress level and give you a greater sense of peace of mind, consider getting a thorough home inspection by a qualified inspector before making an offer on a new house. By knowing exactly what you're getting before you make a purchase, you will not only save yourself the stress of wondering if a good financial decision was made, but you will also save yourself the financial losses which result from buying a home plagued with unforeseen problems.

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