When youre looking to buy a home, your head may be full of visions of handsome hardwood floors, soaring ceilings and alluring landscape. Yet however tempting it may be to make a purchase based on outward appearance, stop yourself. It is essential to look beneath the surface and ensure that the propertys underlying structure is in sound shape before you go ahead with the largest purchase of your life. Any sales agreement should be contingent on inspection performed by a certified home inspector. This procedure will give you an accurate picture of the homes pluses and problems. You can then decide how serious any defects are, and whether they might make or break the deal. If it is a desirable property priced lower than many comparable houses, it may be worth your while to consult with a remodeling contractor about the cost of repair.
Preparation for the inspection
If you have the opportunity, try to do some preliminary weeding out of homes you might be interested in purchasing (and save money on unnecessary inspection fees) by means of a detailed DIY check. That includes turning on every light and faucet, opening cupboard doors, walking around the perimeter of the house, and investigating anything that does not seem quite right. For example, a musty smell may be the sign of a home that has been unoccupied for some time -- or it could be an indication of mold. Look for indications of structural trouble as well, like a slope or crack to the foundation or a roof.
Dont be shy to tour the block and knock on doors. Introduce yourself and ask your prospective new neighbors if there are any known issues with that particular house or the area in general. This is a step that your home inspector will not take for you but it may reveal important information about past problems such as flooding.
Coordinating with sellers
Confirm the appointment time with sellers. Let them know what to expect -- that the inspection will last approximately two to three hours for a private house, and one to 1 1/2 hours for a condo -- and that the inspector will require access to all areas of the property. Home inspectors opinions vary regarding having the sellers at home during an inspection. Some feel that this inhibits them from talking freely with you, the potential buyer, about any problems which they notice. On the other hand, it minimizes liability issues. A suggested compromise is inviting the buyers side real estate agent to attend.
All utilities, including electricity, water, gas, should be on, as well as the HVAC, water heater and the refrigerator.
The inspection process
Your home inspector will examine the propertys major components, to assess their strengths and weaknesses. These components include:
- Structure and foundation
- Home exterior, hardscape, outbuildings
- Interior walls and ceilings
- Sprinkler system
You should definitely plan on being present (leave the kids with a sitter, though!) to learn as much as you can about the home -- positive as well as negative, in addition to how to its various components operate.