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First-Time Homebuyer’s Guide: Part 15

Breaking down the elements of a home inspection

By now, your excitement is almost certainly palpable. While you surely can’t wait to move in and realize the dream of homeownership, your loan officer and real estate agent will undoubtedly advise you to pause for home inspection.

Taking the time for a licensed professional to conduct a thorough inspection is an imperative part of the home-buying process. It serves a couple of essential purposes: first, if your offer included a home-inspection contingency, which is recommended, it presents you an opportunity to identify any serious issues with the property which could lead to a renegotiation of the price, or in extreme cases, walking away from the home. Second, it provides an intimate education of your new home as you make Life’s Biggest Purchase and thus allows you to start thinking about future maintenance and improvements.

Below are the essential elements of the home inspection:

What does a home inspector do?

First and foremost, they review the roof, take note of the foundation, and ensure the integrity of electrical wiring and plumbing. He or she also searches for what the untrained eye could miss—this includes water or moisture in places it shouldn’t be, which could result in mold, as well as termite damage. If your new home has an attic or a basement, those are areas the inspector will want to see, whether that’s to confirm the interior of the roof is soundly intact or investigate whether the lower level is equipped with adequate insulation.

Should I be there for the home inspection?

Absolutely, from start to finish. You should bring your agent, too. There is no better way to get acclimated with what you hope will be your new home. It may take a couple hours, depending on the size of the property and how quickly the inspector operates. Remember, the inspector works for you. You want to be confident the home is worthy of purchasing at the agreed-upon price. And, you can take advantage of the inspection to obtain some initial insight about how to best maintain the property.

What happens after the home inspection?

Home inspectors have 24-48 hours to detail their findings in a written report. If there are cracks in the foundation or electrical malfunctions exist, they will be documented in this report. Coupled with a seller’s disclosure statement, which outlines previous work done on or in the home, you’ll be well-equipped to make an informed decision on how to proceed.

How do I find a home inspector and what will it cost?

The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI.org) is a wonderful starting point for this type of research. The site offers an abundance of details about the home inspection process and includes a tool in which you can search for inspectors by location. Your real estate agent may recommend an inspector as well. Consider a few options and see what turns up on any Angie’s List, Yelp or Google reviews before selecting one. Location and size of the home can result in varied home inspection costs, but a minimum of $300 is reasonable to expect. However, as the ASHI advises, don’t get too hung up on the price: “The sense of security and knowledge gained from an inspection is well worth the cost, and the lowest-priced inspection is not necessarily a bargain.”

Homeownership is within your grasp and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, this is no time to skip steps. Don’t risk making a potentially costly mistake by overlooking what could be an expensive problem. Hire a professional to conduct a proper home inspection. You’ll be glad you did.

In next week’s First-Time Homebuyer’s Guide…

Part 16: Understanding closing costs


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