The journey to becoming a homeowner is full of many misconceptions and myths, including the one that “you don’t need to have a home inspection.” Home inspections are an essential aspect of the home buying process and one of the first investments you should make into your new house. The inspection pays for itself by alerting new buyers of any major and minor issues that they may not have otherwise been privy to.
In recent months, we’ve seen buyers suggest removing the home inspection to make their offers more appealing in a market with high demand and low inventory. We advise against that, because the home inspection is such an important part of the home buying process.
Check out this buyer’s guide to home inspections to unpack the seemingly daunting task of completing your home inspection.
Hire an Inspector
The process begins with hiring a licensed professional to thoroughly evaluate the condition of the property. The inspector examines the home and organizes their findings in a detailed report, which may be the deciding factor of whether or not you decide to purchase a home.
What’s Included in a Home Inspection?
A home inspection may take anywhere from two to four hours to complete, depending on the size of the house. It evaluates some critical features of the home:
- Heating and central air conditioning systems
- Interior plumbing and electrical systems
- Roof and ceilings
- Attic and basement
- Floors, walls, and visible insulation
- Windows and doors
- Foundation and structural components
The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) has a Standard of Practice and Code of Ethics that offer more insight into what a home inspection report should include. A couple of days after the physical inspection is complete, your inspector will send a written report of any issues and areas of concern. It’s important to attend the inspection to ask questions and learn as much information as possible about your potential new home.
Interpreting a Home Inspection Report
The results of your inspection may end up better or worse than expected, but don’t be overwhelmed by the details. The number of problems outlined in the report aren’t as important as their severity. Remember—most issues typically won’t be deal breakers.
The best method of attack is to organize each concern into one of three categories:
- Non-negotiable fixes. These are problems that, if the seller does not rectify in some fashion, will cause you to walk away from the sale.
- Negotiable fixes. These are problems that aren’t necessarily deal breakers but are worth attempting to find a compromise with the seller.
- DIY fixes. These are problems that will become your personal projects once you’ve purchased your new home. They aren’t too severe and are tasks you can handle yourself.
Consulting with your real estate agent can be very helpful during this part of the process. They can help you figure out what should take priority and the best method to move forward in talks with the seller.
How to Negotiate Repairs
Most contracts will include a home inspection contingency that allows for counter-offering after the home inspection is completed. Unless the seller disclosed issues from the beginning of the process, you can be expected to attempt a renegotiation if the inspection report includes a few concerns. If the seller refuses to negotiate, the inspection contingency allows you to walk away without losing your deposit.
Once you’ve decided what you’re wanting to negotiate with the seller, you can either ask that they address the areas of concern prior to closing or reduce the home’s price tag. When requesting a price reduction, make sure to be prepared with estimates from several contractors. This will show the seller that you were objective with your request, and it will ensure both parties feel like they received a fair deal. Always be reasonable in your negotiation requests and know when you might be asking for too much. Again, trust the guidance of your real estate agent when it comes to navigating discussions and bargaining with the seller.
Related: Tips for Buying in a Seller’s Market