Being a first-time homebuyer is tough. There are so many things you need to know. One vital but often underrated step of the home buying process as a first time home buyer is the home inspection.
First and foremost, is don’t skip your home inspection!
Right now, the real estate market is hot in many communities, buyers are competing for good homes. Some buyers are giving up the right to have a home inspection on advice from their agents.
While the decision is yours whether to have a home inspection or not, as a first-time home buyer you have very little knowledge of the condition of a home and what to expect in the future.
Don’t be pressured into not having a home inspection if you are not comfortable.
Why Should You Have A Home inspection?
Of course, as a first-time home buyer, you and your buyer’s agent have viewed the home and probably have seen some issues with the home.
But a home inspector is trained to evaluate, dig deeper and comment on the integrity and functional operation of the home’s systems and structure as well as the safety and health of a home. What will the home inspector check?
- HVAC- Heating and cooling as permitted.
- Plumbing and electrical systems
- Attic, including visible insulation
- Windows and doors
- Structural components
- Evidence of Mold
- Evidence of wood-destroying pests
- Test for Radon- usually an optional service
Most states require a home inspector to be trained and hold a license to conduct home inspections. They have a working knowledge of the structure of a home and all the systems that help your home run.
A good home inspector will often be a member of ASHI- American Society of Home Inspectors as well. ASHI’s members adhere to the ASHI Standard of Practice, in order to ensure their clients receive quality inspections and excellent service.
The goal of the home inspection is to leave the buyer with a good understanding of the home they are about to purchase. Allowing the buyer to decide whether to move forward with the home buying process on a particular home or to move on.
Understand The Limitation of Home Inspections
There are limitations to a home inspection that first-time home buyers need to understand.
Expect a general overview of the home, but do not expect a home inspection to be the end all be all to uncover every issue in a home.
- A home inspector can only comment on what they can see. An inspector cannot see inside walls, an attic with no access and etc…. They can only comment on what is visible at the time of the inspection.
- A home inspector will not move personal items or dismantle items to inspect.
- A home inspector cannot indicate the market value of a home.
- A home inspector cannot provide you the cost of repairs.
- A home inspector cannot recommend vendors to do repairs.
- A home inspector cannot tell you if the property is good for a particular use.
- A home inspector cannot tell you whether you should buy the home or not.
- A home inspection is not pass or fail. It is an overview of a home’s condition.
Your home inspection is a non-evasive visual inspection of a home. The report is a visual description of what is identified by the home inspector for a specific date and does not cover what may necessarily happen in the future.
Preparing For Your Home Inspection
You have already seen the home and you may have some questions. Write down your questions ahead of time so you do not forget them.
Review the seller’s disclosure and the MLS list sheet to see if any additional questions arise. Write those down as well.
Ask your home inspector to send you a blank home inspection report ahead of time so you can have an understanding of the scope of the report.
Make sure you have comfortable clothes you don’t mind getting dirty as well as a small notepad to take notes, a camera (phone camera is fine) to take pictures if needed.
Clear your schedule for half a day so you can focus on the inspection. Prepared to be present and focus.
What To Expect At The Home Inspection
Your home inspector will go through the house from top to bottom. In most cases, you should follow the inspector and listen to what he says. Do not get distracted by taking notes, they will provide an extensive report for you in the end.
As the home inspector views the home they will comment on the condition as they see it and potential upgrades or maintenance you might consider in the future. Do not be afraid to ask questions, this is a big purchase and should not be taken lightly.
A home inspector will indicate if an item is not functioning properly, if it is deficient in any way, is safe, at the end of its service life, or fully functional. They will cover why they found the item deficient and what is recommended to correct or monitor for future repairs.
The inspector will provide you with an extensive report within 24 hours of the inspection covering everything that was talked about during the inspection.
No House Is Perfect
Remember no house is perfect. Even new houses may have a punch list of items from a home inspector.
A resale home is like buying a used car. It will have some dents and dings and maybe some minor repairs.
Expect your home’s systems and structure to be functioning adequately and not pose any significant safety or health risks.
To expect perfection in a home will lead to a lot of stress and heartache for you. Be prepared to take on some minor issues yourself.
After Your Home Inspection
Take the time to review your home inspection. If you have additional questions don’t be afraid to call your home inspector or your agent.
Make a list of issues that concern you.
Divide them into issues you are willing to take on yourself. And, issues that may pose an immediate repair because of system malfunction or a safety or health issue.
It is not unreasonable to have a few weekends of minor repairs that don’t add up to a significant cost to you.
But your inspection may reveal issues like a leaky roof, mold in the attic, a cracked heat exchanger in the furnace etc… that you were unaware of and quite frankly the seller will probably be unaware of as well.
What Is My Recourse
A seller is under no obligation to perform any repairs. So what recourse might you have if you find issues during your home inspection that are unacceptable to you?
Nullify the contract. Most purchase contracts have a home inspection contingency that allows a homebuyer to withdraw their contract if a home inspection is less than acceptable
Renegotiate with the seller. Often if conditions are unacceptable the seller and homebuyer will negotiate repairs after the home inspection. This can include a seller to complete the repairs, a reduction in price or other possible solutions for the work to get done.
Accept as is. It is also possible for you to accept the home as-is if the seller is unwilling to negotiate.
It is not uncommon for a first time homebuyer to lose one or two homes over home inspection issues and expecting too much out of a home. Many factors weigh into whether a seller will be willing to do repairs or not.
What May Be Reasonable Repairs?
Current market conditions, the price point of the home, the price of the home in relation to fair market value, the level of desire to sell, competition from other buyers all factor into whether a seller will be willing to do some repairs.
But a balance needs to be achieved for success. At the end of the day, it is your decision on how to move forward. You don’t want to be saddled immediately with any major repairs or costs.
An older roof, near the end of its useful life could have 3-5 years left in it and can be fully functional. Versus a roof that is already leaking. The older roof has a serviceable life into the foreseeable future, where the leaky roof is a costly expense that needs to be taken care of immediately.
furnace that needs cleaning versus a furnace with a cracked heat exchanger. Cleaning is part of a furnaces maintenance cycle where a cracked heat exchange may trigger a new furnace or a costly repair.
A bathroom without a ground fault outlet versus a rusted bar on an electric panel. A bathroom without a ground fault outlet was to code when a home was built years ago but is not to current code now. It is still serviceable and is a minor repair versus a rusted main bar in an electrical panel which is costly and is a fire hazard and can be costly. At the end of the day, it is your decision on how to move forward.
As a first-time homebuyer, your home inspection is a very important part of the home buying process. Having never gone through the home inspection before, I would be hard-pressed to advise a first-time home buyer to skip it.
he home inspection is your last line of defense to ensure you buy a home without any major issues and digging deep into your pockets.
Be prepared for your home inspection. Have an understanding of what a home inspection is and isn’t. Review a blank report from your home inspector ahead of time to get an idea of what is covered and prepare any questions before arriving at your home inspection. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Your home inspector is more than happy to educate you about the home you are about to buy.
Finally, be realistic in your expectations. No home is going to be perfect. But, also don’t buy a home that will just be a money pit. Many serious issues can be negotiated with the seller and you can move on to closing.