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What is the Role of the Home Inspector When You Buy a House?

The profession of home inspector is relatively new -- it began to pick up momentum in the mid 1970s and has been growing ever since. A home inspector is a reputable third party who's knowledgeable about the structural and operational aspects of a residential dwelling.

Although a homeowner can contract for inspection services at any time to evaluate the state of a home, the inspection occurs most often when a sale is pending.

Here's the key part if you're buying a home -- get the home inspected after a selling price has been negotiated and a purchase agreement signed, and before the closing. The sale of the home is usually contingent on a positive inspection, so if substantial problems are found, there a possibility of re-negotiating the sale price -- the estimated cost of repairs may be subtracted from the price. In this case, either party could pay the inspection fee, or the cost may be shared between the seller and the buyer.

Because we're currently in a buyer's market, many sellers take the step of having an inspection done to sweeten the deal; a prospective buyer can be shown the report (presuming a clean bill of health) as a kind of carrot on a stick. This can be a valuable incentive in today's volatile real estate market. In this case, the seller foots the bill for the inspection fee.

What Does the Home Inspection Entail?

When the inspector arrives at the home, he will usually start with an extensive visual exterior inspection -- the roof, siding, visible portions of the slab, etc. When examining the roof, he will pay attention to flashing, gutters, and ventilation. He will also inspect the structural integrity of the garage.

The exterior portion of the inspection also includes evaluating the condition of the siding or the brick veneer, sidewalks within the property lines, and any exterior electrical receptacles and lighting devices.

Next, the inspector typically performs a visual inspection of the interior of the home, including the attic, crawlspaces, and the basement (if applicable). Included in the interior inspection is a general plumbing review of faucets, toilets, sinks, and showers. Note that sewer inspections are generally not included.

The home's electrical system will be inspected. This involves identifying the type of wiring, condition of the circuit breaker box, bathroom exhaust fans, and lighting fixtures in general. Included in this part of the inspection is the functionality of the major appliances, such as the water heater (or tankless water heater), dishwasher, range and oven, dishwasher, and the condition of the home's smoke detectors.

Once the inspection is complete, the inspector will furnish the homeowner (or prospective homeowner) with the final report, which will flag deficient items and make recommendations for improvements.

How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?

The cost of a home inspection varies by area and is closely tied to the local economy and the size of the home. The American Society of Home Inspectors reports that "2005 Home Inspection Business Operations Study shows that the average cost of a home inspection is $318."

This is the base rate for the inspection, but many prospective homeowners choose to take advantage of some of the other services that some inspectors offer. These may include:

  • Radon testing
  • Carbon monoxide testing
  • Well and septic system analysis
  • Asbestos testing (where applicable)
  • Lead testing
  • Mold and mildew testing
  • Spa and swimming pool inspecting
  • Termite inspections
  • Detecting the presence of rodents or other pests

How Can You Find a Reputable Home Inspector?

Obviously, in order for the inspection to be worthwhile, the inspector should be knowledgeable and enjoy a good reputation. The best way is to locate one through a source such as the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (http://www.nachi.org/), Home Inspections USA (http://www.homeinspections-usa.com/), or the American Association of Home Inspectors (http://www.ashi.org/).

Once you've found a list of home inspectors in your area, check them out with the local BBB or/and Chamber of Commerce. It's also a good idea to give your local building code inspector a call and ask their opinion. They might not want to divulge any opinions, but if they do, you can't get a better recommendation!


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