Homeownership is hard. Things break. Pipes leak. Unwanted critters invade. Sometimes, what you think may be your dream home may actually be your nightmare. That’s why you should always get a home inspection before you buy your next house.
“More and more people over the years have become savvy and realize this is the single biggest investment they’re making,” says Chuck Ryan, owner of Real Inspection Services. “They should know what’s going on with their home before they move forward.”
With some buyers skipping home inspections during the recent sellers’ market, we reached out to Chuck to find out what you can expect from a home inspection and the eight reasons you absolutely cannot skip one when buying – or selling! – your home.
First, what is a home inspection?
“A home inspection is a non-destructive observation of accessible areas of the home and their existing conditions,” says Chuck, who has been inspecting homes in the Chicago area for more than 22 years.
Whether it’s a single-family home, a multi-unit, or a condo, a home inspector typically checks the following areas and appliances:
- Exterior and interior of the home.
- Plumbing system.
- Electrical system, including outlets and the electrical panel.
- Kitchen(s) and the appliances.
- Bathroom(s) and the fixtures.
- All major appliances, including clothes washer and dryer.
- Mechanical systems, such as furnaces, boilers, air-conditioning units, etc.
Chuck and his team use the F.O.G. method to inspect homes. .
“You state the Fact, you give your Opinion, and you provide Guidance,” says Chuck. “If it’s a damaged outlet, you state that. You give an opinion based on what the damaged outlet can cause. ‘It’s an unsafe condition. It can cause a potential electrical shock.’ Then the guidance would be, ‘Consult a qualified electrical contractor to come in and replace the damaged outlet.’”
Why homebuyers absolutely should not skip a home inspection
Reason #1: You may be able to negotiate repairs or even money off the sale price
Home inspections occur after the buyer signs the contract, during the attorney review process. Buyers usually have between five and seven days to get a home inspection.
“Even though the interest rates have gone up, we’re still busy,” says Chuck. “In some cases, we can accommodate those next-day inspections because of the number of inspectors we have.”
Once the inspection is completed, the inspector generally delivers the report within 24 hours. Then, home buyers can take the report and negotiate with the sellers. Some buyers request certain repairs be made or even a reduction in sale price.
“For what the cost of a home inspection is today, versus the cost of a repair, it’s money well spent,” says Chuck.
Buyers may also want to investigate additional issues uncovered during the inspection, such as mold, structural, air quality, and more.
“Again, these are things that get worked out during the five-day window,” says Chuck. “You can see sometimes how tight these things are.”
Some buyers may even choose to walk away from their potential dream home if the damage or problems uncovered are too costly to repair and the sellers refuse to lower the price.
Reason #2: A home inspection can reveal serious and potentially dangerous issues
Home inspections can save lives.
“We take health and safety pretty seriously, so if one of our inspectors comes across something – for instance, they open an electrical panel and they see melted wires – that’s something that needs immediate attention,” says Chuck.
At that time, Chuck would contact the listing or buyer’s agent and explain why they’d need to contact the seller immediately.
“We tell them, ‘This is an existing condition. It’s unsafe, and we need to let [the sellers] know that they have a problem here that needs to be resolved today.’”
Reason #3: Learn more about your “new” home
Buyers typically attend a home inspection while the sellers do not. (If the sellers aren’t commissioning the inspection, the home inspector is not obligated to provide them with a report.)
For the buyers, “it’s their opportunity to go out there and spend time with the inspector,” says Chuck. “People should be aware that the inspector is there as an educator of the home.”
A home inspector can walk the buyers through the home to show where the systems are located and what condition they’re in.
“When you get a car, you open up your glove box, and you have your owner’s manual in there,” says Chuck. “Buyers can utilize the inspection report that same way.”
Tips for Sellers: Some sellers do attend a home inspection, and if you’re one of them, don’t take the observations personally.
“We’re just calling out things that we see,” says Chuck. “We have no emotional attachment to the home, so we’re neutral when it comes to that.”
Reason #4 – A home inspection can help to prioritize the new owners’ home improvement project list
Explains Chuck, “After [the sellers] move into the home, they can take that information and say, ‘Here’s the priorities that they have identified in the report. These are things that they said we should fix. Here are some other things they said don’t take a priority, but we probably should take care of within the next year or so.’”
Reason #5: Home inspections uncover issues in new homes
Buying a new home? You, too, cannot skip the home inspection because even brand-new homes aren’t perfect. Chuck’s team frequently sees issues with the sewer line.
“As builders compact the dirt around the foundation, they may have not properly stabilized the dirt around the sewer line, and that can cause the sewer line to come offset,” says Chuck.
Chuck’s team saw this specific issue twice last year.
“It literally caused a separation of the sewer line coming from the house 10 feet out,” says Chuck. “The problem is – you have to dig that back up and refit the pipe, but then properly secure the earth around the pipe for when they contact it.”
Chuck has also seen when construction materials obstruct the sewer line.
“When we’re testing the shower, we’ll find that the drain starts to back up, and when we look inside there, it’s filled with grout.”
Getting a home inspection for a brand-new home can help to uncover these issues before the new owners move in.
Reason #6 – Prevent issues with your mortgage lender
While a home inspection is not mandatory to get a mortgage or to buy/sell home, it can help to prevent issues during the homebuying process. The mortgage company sends an appraiser to see if the price of the home is accurate, and if the appraiser sees issues, the underwriter may halt the process until a home inspection is completed.
“We’ve had that happen, but it is very rare,” says Chuck.
Reason #7 – You can discover unique features of the home
A locked door can create a situation known as “a limitation of the inspection.” If Chuck or his team can’t observe part of the home, they can’t comment on the condition of it.
Chuck has come across locked doors and other obstacles during his years of inspecting homes, but one home inspection sticks out in his mind.
“There was one home in Evanston where we couldn’t get into this room upstairs, but the buyer was adamant that we do,” Chuck recalls.
The listing agent informed Chuck and the buyer that the seller did not feel comfortable with them entering this room, but this was a deal breaker for the buyer. Eventually, the listing agent opened the door.
“It was an extremely private room,” says Chuck. “They had everything you can imagine in there, that you can even think of. So that was an eye opener.”
The listing agent immediately rushed down the stairs with a passing comment of, “Please pull the door closed when you’re finished.”
“I’ll never forget,” says Chuck. “That’s one that will stick with me forever.”
Buying a home? Here’s why you shouldn’t skip on a home inspection
Reason #8 – A home inspection can streamline the attorney review process
Chuck has seen a new trend recently with sellers getting a pre-listing inspection, which can help prepare an older home for a buyer’s inspection. This way, the sellers can take care of any issues before they come up on the inspection report and can lead to repairs or a reduction in the selling price.
Advises Chuck, “Keep your mechanicals up to date. If the furnace or air conditioner hasn’t been serviced in a long time, if they have a little slope drip in their fixture, or there’s a minor plumbing leak under the kitchen or bathroom sink – these are things that we prep them for.”
Homeowners should also take care of their appliances prior to listing their home.
“Make sure your appliances are working,” says Chuck. “Sometimes a seller will say, ‘I’ve been having problems with my left burner.’ Well, get that repaired.”
Sellers should also prepare their home for an inspection by putting any information about repairs, installations, and previous reports on the kitchen table or counter for an inspector and buyer to read.
“That shows me that they’ve taken care of their home,” says Chuck. “It also gives that potential buyer a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling that these people love this house. I think that goes a long way.”
If you upload your documents in the HomeLog of the vipHomeLink home management app, you can have these items readily available for the home inspector and the home buyer!
A home inspector needs access to the electrical panel box, the furnace, water heater, etc., so it’s best to clear away any clutter or personal belongings before the inspection date. They also need to get into the attic or basement, so making sure those pathways are clear is essential.
Frequently asked questions about home inspections
Chuck answered FAQ about home inspections to help you enjoy a frictionless experience.
How much does a home inspection typically cost?
While the national average is between $350 and $425, that’s a low estimate for a professional home inspection.
“Our average cost for a home inspection is around $525,” says Chuck, “but it depends on the square footage of the home.”
Chuck has seen home inspection prices reach $2,500, but the biggest home inspection his team performed cost close to $10,000!
“The house was ginormous with multiple furnaces, cooling equipment, etc.,” says Chuck.
Additional inspections, such as sewer scope and air quality, cost extra.
Who pays for home inspection, the buyer or the seller?
Generally, the person who commissioned the home inspection pays for it.
How long does a home inspection take?
A typical home inspection takes “a couple hours to three hours.” It can be longer or shorter, depending on the size of the home.
What comes first, the home appraisal or the home inspection?
More often than not, the appraisal comes after the home inspection. However, if you happen to get a home appraisal before your inspection, refrain from asking your home inspector about your home’s value.
“We can’t comment on that,” says Chuck. “It’s wrong for us to say, and a lot of times it does come after the home inspection.”
What are some tips for a home buyer searching for a home inspection company?
Don’t be afraid to ask your professional home inspector questions.
“‘How long has the inspector been doing inspections? Are they licensed?’” says Chuck. “We all have to be licensed in the State of Illinois, and we must complete continuing education to keep our license up to date.”
Home buyers and sellers should also get referrals from friends, colleagues, family members, even their real estate agent or attorney.
“A lot of times, most people are satisfied just by the reputation we have,” says Chuck.
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