John K. Carroll – Real Estate Broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
Buying a home can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know much about operating systems and what else to look for. HVAC, electrical, gas and plumbing systems, appliances, pests, mold, radon and other areas can cost big money to repair, replace or remediate. Will one inspection cover all of that or will you need separate inspections? Will everything be in working order when you buy the home and move in? Or, will you be blindsided by an expensive problem after closing?
To ease your uncertainties, you can hire a licensed home inspector to inspect the home you’ve put under contract and provide you with a report of the home’s condition. A home inspector’s job is to protect your investment – before you buy the home. Their job is to inform you about any problems that may not be obvious as you walk through the home, but that could cost you big money later on.
According to PropertyNest.com, a home inspection can cost between $500 and $1,000, depending on where you live and the size of the property, but it can save you many times if it uncovers conditions that need attention. A home inspection is basically an examination of the integrity and condition of the home you’re buying, including all systems and fixtures. It should take between two and four hours and be thorough enough for all built-in appliances, all mechanical, electrical, gas and plumbing systems, ventilation and air quality, flooring, fireplaces and chimneys, the roof, foundation, gutters, interior and exterior skins (drywall, plaster, siding, brick, wood trims,) windows and doors to be reviewed. The inspection should include the following areas:
However, don’t expect inspectors to move furniture to test outlets or go on top of exceptionally tall or pitched roofs. They don’t give estimates for repairs or replacements, but they can point out that an air conditioner, for example, is near the end of its useful life. Then it’s up to you to find out what the replacement cost of an AC would be and whether you feel it’s up to you or the seller to replace it.
Real estate transactions often hinge on the competence of the home inspector involved in the sale. For that reason, it’s recommended that you choose a licensed home inspector who is a member of an accredited trade organization such as the CAPHI (Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors). This organization requires that members meet strict membership criteria including training, adherence to standards of practice and code of ethics, and continuing education. Each offers certifications through which consumers can determine inspectors’ experience and dedication to quality services.
It’s also your job to find out what the inspection will cover. The responsibilities of home inspectors vary according to state province and their areas of expertise. Be aware that home inspections only cover the main house, but you can pay extra to have the inspector include other buildings on the property. Specialty inspections such as termites should cover all buildings on the property including guest houses, detached garages, storage buildings, etc., but, again, you must ask that they be included. Some inspection companies have extensive divisions that can provide environmental inspections for radon and lead paint. Be prepared to hire and schedule several inspectors according to your lender’s requirements and to pay several hundred dollars for each type of inspection.
You should attend all inspections and follow along with the inspectors. Seeing problems for yourself will help you understand what’s serious, what needs replacement now or later, and what’s not important. The inspector will also tell you what needs to be a concern, if any. You’ll also learn if your future home is up to current building codes and what needs to be done to bring it up to code.
While home inspections aren’t mandatory, they could be required by your lender. A checklist of items to cover could include.
A home inspection can also impact the appraisal of your property. A home that has obvious defects isn’t going to compare well with other similar homes, and that could increase the likelihood of default if a buyer were to find themselves “upside down” with a home that’s worth less than its neighbours.
When you make a purchase offer on a home, you have the right to make the transaction conditional on the outcome of the inspection. You typically negotiate in a period of time to schedule an inspection as well as additional time to review and ultimately decide if you would like to proceed or not with the purchase of the property.
Once the inspections are complete, you have to decide if any problems found are worth renegotiating with the seller. This is where you want to carefully pick your battles. Negotiate only for repair or replacement of items that are unsafe or expensive to replace.
Some sellers will cooperate with needed repairs depending on the scope of the work and the conditions of the market. In fact, many sellers opt to have inspections before they put their homes on the market so they can eliminate issues that could later jeopardize the sale of their homes. A seller’s inspection is a great marketing tool to put homebuyers at ease and to put the seller in a better position to get their asking price. Some repairs may have to be disclosed to the buyer, but at least last-minute negotiations or contract collapses can be avoided.