Throughout the homebuying process, you will encounter a number of expenses including, but certainly not limited to, an appraisal, transaction fees and a survey -- but none is more important than the home inspection. Dollar for dollar, there is no better use of your money, as a home inspection will not only outline the strengths and weakness of the house you are buying, but will show you how to operate it.
Choosing the Right Type
When you sit down with your real estate agent to prepare your offer, he or she will go over the different types of inspections you can choose from. While there are different inspection options -- radon, pest and mold, among others -- you first want to steal with a standard home inspection.
There are primarily two different types of home inspections -- the home and general inspection (the names may differ depending on your location). There's no difference in the way the inspector approaches the property or with the report he generates -- it's how that information is used that makes it unique.
A home inspection is arguably the more classic option. Based on the report you receive, you will send a notice to the seller asking for either certain items to be fixed prior to settlement, or a dollar amount be credited toward your closing costs.
The general inspection, on the other hand, is for informational purposes only. While it allows you a full inspection and often gives you the right to walk away based on those results, it does not provide an opportunity for items to be fixed or a credit given in negotiations.
Choosing Your Inspector
Every individual involved in the home buying process must be top-notch. This is likely the biggest investment of your life and understanding what you are getting yourself into is of the utmost importance. With this in mind, be sure you choose a tried and true inspector you can trust to overlook nothing and provide your report in a timely, organized manner.
The first person to talk to for referrals is your real estate agent. Most agents have likely encountered the good, the bad and the ugly of the home inspecting world and found a few professionals they trust. Make sure your inspector is actively licensed and a member of a trade association, like the American Society of Home Inspectors, and other local professional groups.
Members of professional organizations are often held to a higher standard and have gone through more rigorous training to be associated with an industry group.
Finally, ask if the inspector will allow you to see a sample inspection report. While you'll receive all the information during the time of the inspection, the sheer amount of details can be overwhelming. Seeing a report in advance helps to prepare you for the information to come, and how it can be used as a negotiation and recordation tool as well.
Whether this is your first home or 10th, each house offers its own quirks and there's no owner's manual provided. It's highly recommended you attend the inspection, as the inspector will provide useful information throughout the process of not only the pros and cons of the property, but show you how everything works as well.
An inspector will give you a plethora of information, from which way to point your air filter to where the main water shutoff valve is and how old all your major systems are. While the age and condition of many systems and appliances will be noted in the report, an explanation of how to use everything isn't standard in written form. Bring a notepad and jot down useful information throughout the process.
Using the Report
After the inspector has gone through the entire property and provided the report, take time to review it carefully and ask any questions to either your agent or the inspector so you fully understand what you're reading.
As you read the report, it's important to remember the inspector is acting as a primary care physician, and should anything need further evaluation you'll be referred to a specialist. If the home inspector finds evidence of mold or a pest problem, for example, they'll recommend to you talk to a mold abatement specialist or exterminator to discuss the work needed to alleviate the problem.
Every negotiation is unique and should be handled as such. That said, there are general guidelines when handling a post-inspection negotiation. First, if there are any major components that are obviously broken and in need of major repair or replacement -- such as heating and cooling systems, roof and windows -- go after those and don't sweat the small stuff. You want to make sure you take care of the important items that are needed for your house to function optimally.
If there aren't any major items to take care of, it's time to sweat the small stuff. Create a list in order of what you consider most important to least, and present it to the sellers and make sure they understand where your priorities lie.
Finally, if you prefer to oversee the repair or update work yourself and opt for a credit from the seller, make sure you're able to ask for the amount per the guidelines of the loan by consulting your lender. There is typically a percentage (commonly 3 to 6 percent) you are allowed to receive in total credits. Should the amount be in excess of what you need, you simply won't receive it and it goes back in the seller's pocket.
Keep in mind ... It is important to remember several things during and after your home inspection. First, inspectors can't see through walls. While their inspection is certainly thorough, it does not include things they can't see. Also, an inspection assesses the property as it is that day. Things change, and so do the components within the house.