by Ilyce R. Glink (Special to Freddie Mac)
Congratulations! You found your dream home and your offer was accepted. Now’s the time to find out what’s behind the walls. Enter the professional home inspector.
Home purchase contracts give buyers a contingency period before closing– usually five days – to bring an inspector onto the property to look for big issues (foundation cracks, leaky roof) or smaller issues (outlets that don’t work properly). (The actual time buyers have depends on state law or local custom.)
“We’re here to point out the deficiency and put it in perspective, whether you need to act now, how it will impact the value of the home and the ramifications if you don't do anything with it,” said Randy Sipe, president of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and a practicing home inspector based in Spring Hill, Kansas.
The inspection report can reveal more about the physical condition of the home you’re buying and help you negotiate with the seller to pay for unexpected repairs or adjust the price. (If the repairs are more than you bargained for you can also walk away from the deal, provided you are still within the inspection contingency period.)
Here’s what you need to know to make the inspection process go smoothly.
Find an experienced, certified professional home inspector. Start with the names your real estate agent gives you and use the internet for verify their certifications and read customer reviews. Look for someone who has some type of national certification and is insured.
Shop around but be wary of bargains. “Don’t be afraid of people who are expensive,” said Jamie Dunsing, an ASHI-certified inspector based in Libertyville, Illinois. “Be more afraid of the guy who is cheap. If everyone is quoting $500 to $700 and one guy is $200, that’s a red flag. What is everyone else doing that he’s leaving out?”
Know what your inspection covers. Not all home inspections are created equally. Mold testing, for instance, is often an added cost. To reduce potential misunderstandings, the homebuyer and inspector should sign an agreement outlining the inspection’s scope and cost before it starts. Also, ask your inspector for a sample report so you know what the final product will look like.
Inspect early. Give yourself time in case a follow-up visit is needed after the initial inspection. Otherwise you may not have time to address issues - like mold - that will need more testing or another professional to check it out.
Leave the homeowner out of it.“The seller always thinks he has the most perfect house and doesn’t want this other guy to come in and tell him how things need to work better,” said Sipe. “It's better for the buyer and maybe their agent to be alone with the inspector so they can speak openly and go through the inspection without any hindrance.”
Follow this series just in time for the spring homebuying season.
Ilyce R. Glink is an award-winning, nationally-syndicated consumer finance columnist and the author of 13 books on real estate and money. She is also the CEO of Think Glink Media, a digital content agency.