If You’re A Buyer
With the renewed ability for people to go out and look at homes with the lifting of stay-at-home restrictions, houses are selling like hotcakes. But you aren’t the only person who should be looking at your home before you buy it. A home inspection is an important and necessary part of the homebuying process, for a number of reasons.
After you’ve found the home of your dreams, you’ve qualified for the mortgage, and your offer is accepted, you probably want to just barrel through to the end of the sale when you get to own the house…but there are still a lot of things that need to happen between that initial victory and the finish line, ones that will affect you way into the future. One of the most important of these things is your home inspection.
Who pays for the home inspection?
The buyer is the one who must pay for the home inspection. As such, many buyers will look at a home, see that it’s mostly sound and, wanting to find ways to save money, simply waive their right to have the home inspected. This is not advisable, even in the case of brand new construction. There can be all manner of unforseen, invisible problems that can appear in a house that only the trained eye of a home inspector will catch.
Can I skip the inspection to save money?
The cost of a home inspection may look like a lot on paper, but in the context of what you will actually pay for a home (and the kinds of problems it could help you avoid paying for later down the road) a few hundred dollars is just a drop in the bucket. You shouldn’t let the pursuit of trying to save a few dollars get in the way of your rights as a consumer, or, god forbid, your safety, if the home were to have something like a major structural or electrical problem.
What happens during a home inspection?
Home inspectors do a sort of deep-dive on your home and look for things like issues with the home’s structure or foundation, roofing problems, significant drafts, plumbing leaks, ventilation problems, issues with appliances, or signs of things like mold, pooling water, pest damage, or less-than-perfect DIY repairs. If they find anything, since you still haven’t closed on the home, you can renegotiate with the seller in order to accommodate any repairs or replacements you see being necessary after you move in.
(To learn more about what happens during a home inspection, refer to the list of tasks below.)
Are there any other advantages a home inspection provides?
A home inspection also gives you the opportunity to get out of a sale if the inspector finds significant enough issues or damages. This is one of the few ways to get out of the agreement you make with the seller after your offer has been accepted – and rightly so. A recent survey by the National Association of Realtors found that 14% of sales are never finalized due to the home inspection – the third largest reason.
Overall, a home inspection may be one more thing that needs to get done and a few more dollars out of your wallet, but it’s more than worth it. Even if the inspector doesn’t find anything wrong with the home whatsoever (which is unlikely, as there are usually at least one or two small imperfections in any home), you still have the peace of mind of going into your new home, knowing for a fact that you’re not about to inherit a huge problem that you didn’t know about. No matter what happens, you will know everything about your new home going into the closing of the sale.
If You’re a Seller
San Diego home inspector Russel Ray put together a list of all of the things that a home seller can do to check out their home before a home inspector goes over it, but it’s also a great example of how many things a home inspection encompasses, even without all of the nitty gritty of doing things like climbing into crawlspaces to check for structural damage or critter nests. If you’re selling a home, you should try to go through this list and check as many items off as possible – and fix any non-checked items you can, to make sure you don’t see any unexpected offer decreases later down the line. Some of these things can be easily fixed by a handyman.
Seller Checklist for Pre-Home Inspection
Doing as much as possible before the Buyer’s property inspection helps ensure that escrow goes more smoothly. Following is my “checklist” of items often found during the course of a property inspection that a Seller could do or could easily hire a general handyperson to do.
- Check that doorbells work.
- Check for missing roof shingles.
- Check for loose/damaged/clogged gutters/downspouts.
- Check attic ventilation and condition of vent screens.
- Check to see if there is standing water, especially near the foundation, after irrigation or rainfall.
- Check for cracks in foundation walls.
- Check structure (including attic and foundation crawl space) for pests
- (termites, wasps, spiders, nests, etc.).
- Check exterior weatherproofing (stain, paint, etc.).
- Check for any wood in direct contact with soil, including fences and gates.
- Check for loose wiring (electric, cable, phone) and poor wire terminations.
- Check for holes and damage to siding, doors, windows, and trim so that structure is weatherproof.
- Check condition of fences or gates (leaning, damaged).
- Check that any exterior outlets are weatherproofed and not in permanent use for any landscape lighting.
- Check condition of landscape components (retaining walls, landscaper timbers, etc.).
- Check for overgrown vegetation, especially in walkways; growing on siding, roof, chimney, fences, or in gutters; or too close to utility lines.
- Check for trip hazards in walkways, driveways, and stairways (deterioration, vegetation, etc.)
- Check for loose, missing, or rusted guardrails and handrails at stairways, decks, balconies, and porches.
- Check that landscape lighting/irrigation systems work, and that sprinklers don’t spray on fences or buildings.
- Check condition of pool and spa, and related equipment and utilities.
- Check that ponds, fountains, and waterfalls, and related utilities, work properly and are protected from children.
- Check that seismic straps are on the water heater.
- Check that stoppers work in bathtubs and sinks.
- Check for clogged drains.
- Check that toilet seat bolts and screws are tight.
- Check that faucets don’t drip or leak around the base.
- Check stop action on faucet handles.
- Check condition of caulk/grout in bathtubs/showers.
- Check insulation on water pipes in foundation crawl space and attic.
- Check for safe and easy access to water shutoff valves (street curb, water heater, sinks, toilets, etc.).
- Check for safe and easy access to any gas shutoff valves (meter, furnace, water heater, etc.).
- Check for loose toilets and loose toilet tanks.
- Check for safe and easy access to electric panels and main circuit breaker.
- Check that ceiling fans work on all speeds.
- Check for burned out lights, including ceiling fans.
- Check for damaged or loose outlets and light switches, including covers for outlets and switches.
- Check for unplugged appliances, and unplug anything that is unnecessary to facilitate outlet testing by the Buyer’s property inspector.
- Remove extension cords and outlet multipliers.
- Check that outlets work.
- Check for outdated two-prong outlets and upgrade them to three-prong outlets.
- Check for properly working GFCI outlets in kitchen, bathrooms, garage, and exterior.
- Check that exhaust fans work in kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry area.
- Check that any electrical junction boxes have covers.
- Check condition of towel holders and tissue holders.
- Check condition of bathtubs, showers, and shower doors, and replace old shower curtains.
- Check that safety seal shows on floor-to-ceiling windows and glass doors.
- Check that carbon monoxide alarms work.
- Check that smoke alarms work, and that they are present on each floor of multi-story houses.
- Check for loose kitchen and bathroom countertops.
- Check ease of operation for doors (including closet doors and cabinet doors), drawers, and windows, including windows nailed or painted shut.
- Check for missing, loose, or damaged hardware on doors (including closet doors and cabinet doors), drawers (stops and guides), and windows.
- Check for loose glass panes in windows and doors, as well as glass with holes or cracks in them.
- Check that latches/locks work on doors (including closet doors and cabinet doors), drawers, and windows.
- Check for damage to screen windows.
- Remove excessive storage (closets, attic, garage).
- Check for damage to walls and ceilings that need to be patched and painted.
- Check for moisture stains on ceilings and walls; around doors and windows; near sinks, toilets, bathtubs, and showers; and near the dishwasher.
- Check for loose, missing, or damaged guardrails and handrails in stairways.
- Check for loose, broken or missing baseboards and door and window moldings.
- Check for cracked tiles or deteriorated grouting in kitchen and bathrooms.
- Check that kitchen appliances work.
- Check that an anti-tip device is installed on the range.
- Let dogs and cats vacation for a few hours with a family member, friend, or at a pet spa. Check that other pets (birds, snakes, rodents, etc.) are caged.
- Certain items should be inspected annually due to their inherently dangerous nature. These include gas-using appliances, pool/spa equipment, roof, and the fireplace and chimney. If they have not been inspected within the last 12 months, having it done now can make escrow go more smoothly.
- Check that filters are in place and clean (kitchen range hood, heating/cooling, bathroom fans, etc.).
- Check for soot, cobwebs, and wildlife in the fireplace and lower areas of the chimney.
- The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends that the fireplace and chimney undergo a Level II inspection any time real estate ownership is transferred, and I recommend having that done prior to the Buyer’s inspection.
- Check that the fireplace damper opens/closes easily.
- Check for manufacturer installation guides, operating instructions, or user guides that you can provide to the buyer, especially for kitchen appliances; heating and cooling system; water heater; security, irrigation, fire suppression, central cleaning, and water modification systems; water well; and septic system.
- Many property inspectors exclude inspection and testing of some specialized systems, such as security and irrigation systems. Once you get the Buyer’s inspection report, note what the Inspector did and did not do or could and could not do. Offer to meet with the Buyer to demonstrate how those systems are operated and maintained, and provide the contact information for any companies that regularly service the systems.
- Check for receipts and warranty papers for any work done on the property, particularly for inspections and work done to prepare the property for sale.