The Importance of Home Inspections

Man performing a home inspection for a buyer

Home inspections are a visual evaluation of a home from roof to basement. It’s an important step of the home purchase process that alerts buyers of what may need attention before finalizing a contract. Though not required by your mortgage lender or realtor, it is often a highly recommended step to ensure you’re investing in the right property.

How it works? A licensed inspector checks the performance of the home’s roof, driveway, foundation, framing, electrical, HVAC, and plumbing. They even go as far as inspecting the general condition of windows, doors, floors, ceilings, and walls. Expect the inspection to last anywhere from two to three hours.

What they cost? The cost of standard home inspections vary depending on market. Plus, more specific and more intensive inspections can be done for a higher cost. These may be worth the investment depending on the age and location of the property. You’ll definitely want to shop around to find the best value for your needs. Find further discussion on that below.

Who’s it for? Now something you may not have known: home inspections are not just for buyers, they’re also beneficial for sellers. 

Here’s what you need to know, regardless of which side of the negotiation table you’re on.

Sellers: what to look for before you list

Why should you consider a home inspection if you’re the seller? You can anticipate what an inspector may find and have time to correct it before the buyer’s inspector walks through, assuming they have one. It will also help you complete the seller’s disclosure more accurately.

Buyers: what to look for before you sign

Any concerns from the inspection report can reopen negotiations with the seller. So, it’s a good idea to be a part of the process — join the inspector on the home tour. Follow along where you can and take notes. It’s an opportunity that will let you clearly see what needs attention. You can question how and why — and get suggestions on overall home improvement. Best of all, the inspector will provide you with a complete report of their findings, so you can request repairs from the seller or seller concessions.

Both parties: questions to ask a home inspector

You have many options if you choose to hire a home inspector. Be sure to ask for recommendations from your realtor or mortgage lender, maybe even ask a few of your friends or family members. And always, always, be sure to interview the inspector before hiring them. You’ll want to feel confident in their experience.

Consider these questions when shopping around for inspectors:

  • Are you focused on residential or commercial properties?
  • What does the inspection include?
  • How many home inspections have you done?
  • How do you keep your expertise up to date?
  • Can I attend the inspection?
  • Can I see a sample report?

 Keep in mind: home inspections are not all-inclusive. Some areas of the home require a specialist. You may want to consider the following options, depending on where you live: 

  • EIFS – EIFS is an acronym for Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems. It’s also known as synthetic stucco. Synthetic stucco is a popular exterior choice for many, but it must be installed properly to avoid issues. If the EIFS is adhered directly to the substrate by fasteners or mastic, with no drainage plane for water to drain down, expect water to get in. Add in high moisture and you can expect the substrate to rot.
  • Lead based paint – If you live in — or are looking to buy — a home built before 1978, take advantage of a lead based paint home inspection or risk assessment. If lead is detected, a risk assessor can help you determine if abatement or good maintenance is necessary.
  • Mold – Mold inspection is an assessment of mold growth in a building. It often includes a questionnaire, visual inspection, and mold testing (as necessary). Depending on the size of your property and the number of mold samples, pricing can vary anywhere from $300 to $3,000.
  • Radon – Radon is a cancer causing, radioactive gas that seeps through foundation cracks or near electrical outlets and pipes. An estimated 50 percent of homes in Colorado have radon levels higher than the EPA recommendation. Even if you’re not buying in Colorado, the EPA strongly suggests radon testing. Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. Be ready to mitigate radon if the level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher.
  • Roof certification – Hire a roofing company to understand whether or not the home requires repairs. If it doesn’t, you’ll at least receive an estimated length of time (in years) before the roof needs replacement. Reports are issued on possible movement, condition of materials, soundness of drains and gutters, etc. Upon completion, you’ll receive your roof certification, which is good for two to five years.
  • Sewer – If you’re buying a home that is 20 years or older, it’s a good idea to invest in a sewer inspection. Local plumbing companies often have contractors who can use a camera to inspect the sewer — looking at the overall condition and if there are any clogs. Fees vary from $85-$300, but it’s a great investment in the event you need to replace the sewer line.
  • Termites – In many areas of the country, termite and wood infestation reports must be completed before a purchase contract is signed. This is especially true when using government loans like FHA and VA loans, though it can be required with a conventional loan. States where termites are most common include: Louisiana, Texas, Hawaii, California, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas, and Tennessee. 

Your real estate agent can provide you with a list of common home inspections in your area. Or, you can ask your inspector about recommended specialists who may be able to diagnose some of the above — or other — issues your new home may have.

Let’s not forget, the home buying journey should be enjoyable. Don’t let the fear of a home inspection get the best of you. Though it costs money, anything can be fixed. It’s far more important to learn as much as you can about a home before finalizing a home loan and signing a purchase contract. Keep a rational mind and know that if the to-do list is too long for your standards, it’s okay to keep shopping around for a better fit. Only you can decide what’s worth your time and money before calling a property your dream home.