Inspector examining bathtub.

Why Are Home Inspections Important?

4-minute readJanuary 26, 2021

After getting your mortgage preapproval, visiting countless houses and finally finding “the one,” you might be delighted that your long hunt has come to an end. But, not so fast. There’s an important aspect of the home buying process that you shouldn’t overlook, and that’s the home inspection. Here’s everything you need about how a home inspection can help protect your purchase.

What Is A Home Inspection?

Every buyer should get a home inspection because it allows you to uncover any damage or flaws your new home may have, potentially saving vast sums of money. “Getting a professional inspection done will give you crucial information that you can then use to critically evaluate the investment from a financial standpoint,” says Carlos Del Rio, a former Chicago home inspector turned real estate attorney.

That’s because it gives you a literal “inside” look and offers information about things you probably didn’t even notice when you were at the property, says Mason Spurgeon, certified general appraiser and owner at Spurgeon Appraisals in Palmyra, Missouri.

Why Home Inspections Are Important

Buying a home is a major investment, so you should consider a home inspection an investment in itself – for peace of mind that you won’t need to shell out major cash to fix something unexpectedly.

You can only tell so much about a home by looking at the outside. With a home inspection, a trained inspector will investigate all the major systems and parts of the house to make sure there are no hidden issues. Rather than considering cosmetic issues, they will focus on major defects that might eventually lead to significant financial problems.

“Home inspections are incredibly important because they can uncover latent details that may not be able to be seen at a showing,” notes REALTOR® Katie Messenger with Keller Williams Louisville (Kentucky) East. “A home inspector will go places the average buyer won't when viewing a home, like on top of the roof, inside the attic and under the house.” And, she points out, most home owners don't typically see those places either, so the chances of a seller being aware of issues is unlikely.

“Home inspection can help buyers identify maintenance issues, safety hazards, needed repairs or builder oversights,” explains Jeremy Browne, senior vice president at TTR Sotheby's International Realty in Arlington, Virginia.

Buyers should expect the inspector to review the exterior as well as the interior of the home. Key areas they will consider are heating/air conditioning, electrical, plumbing, roof, attic, foundation, garage, basement or crawl space, walls, ceilings and floors. A thorough inspection should include use of an infrared thermometer, flashlight, moisture meter, voltage/current indicator and an AFCI/GFCI tester, Browne says.

“You probably didn’t turn on all the faucets to make sure the plumbing wasn’t leaking,” says Spurgeon, who points out this is the type of detail a home inspector will go into.

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Home Inspection For Buyers: What Should You Know?

The home buyer should plan to be present for the home inspection, as probably should your agent and the sellers and their agent, suggests Sabrina Covington, managing broker at Covington & Associates in San Diego, California.She recommends “shadowing” the inspector as they take notes and photos and ask them to point out any items of concern with the home.

Browne says another reason to attend is that a good inspector will answer questions and demonstrate how to do maintenance, like changing the furnace filters or the operation of appliances.

After the inspection, the inspector will give a verbal report of the major findings and then send a more detailed report later.

Depending on what you find out, you can just use the information as background for your own maintenance or future repairs. But if you find something troubling, you can request that the seller make the repair before you buy the home, Covington says. You also can use it to negotiate the purchase price if they balk and you believe that it could escalate into an expensive problem that you’ll need to fix.

“If you have not yet removed your physical home inspection contingency, you have the right to cancel escrow and in most cases receive your initial deposit back,” Covington says. And she adds, as a point of negotiation, remember that repair items that are considered a material fact must be disclosed by the seller to future buyers.

Why Inspection Is Necessary

As mentioned, having a home inspection can save you from major bills down the road. For example, says Spurgeon, when they check the roof for leaks, they’ll tell you when it will need to be replaced. They’ll also share the facts about when you might need to replace the furnace and hot water heaters, which are two high-ticket items you’d want to know about.

In addition, a home inspector can help you know what’s common in different ages of homes. For example, Messenger’stown has several pockets with homes that were built in the 1890s. “Those homes will have different findings than parts of town where homes were constructed in the ‘50s, which will be different still from homes built in the 2000s,” she says. “A good home inspector and a good Realtor will be able to communicate facts clearly and calmly with clients to let them know what is what is uncommon and should be addressed.

“The home inspector is likely going to catch something that you didn’t look at, and their fee will easily be recouped when it becomes the seller’s responsibility to fix an issue that you otherwise wouldn’t have known about until after you purchased the home,” Spurgeon says.

Home Inspection Cost

So about that cost … First, it’s important to know that the home inspection is a nonrefundable cost paid for by the buyer. That’s because you’re the one who will benefit if issues come to light.

According to HomeAdvisor.com, home inspections range from $275 – $400, but prices might vary depending on where you live and how thorough it is. Be sure to ask your agent what to expect for local costs and what they recommend for additional services, if any.

Home Inspection – One And Done?

While it’s clearly most important to get a home inspection as a buyer, it’s something you might consider on an ongoing basis to make sure that your house is still safe and healthy. Spurgeon recommends having your home inspected every 5 or so years, just to make sure you aren’t overlooking something. “It’s a lot cheaper to fix a minor issue, compared with a major issue that has been neglected for years.”

Ah, home maintenance. Just one of the joys you have to look forward to as a home owner. But once you get a clean bill of health for your home via the home inspection, you’re that much closer to having it be yours.

Need more tips for first-time home buyers? Visit our resource center here.

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