An inspection is an essential step in buying a home. But what are the most important things an inspection should cover? And where does one begin?
It can take weeks and even months of gruelling research to find exactly the home you’re looking for. And when at last you find it, it can be tempting to write the inspection off as a luxury. But a home is a sizable asset, and like all assets, there are risks associated with it. A proper inspection can be seen as a way to assess the quality of the asset to better manage your risk, just as a person would find out about a company before buying its stock.
Where to begin?
Few people have the technical skill to properly assess the condition of property and, most importantly, estimate the cost of necessary repairs. That’s why the first step in the process is usually hiring a professional home inspector. A buyer’s top priority should be to obtain a detailed report from a qualified expert, covering at least all of the following.
Hidden means hidden
It’s important to remember that a home inspection is intended to reveal apparent signs of problems or defects. An inspector cannot report on anything that is hidden or hard to get to, such as a French drain, which is buried, or a roof that’s covered by snow. Nor is an inspector required to do any structural testing or open up walls. A separate expert would have to be hired to check whether a building is free of asbestos or radon, for example, or to measure electromagnetic exposure. Usually, the vendor’s declaration will cover such things, but a prudent buyer may want to double-check.
How to use the inspection report
An inspection report gives the buyer a number of advantages. In particular, it can help:
How to use the inspection report
Is that crack in the foundation insignificant or does it indicate serious problems ahead? Is the wall damp because of poor ventilation or is there a leak somewhere? A proper inspection report can help identify which repairs are urgent and which can wait, allowing expenses to be spread over several years.
Some work must be done immediately to keep the house from deteriorating further. For example, it is much easier and less expensive to fix a leaky roof right now, than to rebuild the whole structure after the beams have rotted.
Negotiate a better price
The inspector’s report can be a valuable negotiating tool. Obviously, a house that needs a lot of work is not worth as much as one that is in good condition. With the report in hand, the buyer can ask the vendor to either do the repairs before the sale, or else drop the price.
Protect the buyer in case of a lawsuit
Occasionally, a lawsuit pitting buyer against vendor will arise after the sale is concluded. In such cases, the inspector’s report serves as evidence.
How to choose an inspector
The training and particular skills of home inspectors varies enormously. Is the inspector an engineer, an architect, a chartered appraiser or a professional technologist? While it is not a guarantee, membership in a professional order usually means a code of ethics, less risk of negligence, and protection for the unsatisfied client. Some inspectors also have professional liability insurance to cover errors and omissions.
Finally, before hiring someone, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for examples of their work. A good report should indicate what is wrong with a property, why it is wrong, and how it can be corrected. The report should be anywhere from 20 to 50 pages long, have supporting photographs, and sometimes even include the vendor’s declaration stating the problems of which the vendor is aware.
Buying a house is often the biggest investment anyone ever makes. It’s worth making sure from the start that it’s a sound one!