How to Make the Most of a Home Inspection

Whether buying or selling a home, one should consider an independent, certified inspector to check out the home in question. Home inspections have only been around since the 1980s, but have proven to ensure buyers and sellers have safe and structurally sound homes.

The Process

Although home inspection is usually initiated by the buyer, the seller could also profit in having the home inspected before putting it on the market. The seller would have an advantage in that any repairs needed could be done before the buyer’s inspector arrives. It would increase the chances of the home selling quickly.

It's very important to know who will be inspecting your potential home. Do some leg work on several inspectors in your area. The basic questions that should be answered would include: How long have they been an inspector? Are they certified? What kind of training do they have? Are they current with new and old structures? What did they do before they became an inspector? (After all, I would prefer an inspector that used to be a carpenter to one that used to be an accountant, if you catch my drift.)

If the inspector has a website, look at how many inspections he/she has done in the past. Will the inspector provide a sample inspection report so that you can see if it's readable and understandable?

Attend the Inspection

A home inspector and a potential home buyer looking at the ceiling of a house.

Make attending the inspection a priority. It's much easier to understand the report if you have seen the issue with your own two eyes rather than try to imagine what he is talking about. Attending the inspection is also a learning experience. Whether you are a buyer or a seller, the inspector will point out things that you may not have noticed. Home inspectors have a trained eye and know what to look for. We just live in a home and generally only fix things when they break.

Walk with the inspector. If you don’t understand what he is looking at, ask questions. Take notes or even pictures of your own to help you remember what you're looking at. Is the defect something you could live with or something you may have to negotiate a repair for before making an offer to buy?

Stay with the inspector the entire time even if this means sticking your head up through a ceiling hatch or visiting the dark corners of a basement. The inspector is there to look in areas that most home owners only look at if the trouble has already made itself known. The inspector can find things that could present problems down the road and will be cheaper to fix now rather than after the problem has blown out of proportion.

Do a Recheck

After the inspector leaves, go back through the areas that might be problems and make thorough notes. You will remember more if you have notes and they will help you negotiate terms of an agreement with the buyer before purchasing the home.

Read the Report

A home inspection report surrounded by keys and a measuring tape.

Once the inspection is done, the inspector will give you a blow-by-blow report on potential issues. Compare the report with your own notes and decide which problems you want to negotiate and which ones you can let slide and deal with yourself. Just remember, little problems can turn into big problems. Listen to your inspector and get his opinion.

Negotiate Repairs

As a buyer, you have the upper hand in making sure your future home is livable and in good repair. You can go about this in three ways. First, do your research on what the repairs would cost (get at least two quotes for each problem area) and then deduct that amount from what your original offer was going to be. Of course, this would require you to make the repairs before you can move into the home.

Your second option is to request that the current homeowners make the repairs and have a reinspection done before you make an offer.

In some cases, and in certain areas, the repairs are required to be completed before the home can be sold. For example, if the home currently has a fuse box and code requires circuit breakers, this kind of repair needs to be completed and inspected before the home can be bought or sold.

If it's a relatively expensive fix, such as a new roof, you may want to choose your own contractor. The seller may want to save money in the process and may choose to install a cheap roof that won't last long, causing financial issues for the buyer down the road.

Perhaps the best way is to require that the current homeowner make the repairs with a contractor of your choice. This way, you can be confident in the repairs and the current homeowner is footing the bill. Think carefully and be informed before negotiating any repair.