A home inspection, as defined, is an examination of the physical structure and systems of a home, which provides a detailed ‘snapshot’ of the condition of the home at the time of the inspection. The purpose of a home inspection is to help reduce some of the risk involved in purchasing a home; however, it cannot eliminate those risks, nor can the inspector anticipate future events or changes in performance due to changes in use or occupancy. The inspection will cover any potential health and safety issues in addition to areas in need of repair or replacement.
In Utah, inspectors must be licensed by the Utah Real Estate Commission (TREC), and are required to comply with the Standards of Practice when inspections are performed for a prospective buyer or seller of a one-to-four family residential property. The Standards of Practice are the minimum levels of inspection practice required of inspectors for the accessible parts, components, and systems typically found in improvements to real property.
Keep in mind that the inspector is not required to move any furnishings or stored items. Therefore, it is always a good idea to ensure the access to all the major components of the home is clear prior to the inspection commencing.
Why Do I Need A Home Inspection?
The purchasing of your home may be the largest single investment you will ever make. To minimize unwanted surprises, you will want to learn as much as you can about the condition of the home before you purchase it. An inspection may identify the need for repairs, as well as the need for maintenance to better protect your investment. After the inspection, you will know more about the property, which will aid you in making an informed decision as to purchase the home or not.
What Does A Home Inspection Cost?
The inspection fee for a typical single-family property varies depending upon a number of factors such as: size of the house; its age, particular features of the house (slab foundation, crawl space, etc…); and possible option systems inspected. Typically, a home inspection costs around $250 to $400…plus any ‘optional’ services, such as: lawn sprinkler systems; swimming pools, spas, hot tubs and associated equipment; outbuildings; outdoor cooking equipment; gas supply systems; private water wells; septic systems; whole-house vacuum systems; and other built-in appliances. Cost should not be a factor in deciding whether or not to have a home inspection – due to the potential costs involved should you decide NOT to have it inspected.
Can A Home ‘Fail’ An Inspection?
No, an inspection is an examination of the current condition of the home. There is no ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ rating issued.
When Do I Schedule The Home Inspection?
Once the purchase contract has been signed, you will want to schedule your home inspection right away. This is because you will want to find out about any potential problems, have time to schedule any additional inspections that may be required, and of course…time to negotiate repairs with the Owner. All of this will need to occur during your option period. Should it exceed the time frame of your option period, and you have not extended the option period, you are stuck with purchasing the home, no matter what additional problems may be revealed in the condition of the home.
Should I Attend The Inspection?
If you are the Buyer, I recommend you have the inspector call you before his inspection is concluded. Allow yourself enough time to get there and attend a final walk-through with the inspector. You will want him to show you any potential problems – also, feel free to ask any questions about his report. If you are the Seller, you have every right to attend; however, I recommend that you do not follow the inspector around the house trying to justify any deficiency he writes down.
What If Deficiencies Are Found In The Home?
If the inspector identified any deficiencies, this does not mean that you should not purchase the home. It only notifies you in advance of what you can expect. Perhaps the major issues can be negotiated out, and the minor issues can be repaired by you after you purchase the home. Do not ‘nit-pick’ every little item on the report.
That is a good way to get the Seller ticked off.
As the Seller, how do I prepare my home for the inspection?
• Ensure all utilities are turned on
• All pilot lights are lit
• All locks are to be removed or unlocked from areas that may prohibit the inspector accessing, such as attics, doors, padlocks on gates, etc…
• Attic access is clear. If attic access is in the garage, be sure there are no cars, shelving units, moving boxes, storage crates blocking the access. If attic access is in a hallway or closet, make sure these are no light fixtures or furniture blocking the access panel or pull-down ladder
• Crawl space (if applicable) access is clear
• Electrical panels are accessible and not locked
• Water heater is accessible
• Furnace is accessible
• Cooling system is accessible
• Built-in kitchen appliances are accessible and ready to operate
• Pets are secure
Inspecting the physical condition of a house is an important part of the home-buying process, for purposes of understanding whether you’re paying an appropriate price for the house and what repairs it might need before or after you move in; not to mention whether you want the property at all.
In an ideal world, a home inspection should be included in your purchase contract as a condition of closing the sale (a “contingency”). In tight markets, buyers are known to waive the inspection contingency, to make their offer more attractive to the seller. It’s a risk you’ll have to evaluate with the help of your agent. One middle-ground option is to condition the sale on what’s known as a “yes/no” inspection, meaning that you can use the results as a reason to back out of the deal entirely (with the assumption that this you’d do this only because something major turned up) but won’t use it as a basis to negotiate for price reductions or repairs.
Basic Reason Buyers Want a Home Inspection
No matter how good the house looked, or how savvy your real estate agent, it takes a professional to test and prod for hidden defects. Even if the seller provides you an inspection report, it’s best not to rely on this alone. The seller might have chosen an inspector who’s not known for rooting out problems. You’ll likely want to hire at least one and possibly more professionals to check out the building’s structure, systems, and physical components, such as the roof, plumbing, electrical and heating/cooling systems, major appliances, floor surfaces and paint, windows and doors, and foundation, and detect pest infestations or dry rot and similar damage. The inspector should also examine the land around the house for issues concerning grading, drainage, retaining walls, and plants affecting the house.
Ask for disclosures before you get an inspection. In many states, such as California, sellers are required to disclose considerable information about the condition of the house itself and potential hazards to the property.
But this is just the beginning: Not all sellers know about problems with the house or honestly disclose them. (Sometimes they’ve lived with a problem for so long that they’ve literally forgotten it’s there!) Nevertheless, the disclosures are useful to hand to your inspector for follow-up on known issues.
When Within the Purchase Process to Have the Property Inspected
Most buyers get professional inspections only after they’re in contract to buy the property. The closing of the deal is commonly made contingent on the buyers’ approving the results of one or more inspections. The buyer arranges and schedules the inspections. Before paying for a professional inspection, you can conduct your own informal inspection. Look for issues like sloping floors or bowing walls, signs of water damage, missing roof shingles or gutters coming loose, old or low-quality fixtures and appliances, and other signs of wear, tear, or needed repair. The best time to do this is before you make an offer, so that you can save yourself the trouble should you find serious problems.
Another, less commonly used possibility is to ask the seller to let you do a “pre-inspection” before submitting your offer. Why, given the cost of these inspections, would you do this? Because if you’re in a situation where you’re competing against other buyers (which can happen in any market, if a house is particularly desirable), this can help you set your offer apart. You’d most likely be able to submit an offer without an inspection contingency, thus reassuring the seller that your offer price is firm, not something you’re likely to whittle away at after you’re in contract, based on whatever a later inspection reveals. (On the other hand, you risk coming in with an offer price that’s lower than others’, having taken the house’s problems into account; which only you know about at that point.) Some sellers will refuse to allow pre-inspections in any case, particularly because, if you alert them to problems with the house, they’re then likely obligated to divulge these to other potential buyers as part of their state’s disclosure laws.
Hire a Professional Inspector
Hire a general contractor or home inspector to inspect all major house systems, from top to bottom, including the roof, plumbing, electrical and heating systems, foundation, and drainage. This will take two or three hours and likely cost you $300 or more, depending on the location, size, age, and type of home. Accompany the inspector during the examination, so that you can learn more about the maintenance and preservation of the house, ask questions, and get a real sense of which problems are serious and which are relatively minor.
Tips on Choosing a Home Inspector
As the buyer, you want someone who will be thorough and tough. This may not be the inspector your real estate agent recommends–the agent has a financial interest in your deal going through and may recommend an inspector who is not overly persnickety.
Ask home owning friends for recommendations or check with the Utah Society of Home Inspectors.
Get a Pest Report
In addition to the general inspector, it’s wise to hire a licensed structural pest control inspector, who will create a special pest report on the property (unless the seller has already commissioned one. Pest inspectors, unlike general inspectors, traditionally accept work on properties they’ve inspected, so they have every interest in finding problems). The pest inspector will look for infestation by wood-boring insects such as termites and flying beetles, as well as evidence of dry rot and other fungal conditions. Some general contractors are also licensed pest control inspectors, but will normally charge extra for doing double duty. Be sure you get a written report of all inspections.
Consider Hiring Experts for Special Inspections
Depending on the property and your personal sensitivities, you might want to arrange specialized inspections for hazards from floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. The same goes for environmental health hazards such as mold, asbestos, and lead. If the garden area is important to you, or has features beyond the general inspector’s expertise such as a pond or fountain, you might also need a separate landscape inspector. And, if the general inspection revealed problems with the roof, foundation, or other areas that are hard to access or potentially expensive to repair, you might also want to hire a specialized inspector.
After the Inspections Are Completed
If the inspection reports show that the house is in good shape, you can proceed with the purchase, knowing that you’re getting what you paid for. If the inspections bring problems to light, such as an antiquated plumbing system or major termite damage, you can negotiate to have the seller pay for necessary repairs or to lower the purchase price. Or, you can back out of the deal, assuming your contract is written to allow you to do so.
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