Houses include many complicated systems. They have heating and cooling systems, electrical wiring, plumbing, a roof, siding, windows - you get the idea. No matter how careful you are, you're not going to be able to assess each and every item and system before you buy a home. However, a qualified home inspector can give you a pretty good picture of the overall shape of the home and its parts.
Armed with a report from a qualified inspector, you can make a better-informed decision about your purchase of a home. You can proceed with the transaction as planned, ask the seller to make some repairs or concessions, or terminate the sales contract.
What does an inspection cover?
A home inspection is a visual examination of the structure and systems of your home. A typical home inspection covers the electrical, heating, and air-conditioning systems; plumbing; roof; interior walls and ceilings; insulation; windows; doors; and foundation. It usually does not include septic systems, swimming pools, and hot tubs. Keep in mind that if an inspector cannot access a particular area, such as a very steep roof, he won't be able to inspect it.
Time it right
Most buyers contact a home inspector immediately after signing a purchase contract in order to have the assessment completed before the contract's termination option period expires. That way, you can further investigate any problem with the home and, if the problem is a deal-breaker to you, kill the contract without penalty. Because of timing involved with the contract and the inspection, do some research and identify more than one potential inspector before you sign a contract on a house in case your first choice is unavailable.
What should I ask?
When looking for a home inspector, start by contacting those recommended by friends and family. No matter how you get the name of a home inspector, you'll want to ask him some questions about his services. Here are some suggestions:
- What is the fee?
- What will the inspection include? Ask for a list of items that are included and excluded.
- How long will the inspection take, and can I attend it? Be wary of an inspector who doesn't want you around.
- What type of training and licenses do you hold? Make sure he's licensed in Texas.
- Will you provide a written inspection report?
- Do you climb onto the roof to inspect it?
- Can you provide a list of references?
- Is there an additional fee to re-inspect the house after repairs have been completed?
Talk to a specialist
A home inspector's job is to find problems, not fix them. If your inspector finds a problem with a house's wiring, call an electrician. You can get an estimate of the cost and severity of the repair and decide how to proceed with your purchase. Be wary of any inspector who finds a plumbing problem and immediately tells you that he's a licensed plumber.
Money well spent
Inspection fees vary depending on the home's location, systems and size. Don't let cost be the sole determining factor. It's more important that the professional you hire has the skill and experience necessary to do the job right.
Talk with your Realtor about the timing of your home inspection and any questions you have about the termination option in your contract. It's unlikely that you'll find a home without any problems - even newly constructed ones typically have flaws - but a home inspection can make you a better-informed homebuyer. Once you know the condition of your dream house, you and your Realtor can discuss how to proceed.
Whether you're interested in buying your first home, your next home, or just want to know more about home-ownership in general, I encourage you to check out a couple of great online resources: http://www.texasrealestate.com/ or http://www.har.com/ and for all of your Pearland TX and Northern Brazoria and Galveston County real estate needs, please visit my site at http://www.danfrankrealty.com/. All of these sites offer tons of useful, real estate-related information geared specifically for Texans.
Danny Frank is a local Pearland TX Real Estate expert!
My column was also published in the 17May09 edition of the Galveston County Daily News