Whether you’re building a home, selling a property, or purchasing a new home, a home inspection is an essential part of the process. Lenders typically won’t require it, but here’s why you should get one anyway.
The Difference Between Inspections and Appraisals
Lenders don’t usually require an inspection, but almost all lenders will want an appraisal on a property before they agree to lend, and if you get an FHA loan, you are always required to have an appraisal.
An appraisal is different than the inspection because the appraiser is just looking at the property to determine how much it’s worth (they’ll compare the property to nearby homes). Essentially the point of the appraisal is to answer the question for the bank “Does the value of this home align with the mortgage?” The inspection, on the other hand, focuses on the condition of the property. The inspector looks for potential problems, including foundation issues, HVAC, and electrical concerns, pests, and health and safety concerns.
Because the home inspection isn’t required, it’s easy to think “well there’s an expense we can skip!” but you should hesitate to do so. Here’s why you should have an inspection and how to go about it.
The Benefits of a Home Inspection
You aren’t legally required to have a home inspection, and many lenders won’t demand an inspection, the home inspection serves as a significant benefit to you.
Home Inspections Could Save You Thousands: A home inspection only costs between $200 and $500, on average. Replacing a roof could set you back a couple thousand. If you have to rewire your house, expect to pay $8,000+, and foundation issues could set you back $10,000 or more. Knowing about problems up front lets you go into your purchase knowing what (if any) issues you may have to deal with later on.
An Inspection Gives you a Way Out of Your Contract: One of the only ways you can break your offer contract (and get your money back) is to rescind your offer based on the results of the home inspection. If you don’t get an inspection and discover major issues later on, you’re stuck with the property, as is.
An Inspection Reveals Possible Legal Problems: Did you know that homes with illegal additions could affect your homeowner’s insurance and taxes? If you purchase a property that has illegal additions or improperly installed electrical, plumbing, or HVAC systems, you can be held liable for any issues. If the city requires you to make changes or repairs, you’re on the hook financially.
You can use Your Home Inspection as a Negotiation Tactic: You can reduce your offer on a property based on home inspection results. Your real estate agent will let you know how you can adjust your offer, and what types of repairs are likely to help your case in a renegotiation. Even if you can’t get the seller to accept a lower purchase price, you can request that they make certain repairs before you take possession of the home.
Some Insurance Companies Require an Inspection: Home insurance providers may require a home inspection before offering coverage, as they can deny coverage if the home has specific issues that make the house a higher risk. If you want your property covered in case of loss, you may have to get the inspection done.
You’ll Have a Head Start On Home Repairs: As a new homeowner, there may likely be more than a few areas of home ownership, construction, and home repair you’re not familiar with. A good home inspection is worth its weight in gold when it comes to helping you plot out which repairs you want to focus on. For instance, your home inspector may notice dampness in certain areas of your basement and suggest extending the downspouts to move water further away from the house or point out other small issues you could quickly attend to. Most of these things won’t fall into the renegotiate-the-purchase-price category we talked about above, but they’ll save you big headaches down the line.
The only drawback, for the buyer, is that you’ll likely have to pay for the inspection. Typically, this fee is added into closing costs.
While you may be tempted to skip out on an inspection because you’re purchasing a newer property, a property inspection can be useful in these transactions too. At the very least, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you are moving your family into a safe property. In fact, some experts recommend getting an inspection before your builder closes the walls and after the project is finished.
Finally, if you need any further convincing that hiring a home inspector is a good idea, consider the experience of our Editor in Chief, Jason. His home inspector noticed the faulty construction of the gas exhaust system attached to his water heater. That discovery ensured it was repaired before he moved in, preventing carbon monoxide from flooding into the house. A few hundred bucks might seem like a chunk of change, but you can’t put a price on not dying in your sleep.
Should You Find Your Own Inspector?
Deciding whether to find your home inspector is mostly a matter of preference and your relationship with your realtor or builder.
Many real estate agents work with brokers and home inspectors as part of their business. You could save money on a home inspection by working through a referral, and if you don’t want to spend much time looking for an inspector, your real estate agent or lender may be a useful resource. Try asking your realtor for three names of inspectors they’d recommend. You can narrow the list down from there. Your real estate agent has nothing to gain by recommending someone unreliable. So, if you believe your agent has your best interest in mind, consider their recommendations.
Remember, you are under no obligation to choose a specific broker or home inspector if you don’t feel comfortable working with them. Since you will be investing a significant amount of money in your new home, investing in a home inspection is a smart way to ensure you’re getting the best deal.