The real estate market has been red-hot in the Idaho Falls area in the last few months. Many people have taken advantage of the increased time that they have on their hands during the national lockdown to follow through on long-held ambitions to move into a new home.
With the market being so buoyant, real estate agents are currently seeing a crazy rush to exchange contracts before someone in the chain decides to pull out. That leads to an alarmingly high number of people who are choosing to forgo doing a home inspection on their new real estate purchase.
In this article, we will give you the definitive guide to home inspections and why not doing one is a seriously unwise thing to do when buying a house.
Along the way, we will explain what a typical home inspection encompasses, as well as how much they usually cost and what you should look for from a home inspection company.
This will hopefully give you all the information that you need to make sure that you are getting exactly what you pay for and there are no unpleasant surprises awaiting you after you move in.
What Is a Home Inspection?
Before we move onto discussing the ins and outs of home inspections in any depth, it is first helpful to arrive at a general consensus regarding what a home inspection actually is.
In basic terms, a home inspection refers to a limited and non-invasive inspection of the condition of a building. In the vast majority of cases, home inspections are performed in relation to the sale of a home or commercial building.
Home inspections are performed by experienced home inspectors who are certified in their fields. Home inspection companies are typically hired by the buyer to check that everything is as it should be in the property that they are looking to buy. When the home inspection process has been carried out, the inspector will prepare and deliver a written report that lays out the comprehensive results of the inspection.
A home inspection report gives an in-depth description of the condition of a home. However, it stops short of providing the buyer with a guarantee of the future condition of the structure and the systems that make up the home.
Why Is a Home Inspection So Important?
Essentially, home inspections are important because the condition of the home is a key factor which determines its valuation. A home inspection gives the buyer a crucial opportunity to identify any serious issues with a property before closing the deal.
Most prospective real estate sale contracts include a contingency clause which is built to accommodate the results of a home inspection. This clause basically allows a buyer to back out of the deal or renegotiate a price with no penalty should the results of the home inspection reveal any significant defects.
Without the security of a home inspection report, a buyer runs the risk of purchasing a defective building and then being saddled with a building that is subject to problems that are not easy or cheap to fix. In some cases, the cost and hassle involved in repairing serious issues that can turn up in a home inspection cause may mean that the buyer elects to pull out completely rather than commit to tackling them.
What Are the Different Parts of a Home Inspection?
A home inspection will typically be performed in accordance with a set checklist. The home inspector will do as thorough a job at inspecting each of the items on the checklist without physically moving things around or touching anything that is not completely necessary.
On the home inspection checklist, you will find the following items to be reviewed by the inspector:
During a home inspection, the inspector is under instruction to inspect the current state of the heating system. After noting the energy source, heating method (heat pump, furnace, boiler, etc.) and the location of the heating system’s thermostat, the inspector will verify that the heating system operates as it is supposed to. The inspector will also make a note of whether the heating system and controls are accessible, as well as whether there are any visible venting issues or hazards.
Central Air Conditioning System
Home inspection services are also required to inspect a house’s air conditioning system. The final report to be presented to the buyer will contain a description of the cooling method and location of the thermostat(s) in the home. The inspector will be granted access to the cooling system’s controls in order to verify that the cooling system is operational as well as accessible.
A standard air conditioning check involves a temperature check of the external unit to make sure that it is not frozen and is warm enough to operate. The refrigerant lines are checked for insulation, the fins are inspected to see if they are clear of debris and dirt, and the unit is checked to see that it is level. The inspector will turn the unit on to check that the fan is running and the unit is not too noisy.
Interior Plumbing and Electrical Systems
Home inspections are obligated to verify that the interior water supply is functional. This includes an inspection of the faucets, fixtures and water heating equipment to make sure that it functions according to minimum standards set out by the American Society of Home Inspectors.
The inspector will also check the drains, vent and waste systems that make up the plumbing of the home. Also included in the final report is information regarding the materials used in the water supply system as well as details regarding the location of the main water shutoff valve.
The home’s electrical system is examined to verify that it is grounded. The state of the electrical equipment and entrance conductors are also noted, as well as whether or not the house has ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) outlets. Part of the inspection will include checking whether breaker range is suitable for running the house’s heating and cooling appliances.
When buying a home, you need to be sure that the roof is in good condition. To the untrained eye, it is often difficult to detect issues with a roof, but you should be aware that replacing sections, surfaces or an entire roof can represent a significant outlay once you have acquired the property.
Home inspectors are trained to recognize the telltale signs of rot and water infiltration that usually indicate the presence of more serious roofing issues. They will note down the presence of water stains under the roof, water-damaged fascia boards, missing roof tiles and water stains on the ceiling of upstairs rooms.
Some home inspection services these days will look to secure permission to fly a drone equipped with a camera over the building to ensure that there are no potential issues that are not visible from ground level.
Attic and Insulation
Where possible, the inspector will enter the attic to check for signs of damp and rot. This should give the buyer a relatively good indication of what general state the roof is in and whether it is going to need attention now or in the near future.
While in the attic, the inspector will also check the state and type of insulation. Insulation is rated using an index system that rates insulation according to its R-value. The higher the R-value, the better and more efficient the insulation is at trapping heat.
Inspection of the attic space will include a wildlife infestation check. Depending on the climate where the home is located, the inspector will be looking for signs of termites, woodworm, birds, rats or mice.
Walls and Ceilings
Home inspections are required to contain an appraisal of the condition of internal and external walls. The condition of the interior walls is especially important for calculating the value of the property.
Interior wall inspection comprises a thorough examination of the surfaces of the wall to check for any damage like cracks, holes, uneven patches and bulging plaster. The type of wall (drywall, plaster and lath, etc.) is of central interest for the final report. The presence and condition of the baseboard are also noted at this point.
While performing the inspection, the inspector will also make a note of the type and state of the interior ceilings. Ceilings are inspected carefully for signs of sagging. In doing so, they will point out any surfaces they consider should be subjected to an asbestos test.
Flooring is one of the most important items in a home inspection, be it laminate, tile, stone, concrete, vinyl, carpet or wood. Aside from superficial and cosmetic damage, the inspector will look to check whether the flooring has been exposed to water at any point in time.
This is especially important if the real estate is located in an area that is known to be prone to flooding. The presence of water or damp on the floor can compromise the quality of the finish and is often indicated by uneven or bumpy areas on wooden or laminate flooring.
Doors and Window
The type and age of the doors and windows in a home will be of central concern to the buyer given that they can determine the overall energy efficiency of the home. A note will be made of the type of the windows and doors in the house (sash, casement, sliding, awning, fixed) and whether they are single- or double-glazed.
A home inspector will take care to check that the mechanical parts on windows and doors, such as hinges, sliding parts, seals and locks, are all in good working order. If window frames are made of wood, their general condition will be examined closely to check for signs of rot.
The foundation of a home is a vitally important area to inspect. It is the main support for the building, and if there are any problems with it that are not caught early, it can be extremely expensive to repair.
As the buyer, you make your home inspector responsible for checking (as far as is possible) the state of the crawl space, joists, footing and foundations that lie beneath the house.
Although an in-depth assessment of a home’s foundation is impossible in many cases due to the fact that the majority is located underneath the building and is sunken into the ground, a quick inspection at the base of the external wall should be enough to detect any serious damage or decay that may need costly repairs now or at a later date.
A proper home inspection will include an assessment of the basement. While inspecting the basement, a home inspector will be looking for a number of things. First, they will look for signs of mold and mildew, which is usually indicated by a musty or stale odor. The presence of this odor can be a sign that there is water present in the basement.
In addition, the inspector will look for signs like peeling paintwork or water stains, which can both also indicate the presence of water under the floor. Residual water is a signpost for potential water damage to the foundation of the building and is also indicated by the efflorescence, a white, powder deposit left on brickwork or stone when water evaporates into the surrounding environment.
Finally, the inspector will spend some time making sure that the building is structurally sound. This means verifying the integrity of the wooden framing, the underside of the house and the roof structure. Although a home inspector will not check the structure in the same level of detail as a structural engineer, they will still be able to detect any serious problems that will cost the buyer dearly if not addressed.
What to Look For in a Home Inspection Service?
Once you have decided to go ahead with a home inspection, you will need to find a service that fits your circumstances. As a rule of thumb, there are a few things that a home buyer should look for in a home inspection service:
- Comprehensive – Seek assurances that the final report will contain inspection results related to each one of the categories mentioned in the previous section. Any service that does not do this should be avoided.
- Experienced – Look for a home inspection service that is well-established. You will want to check that the home inspector that you will be trusting with your inspection has at least a few years’ experience on the job.
- Licensed – Clients should verify that a home inspector has a wide range of professional qualifications to ensure that they perform an inspection in accordance with industry standards. You should check the licensing requirements for home inspection services in your jurisdiction and then verify that all the required accreditation is in place.
- Promptness – It is probable that you are going to be under a deal of pressure to complete your inspection so that the deal can be finalized. As a result, you will need to find a home inspection service that works quickly and can do the inspection at relatively short notice. Make sure to agree upon a date by which the final report is to be delivered.
- Professional – It sounds obvious, but you should look for an inspection service that runs in a professional way. Other than trusting your own intuition, you may want to do a bit of digging online to check the testimonials of a company’s previous clients.
- Communication – Look for a service that has excellent communication capabilities. This is vital since you will need to know exactly what comes up in the inspection in relatively simple terms to help you make a final decision on whether you are going to complete the purchase or whether you need to renegotiate or even pull out. At the end of the day, you will need the service to provide you with a report that is straightforward to understand.
- Equipment – Each part of the home inspection requires specialist equipment if it is going to be completed to the accuracy that is required to help you make a decision. Check that your home inspector has access to a full range of home inspection tools, including a flashlight, an electrical tester, a moisture meter, an infrared thermometer and carbon monoxide and radon detectors.
How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?
The price of a home inspection can vary significantly depending on the location, size and age of a home. However, a buyer should be prepared to pay a minimum of between $300 and $450 for watertight home inspection service from a reputable company on a property with a total floor space area of 2,000 square feet.
For homes that are larger than this, it is not unusual for the total price for an inspection to reach $500-$600, especially if additional inspections for mold or termites are required.
How Long Does a Home Inspection Take?
When it comes to home inspections, how quickly you can arrange to have one done with a home inspection company will depend on the company and the level of demand at the time. As a general rule, it is wise to book an appointment as soon as you can after signing the contract in order to have access to the final report before the end of the termination period agreed upon in the contingency clause.
A home inspection itself is a rather extensive process. The duration of the inspection depends largely on the size of the home and the complexity of the systems within it, but the entire process is usually completed in between two and three hours. When the inspection has been completed, you can expect to be presented with the final report in a few days to a week.
What Happens If a Serious Issue Is Discovered During a Home Inspection?
In the event that a serious issue is detected as a result of a home inspection, there are two basic courses of action that are usually followed by buyers: renegotiation and withdrawal.
Looking for a new home is a process that involves emotion and effort. Many people feel an attachment to a new home before they move in, having invested time planning for life living in a new home with new surroundings.
Not only this, but in most cases, buyers will have already invested significant sums in agency fees and the home inspection itself. Then, when something serious like a safety issue turns up in the home inspection report, this can lead to a reluctance to pull out of the deal completely. Instead, buyers tend to prefer to renegotiate the price with the seller.
In many cases, a mutual agreement can be reached to sell at a price which takes into account the amount of money that will need to be spent in order to resolve the issue uncovered in the home inspection.
However, if the buyer is still within the agreed-upon contingency period, they may decide that the problem is going to be too difficult or costly to resolve and decide to terminate the sale contract. The same often happens if the buyer and seller fail to reach an agreement on how much the price should be discounted in light of the issue.
Home Inspections: The Final Word
As any real estate agent will tell you, stories abound of unwitting homebuyers who look to cut corners by forgoing a home inspection before purchasing a piece of real estate only to later discover that the presence of a serious issue that ends up costing them an arm and a leg to resolve.
This is why we cannot recommend hiring the services of an experienced home inspection service before you close a deal on a new home. The cost that you will pay for the inspection is often recouped when you are able to knock down the selling price, and the peace of mind that you gain from eliminating any potential skeletons in the closet is priceless.