What Happens in the Home Inspection
Posted March 14th, 2017 by Clarissa Gregg

Shortly after you have signed a purchase agreement with a buyer, a home inspection will probably take place. In most purchase and sale agreements across the country, a “home inspection contingency” is part of the contract language. Unless the buyer intends to tear down your house to build something new, he or she will want to be aware of every potential maintenance issue that may exist.

The inspection itself usually takes 2 to 3 hours. In addition to checking the home’s structural and mechanical condition, inspectors may also test for things such as radon gas, wood-destroying insects, mold, or other services requested by the buyer.

The leading home inspector association, the American Society of Home Inspectors, ASHI, has a “Standards of Practice” that dictate 10 different areas of the home that need to be inspected: structure, exterior, roofing system, plumbing system, electrical system, heating system, air conditioning system, interior, insulation and ventilation, and fireplaces.

The Standards of Practice also outline what the inspectors must look at, as well as what may be excluded. For example, when inspecting the roof, inspectors must evaluate the shingles, gutters, flashing, chimneys and other penetrations. However, they do not need to inspect a roof antenna, or look inside chimneys that aren’t readily accessible.

What can you do to make the home inspection go more smoothly? If there is an attic hatch or a basement crawl space, make sure these are not blocked by clothes or other items. In a basement, you will want to make sure the inspector can see all and move around near all the exterior walls. A clear path around all the mechanical items, including the furnace, water heater, and electrical panel will be necessities as well. These are easy and simple tips you can do to prepare for a home inspection.

After the inspection, a report is issued to the buyer detailing what was found. This report not only details problems that need immediate attention, but also identifies conditions that may lead to more serious defects later.

What usually happens next is additional negotiation between buyers and sellers if there is a significant difference between what a buyer expected going into the transaction and what was uncovered by the inspection. In a best-case scenario, buyers and sellers may split the cost of the repairs, or agree only to fix some items now, leaving the rest for the buyer to address later. After all, the seller didn’t promise a brand new home, but the buyer probably wasn’t planning on spending thousands of dollars in necessary repairs.

How to prepare for a home inspection? Look over every aspect of the home with a critical eye. Maybe you haven’t needed that electrical outlet that doesn’t work, but back when you purchased the home, would you have accepted a faulty outlet? If you can afford it, it may be a good idea to hire a home inspector yourself, before you go on the market. You’ll likely avoid being surprised by a buyer’s inspection, and you’ll have a chance to either address the problems before selling the home, or disclose them upfront to a potential buyer. Additionally, your inspection report will give you a good baseline by which to compare the buyer’s report. While they probably won’t be identical, major differences are rare between qualified and experienced inspectors.

Importantly, remember that the inspector works for the person who hired him or her. Your buyer’s inspector has one job – to find every problem and potential problem he or she can, and report them to the buyer. It’s highly likely there will be something on the report – the best you can do as the seller is to keep up the maintenance and be ready for any reasonable requests from the buyer.

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