What Does a Home Inspector Do?
In short, an inspector checks the safety and functionality of your potential home. He will focus primarily on the structural and mechanical aspects of the home (as opposed to cosmetic or aesthetic items).
It's a good idea to get a home inspection as soon as possible after the seller accepts your offer. This will help you determine if there are any major problems with the property -- and sooner is better than later. You should also make the purchase agreement / contract contingent upon the home inspection. That way, if the inspection uncovers a major flaw that you're unwilling to accept, you have a legal way out of the contract.
Don't confuse this process with the home appraisal process. The appraisal protects the lender's financial interests in the property. The home inspection protects your interests, as the buyer. The appraisal is the bank's way of determining whether or not the house is worth the price you've agreed to pay for it. The inspection is your way of identifying structural or mechanical problems with the house. Two different things entirely.
Where to Find an Inspector
Finding a qualified home inspector is usually fairly simple. Here are some ideas:
- Ask a friend or coworker who has recently bought a home in the area.
- Ask your agent if he or she can recommend a qualified person for the job.
- Visit the American Society of Home Inspectors website at ASHI.org.
- Visit the National Association of Home Inspectors website at NAHI.org.
When you find a candidate, ask how many home inspections he has done. Also ask what certifications he carries. The person you choose should be certified by one of the national associations.
Who's Fixing What?
So you've found someone to inspect the property, and he has come back with a list of discrepancies. Now what? When you review the inspector's list with your agent, you'll have to decide which items (if any) you want the sellers to repair. Like nearly everything else in the home-buying process, the fix-it list is negotiable. When you submit your list of requested repairs to the sellers, you face one of several outcomes:
- The sellers will agree to fix all of the items.
- They will only agree to fix some of the items.
- They will refuse to fix anything (most common in a seller's market).
- The seller will reduce the price in lieu of certain repairs.
How you proceed in light of the seller's response is up to you, with your agent's input. A good rule of thumb -- don't ever turn a blind eye to a major repair issue just because you're excited about getting in the house. If you're an experienced investor and you're buying the house specifically to fix it up, that's one thing. But if you're buying your first home, be conservative and carefully consider each item on the inspector's list. It will benefit you in the long run.