Guest post by Angelo Ongpin, Redfin real estate agent in Seattle
Ever wondered if a home inspection is necessary? Consider all the things that can cause damage to a home: weather, building materials, wear-and-tear from homeowners, pests, time, and more. When buying a home, it may sound like one more check to write, but an inspection will yield important information about the condition of a home – one of the biggest purchases most people ever make – that may not be visible to the untrained eye.
It is helpful to understand just what you’re getting when you pay a home inspector. I typically elaborate on these basics in the Home Inspection Classes I host. Redfin classes cover various aspects of the home buying or selling process (including inspections), are free, and include dinner and drinks. Check the Redfin event page for a class near you.
Here are the top five questions answered about home inspections:
What can I expect from a home inspection, and why do I need one?
A home inspection typically takes about two to three hours (one to two for a condo), and is a visual inspection of the structure and components of a home. An inspector will record issues in a written report to give you an idea of the expected repairs needed. You should use a home inspection to help you estimate the cost of making repairs, to negotiate with the seller, or to provide the supporting evidence for exercising an inspection contingency. A home inspection typically costs between $300 and $500, based on square footage.
What does a home inspector look for?
The inspector will examine the exterior and interior of the home and will check the condition of the plumbing, electrical, heating and ventilation, structural and finished elements throughout. Most inspectors will also test appliances like washers and dishwashers to make sure they are in good working order and don’t leak. They will also check the condition of the appliances that will be transferred to the buyer at the time of purchase if they were included in the sale. Most inspectors have tools such as thermal imaging and water sensing instruments that can indicate if there is an issue with heat or moisture near the surface of a wall or a floor.
What makes a good home inspector?
It is important that an inspector is licensed in the state where you’re looking for a home. It indicates a familiarity and ability to look for common issues in your geographic region (like mold or carpenter ants or other wood-destroying organisms), and also an awareness of the local laws. A good home inspector will have a good track record, so start your search with the Redfin Open Book inspectors in your area. Open Book profiles are a great place to start, since inspectors have been vetted by Redfin customers and Redfin posts every single review online. Being available sounds pretty simple, but timelines are often pretty short when you’re in the midst of an offer on a home. Make sure to first ask an inspector about his or her availability to save yourself some time. Lastly, an inspector should deliver their report in a timely manner. It shouldn’t take much longer than 24 hours to receive a full written report about the home.
What doesn’t a home inspector do?
A home inspection is not a warranty or a guarantee about the state of your home. Inspectors don’t assess whether the home has been built in compliance with building codes, or whether it has a geologically stable foundation. If you have detailed questions about your home, you should hire a topic expert, for example, a plumber to perform a sewer scope, or a structural engineer to evaluate the strength of your foundation. In addition, home inspectors will not appraise your home or offer cost estimates about how much it will take to fix something. If you anticipate making repairs to a home, you may want to get a contractor to give you a quote.
What should you do during the inspection?
Review the seller’s disclosure form to notify the inspector of any disclosures. For an example, if the disclosure form notes past water damage in part of the house, an inspector will make sure to investigate that area more thoroughly. Follow the inspector during his or her evaluation and take notes; when you’re a new homeowner tasked with making repairs, you’ll be happy you have the observations to reference.
Ordering a home inspection will help you rationalize, negotiate, or walk away from a home. The more you know, the less stressful it will be to make a decision. If you still have questions, join us for a free class or reach out to your local agent.