Whether you’re buying or selling a home, you’ll likely go through a home inspection. And for many, the idea of a home inspection can make their stomachs twist into knots. You don’t think anything is wrong with the house, but what if there is? The easiest way to relieve this stress is to understand what the home inspection is for, and how to prepare for it.
Home Inspection Versus Appraisal
A home inspection is sometimes confused with a home appraisal, but the overall purpose is different. The home inspector focuses on the structure of the home, its systems and components. This includes the foundation, roof, plumbing and electrical system. The appraiser’s job is to determine market value based on condition, location, and market activity. The appraiser measures the home and takes pictures and then compares it to active, pending and sold properties, making adjustments up and down for differences to arrive at market value. If it’s an FHA or VA loan, the appraiser will also look at condition and may “call out” issues affecting safety, soundness or stability. The home inspector may also take pictures but doesn’t verify square footage or consider value. The inspector is solely concerned with the condition of the home and should be looking very carefully at the interior, exterior, attic and crawl space if the home sits on a raised foundation.
If the buyer is obtaining a mortgage, an appraisal is mandatory. The lender wants to ensure that the home is worth what the buyer is paying for it since the home is the security for the mortgage. Home buyers are also advised by Realtors to obtain a home inspection and most buyers choose to do so.
What Happens In A Home Inspection?
As a buyer, you may notice things that are wrong with the home when you view it — things like peeling paint, cracked stucco, or other cosmetic issues. While these will likely be mentioned in the home inspection report, they are not the primary focus of the inspection. The inspector’s focus is on thoroughly reviewing all of the home’s major components. For example, are there any issues with the roof or the foundation, the electrical or plumbing systems. Are the outlets grounded? Do the heating and cooling systems create the expected difference in temperature?
A home inspection typically takes anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours, depending on the size and construction of the home. The inspector will take notes, and most also take digital photos that they will include in a report. The inspector may provide you with a copy of the report on the spot but most will email it to you within a day or two after the inspection. They’ll usually provide you with a “wrap-up” or summary onsite, pointing out any significant issues and allowing you to ask questions. Many times inspectors will recommend further evaluation by a licensed contractor or a specialist, perhaps a roofer, plumber or a mason.
The home inspection can be a source of anxiety for home sellers, particularly as they aren’t typically there during the process. From the beginning of your decision to sell a home, you should be critically looking at things in your home. If you’re aware of a leak, a broken window, or a problem with the electrical, it is often worthwhile to fix that before listing. Such issues may signal to potential buyers that your home has deferred maintenance and will likely come up during the home inspection.
This isn’t to say you need to fix everything. Large home repairs can be costly and time consuming, and depending on what they are, they may not add in value what you’ll spend on the repairs themselves. However, you want to address any condition issues up front if there’s a concern that they could arise during the home inspection and potentially jeopardize your sale. Being honest and upfront about problems can mean your home doesn’t sit on the market too long. Your Realtor will be able to tackle problems and negotiations more effectively if they know the facts.
Some sellers choose to get their own inspection prior to putting their home on the market. This will help eliminate any hidden surprises, give you the advantage of knowing about any problems and then factoring those into your price. You’re required to disclose any problems you know about so keep that in mind. Even if you do your own inspection, the buyers will likely still have one as well. The difference now is that there’s nothing left to surprise you.
What Happens After the Home Inspection?
Even homes in the best condition have something wrong with them, whether it’s a window that sticks, an electrical outlet with reverse polarity, or a major issue. In California, purchase contracts state that the property is sold in its present physical (“as is”) condition unless the parties have agreed to any repairs in the contract. (Section 1 termite repairs are frequently included in the purchase agreement.) Despite the “as is” nature of the contract, it allows the buyer to make “reasonable repair requests” of the seller during the contractual contingency period. Buyers may request that sellers make repairs, that they provide a credit in lieu of repairs, that they adjust the sales price, or some combination of those options. Sellers then have the option of responding and negotiating to reach a mutual agreement regarding the request. If the parties aren’t able to reach an agreement, then the buyer has the option of cancelling the contract.
Tips for Home Buyers
Understand that no home is perfect and expect that the inspection report will reveal problems with your home. Even brand-new homes have problems. Know that the home is not required to meet today’s code in order to sell it and that the seller is not required to make any repairs. They’re not even required to respond to your request. If you focus on the most important issues, you are more likely to be successful in negotiating a satisfactory agreement than if you ask for a long laundry list of repairs.
Tips for Home Sellers
Problems with your home are not problems with you. As long as you’re flexible and responsive, most buyers will be happy. If they’ve decided to buy your house, they want it to work too. If you do receive a request for repairs or a credit, don’t dismiss it out of hand. A skilled Realtor can usually help you negotiate a solution that will be a win-win for you and the buyer. Ask yourself what you would want the seller to do if you were buying the home.
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