Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, the real estate inspection is a vital “make-or-break” juncture early on in the process. Here’s a rundown of what can happen and what to expect.
When the Real Estate Inspection Happens
It most often occurs within a few business days of the home going under contract. This is done for many reasons — a buyer wants to know ASAP if they are going to move forward with the home or not, and the seller does too so they can get back on the market if this deal goes south. Inspectors are accustomed to working on quick turnaround times, so that’s normally not an issue.
What to Expect During the Inspection
Regardless of the age of a home, there are always things that will come up. After all, the inspector’s job is to inspect — and no home is perfect, even new construction. Since we know that there will be things that are found, the question is: what will be discovered and how important/detrimental is it? A cracked tile or a dirty furnace is a far cry from a bad foundation or mold run amuck. Do not expect that nothing will be found, and be sure to discuss the findings and best way to take action with your attorney and broker.
The inspection is also (by far) the single longest single period of time that you will have free and unrestricted access to the home. Do not waste the time you have there. Take measurements, get quotes from painters or other trades if needed, and if you have family that wants to see the home now is the time.
The Aspects of a Home that get Inspected
There are many things that an inspector should check. Here is a list of some of the most common things reviewed, broken down into three categories: condos, single-family homes, and what’s always done regardless of the home type.
All inspections should include a review of:
- Electrical panel and outlets
- Mechanicals: furnace/boiler, air conditioning, water heater
- Appliances: stove, microwave, dishwasher, fridge, washer/dryer
- Plumbing: toilets, sinks, showers
- Checking for moisture/leaks — both visually and using testing equipment, both inside and outside the home
- The nuts & bolts: doors, windows, cabinets, light fixtures
- All potential safety items
- A review of the side of the structure (tuckpointing, vinyl siding, etc.)
- A general review of the exterior of the property
Single family homes
- Roof, including the chimney, flashing and parapets walls
- Attic space (some inspectors charge extra for this or don’t do it since it can be challenging, but the good ones always do it and include it)
- Structural integrity
- Sump pump and/or ejector pump
This is a list of the common areas that should be inspected and at no additional cost. As mentioned, some inspectors either refuse to inspect them or will charge extra. Ask them beforehand, and only work with one who will do it as part of their standard cost.
- Storage area
- Basement as a whole
- Common hallways and stairways
- The home’s private deck/porch
- Any maintenance concerns
- Building’s mechanicals
The Quality of the Inspector
Choosing who you use really matters — just as with realtors, there are some good ones and many lousy ones. They should know that this is not your line of work and explain everything in terms a layperson would easily understand. The best ones will be non-judgmental and very straightforward, telling you what they see and why it’s important. If something is done particularly well or particularly poorly, they should show it to you and make sure you clearly understand everything.
Additionally, you should leave the inspection with a very good understanding of the inspector’s overall opinion of the home in relation to all that they’ve seen. Note: inspectors cannot directly tell you to buy or not buy a home. So be sure to listen to what they say about how concerning things might be.
The real estate inspection is not something to skimp on. Getting your cousin who’s a handyman or your old college pal who does some construction to take a look so you can “save a few bucks” may be the most expensive lesson you will ever learn. A good inspector will catch things that others miss, which could save you tens of thousands of 💰…
Thanks for Gregg Dimpfl of RFH & Associates for his valuable contributions to this article.