Is the house cute? Will our furniture fit? Can we afford it? These are all important when buying a home, but once you pick the house and have your offer accepted, the next thing you will want to do is get a home inspection done to help you understand what condition the home is in. Let's talk a little about what a home inspection is, why you need one, and what to do with the information from a home inspection report.

A home inspection is a limited, non-invasive examination of the condition of a home. Home inspections are usually conducted by a licensed home inspector who has the experience, training and certification to perform such inspections. The home inspector describes the condition of the home at the time of inspection, but does not guarantee future condition, efficiency, or life expectancy of systems or components, but can give you an idea of life expectancy of the components and tell you if it may be at the end of its useful life.

Common areas of concern (usually the most expensive items) include the condition of:

  • Roof - How old is it? What condition is it in?
  • Exterior siding
  • Water Heater
  • Heating and Air Conditioning systems
  • Foundation and exterior grading problems
  • Electric systems and panels
  • Plumbing issues - that can be seen without cutting open a wall
  • Windows and doors - broken seals? Not working properly?

These items are not just cosmetic things that any buyer can see, like holes in a wall, or scuffed up paint or missing cabinet doors, but a more in-depth look at items that most buyers may not know enough about.

What do I do with the information from a home inspection report? First of all it is very important to understand that there is no "pass" or "fail" grade on a home inspection. It is only the facts on each home on the day it was inspected. What you do with the information is what counts. Depending on what you are paying for the house you may decide the items of concern are things you can deal with after you close. Many items are minor and should not be a deal breaker. No house is perfect. If there are some major items of concern that are likely to cause you expenses that you had not counted on after closing, you and your Realtor can negotiate the price of the home accordingly, or request that the seller fix the items that are of the most importance.

Most reports have photos to help point out the items of concern. We also encourage buyers to show up at the end of the inspection to go over the findings in person. If the buyer is out of town, their Realtor should attend the inspection. The inspector can also point out how things work in your new home, and give you maintenance tips as well.

Your Realtor can give you names of home inspectors for you to consider, but you have the final say on who you want to hire. Whoever you decide on should be a certified and licensed inspector that adheres to the standards of practice in your state. They should also carry insurance (Errors and Omissions) and be a member of professional affiliations such as ASHI, which require and offer continuing education for its members. Lastly, ask about previous experience - a background in construction or engineering is preferable.

Your inspector should be available to you after the inspection report is delivered to answer any questions you might have. The most important thing to remember is to RELAX. The inspection is just another tool for you to use as a buyer to make informed decisions about your purchase.