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A home inspection is a critical part of the home buying and selling process. It involves a licensed professional conducting a thorough review of the home, which can reveal all sorts of potential issues—from structural problems to electrical or plumbing red flags. This type of inspection is required by most lenders and adds a level of transparency to home sales.
One survey conducted by home services platform Porch found that 86% of homebuyers who'd done an inspection discovered something that needed to be fixed. What's more, 46% said it enabled them to negotiate a lower sale price.
Whether you're buying or selling, here's a look at how to make the most of the home inspection process.
How to Prepare for a Home Inspection
The goal of a home inspection is to find problems that might affect the sale of the home. This is relevant to both buyers and sellers, so it's wise for each side to prepare in their own way. Let's take a closer look at how to get yourself organized before inspection day.
The Buyer's Perspective
If you're financing your next home, your lender will likely require a home inspection once the property is under contract. The buyer usually covers the bill, which typically costs between $279 and $400, according to HomeAdvisor. The Porch survey found the average cost of a home inspection to be $377.
Working with a reputable professional is key. The last thing you want after moving in is to discover issues that flew under the radar during the inspection. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors is a great resource for finding a qualified inspector in your area. You can also ask around among friends, family and neighbors to see if they can recommend anyone. Be sure to check the inspector's online reviews and their Better Business Bureau profile.
Once you connect with an inspector who feels right, ask if you can tag along on inspection day. Doing so gives you an opportunity to ask questions and better understand any potential issues that may come up. If the inspector seems reluctant to have you there, that's a red flag. The National Association of Realtors suggests blocking out at least three hours for the inspection, which includes time to review their findings.
The Seller's Perspective
While it isn't customary for the seller to attend a home inspection, the findings are still important. The inspection can bring all kinds of potential issues to light. In this case, the prospective buyer may request that certain repairs be made before going through with the sale. This type of contingency is quite common, though in today's housing market, some buyers may go without it—especially if there's a bidding war. This can be good for sellers who are hoping for less hassle and a quicker closing.
The results of an inspection might also empower a buyer to negotiate a reduced sale price. How you move forward really depends on the level of work that needs to be done and how sought-after the home is. Some sellers may be comfortable investing some money upfront to make the repairs or upgrades; others may prefer to forgo it altogether in exchange for a lower sale price. Either way, you'll want to make sure that all important areas of the home are clean and accessible for the home inspector. Failing to do so could result in an incomplete inspection report.
What to Expect During a Home Inspection
The home inspection itself is based on the inspector's observations and doesn't necessarily predict future issues, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. They're essentially looking for material defects that could affect the home's value or present an unreasonable safety risk. Home inspections, while exhaustive, usually don't include things like underground storage tanks or lawn irrigation systems. For these, the buyer may opt for separate assessments.
A home inspection report provides a written summary of the inspector's findings, usually within a day or two. This goes to the prospective homebuyer paying for the inspection and typically includes photos and recommendations.
What Do Home Inspectors Look For?
According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, a certified professional will generally examine the following:
- Home foundation and structural components
- Basement and attic
- Heating and air conditioning systems
- Plumbing system
- Electrical system
- Ceilings and floors
- Doors and windows
Note that unsafe conditions may prevent the inspector from accessing certain areas, though they should explain this in their inspection report.
What Are Red Flags During a Home Inspection?
A home inspection can reveal different types of potentially serious problems. If the home has a tile roof that's at the end of its lifespan, replacing it could cost upwards of $23,000, according to HomeAdvisor. Meanwhile, the average cost to replace an HVAC system is $7,000. In the end, issues related to any of the home's systems could give a prospective buyer second thoughts; it really depends on the severity and how much it will reasonably cost to address.
If the buyer has a home inspection contingency in their contract, they can likely back out of the deal if they are not satisfied with the inspection report. Again, they may choose to negotiate a lower price or request that the seller make repairs before finalizing the sale.
The Bottom Line
The home inspection process is an important step whether you're selling or buying a home. Your credit is another key factor when house hunting—the better your score, the more likely you'll be to get approved for a mortgage with a favorable interest rate. Experian can be your go-to resource for your free credit score to see where you stand.