By Penny Shreve
Have you ever bought a vehicle? Chances are you spent time checking it out looking under the hood, cranking it up and driving before you put down the cash.
“Why then, would you not have a home inspection done before buying a house?” asks Kevin Shreve of Shreve Home Inspection in Fairfield, Illinois. In some situations, an inspection may be required before the transaction is finalized. But even if it’s not, it would be wise to have an inspection before you legally loop yourself into buying a house.
The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) is the nations oldest professional society of home inspectors. ASHI fosters customer awareness and the importance of quality home inspections. After the inspection is complete, you should receive a written report on the findings within a week.
“Buying a home is a major expense. Do you really want to make such a purchase before finding out if a major unforeseen repair expense lies ahead of you?” asked Shreve. In most states disclosure laws require sellers to reveal problems that exist, but not all states require disclosing known defects. “What if they are dishonest or if there are problems they aren’t aware of?”
Don’t assume that because a house is relatively new, it’s in good shape. “I’ve seen 100-year-old homes that were in better condition than a house that was 20 or 25 years old,” said Shreve, who has performed nearly 500 inspections during his five-year tenure.
A good inspector will not only check major components of the house like heating, cooling, electric, plumbing, garage, kitchen, bathrooms, grounds and foundation. They will examine the attic, roof, basement and perhaps most importantly, the crawlspace, which will reveal what’s going on at the home’s foundation.
“The crawlspace is critical,” Shreve said. “In one home I found that all of the ductwork had been disconnected and removed. Had my client bought the house, they would have turned on the furnace when it got cold, and all the heat would have blown into the crawlspace instead of the house. That’s one of those worst-case scenarios that you need to know about.”
If you are considering hiring a home inspector, be sure they are licensed in your state, if licensure is required. They should be able to provide you with their license number, and you should be able to verify it through your state’s Division of Professional Regulation (or similar organization). But the best way to find out if an inspector is good is to ask people he has worked with. An established Realtor is a good place to start.
A home inspection isn’t an appraisal. It is a limited, visual inspection of the general overall condition of a house. If you are concerned about mold or termites be sure to ask your inspector if they assess those areas. Some inspectors are qualified to check out specialty areas, and if they do, there fee may be higher. Some do not perform such services, but most can recommend someone who does.
If you are buying a house, you can schedule an inspection on your own. However, if you are getting a mortgage, particularly a government loan, an inspection may be required. Your lending institution should be able to handle arrangements, or your Realtor should be able to recommend an inspector.