Purchasing a home is a major life investment, so much so that cold feet can be a common problem for buyers, especially those navigating the market for the first time. It’s understandable; home buyers want to ensure they’re getting what they pay for while avoiding maintenance issues upon moving in, but too much caution can cause some to see home inspection as a game of “gotcha!” More than just a way to drum up deal breakers, home inspection is an incredibly useful process that familiarizes new homeowners with their prospective property’s maintenance needs.
Ideally, this process should be facilitated by the buyer in order to develop rapport and transparency between him or her and the seller, but both parties should actively participate so any inquiries raised from the inspection can be quickly and clearly addressed by both sides. In most cases, it’s in the buyer and seller’s collective interest to complete this process as efficiently—and thoroughly—as possible.
Home buying is always a time crunch since the process typically moves swiftly. As a result, it can be hard to ensure a fully comprehensive inspection. To help you learn as much about your target home as possible before you close the deal, we’ve assembled a short list of key tasks to serve as a handy checklist:
- Inspect the Home Inspector: That’s right; flip the script, and don’t feel nervous about shining a light on his or her credentials. Any professionally licensed home inspector will expect this and have the proper documentation on hand. Ask for recommendations from friends and family, consult online reviews, and take a good look at several inspector websites prior to making your decision. Once you’re in the room with your inspector, establish the areas within your prospective home that you’d like to focus on, and request at least two sample reports to assess whether his or her work is consistent and exhaustive.
- Establish What You’re Paying For: We all know the dangers of assuming, and they’re just as prevalent in the world of home inspection. Not every inspector offers the same scope of service, so make sure to clarify the scale of your inspection prior to it being conducted. Ask about the inclusion of services like lead paint testing and asbestos identification. These are certainly commonplace practices, but as more modern homes populate the market, there’s a chance older houses could slip past these tests based on the assumption that those types of inspections are becoming obsolete.
- Block out Enough Time: Anything worth doing is worth taking the time to do correctly. In the digital age, this seems counterintuitive—even antiquated—but it’s very true when it comes to home inspection. Obviously, you want to shoot for a time that is convenient for all involved parties, so if you can, reserve at least an entire morning or afternoon for the process. It’s not just about finding issues; it’s about addressing them in the moment.
- Asking for Specifics Is Smart, Not Pushy: Remember, this is all part of the home buying process, and being proactive in the initial stages will prevent you from having to backtrack down the road. Have your home inspector look over everything and ask follow-up questions to your heart’s content—to your inspector, the seller, or (if he or she isn’t available) the seller’s realtor. Critical structural components to your target home, like its foundation or roof, should be closely scrutinized. Are the wall bases cracked? Are there apparent foundation shifts? Is there metal roofing or traditional asphalt shingles? What’s the overall condition and make? Better to spend a few minutes at the outset determining these things than to have unexpected complications emerge after you move in.
- Request a Seller’s Disclosure Statement: These disclosure statements are survey-style documents that home sellers fill out. They typically feature a list of yes/no response prompts and are meant to provide a legal record of all property issues discussed between the buyer and seller—from unpermitted work to lingering maintenance or structural concerns. In addition to providing a written summary of your prospective home’s needs, these statements also serve as admissible evidence should there be any legal issues concerning the mischaracterization of a property.
When it comes to matters of the home, it’s important to work with experts, whether you live in a fast-paced metropolis like LA or San Francisco, a quiet country suburb, or a modest city residing somewhere in the middle—like Cleveland or Pittsburgh. Kitchen remodeling, bathroom renovation, window replacement, landscaping, pre-sale inspections—these are all tasks that can quickly go awry and become more expensive when taken out of professional hands. Home buying is no different; it’s a complex process that can get the best of even veteran house hunters. To ensure that you get the most out of one of life’s biggest investments, make sure to enlist the help of a knowledgeable and accommodating real estate agent.