The Value of a Home Inspection
by Teresa Larson, Village Real Estate, Murray, Utah
20+ years real estate experience
March 6, 2015, updated March 27,2018
When you are buying a house one of the first things you get done after you have finalized the contract with the seller is get an inspection on the home. This is done by a qualified inspector and should not be confused with the appraiser. As appraisers do an inspection also. The appraisers inspection is ordered by the bank to determine and substantiate value. The difference is in the detail given and the time the inspector spends at the property looking at and evaluating the condition of the property. Inspectors spend 2-4 hours or more depending on the size of the home. Appraisers spend less than a half hour to one hour! Sort of crazy right? After all the appraiser is the one who gets to say what the actual value of the property is. The appraiser does a quick limited mechanical and visual inspection while the inspector does a complete mechanical of all the components. The inspector does not have to substantiate value. The inspector also gets down and dirty. It might be safe to say the appraiser does not! The inspector checks crawl spaces and attics and looks for potential problems that a typical buyer would be unaware of. Make sure when you hire an inspector you know exactly what they are going to inspect and check their pricing. Most inspectors expect to be paid at the inspection by the buyer. The fees range from $250-$800 depending on the inspection you have done. A typical home inspection; the inspector will arrive and go to work checking things out making notes on his computer as the inspection goes forward. The buyers usually come the last 30minutes to hour of the inspection along with their agent. The inspector goes through everything he has found out about the property. Most inspectors do not mind if the buyer is there the whole time if that is your preference. Inspectors will either email and or mail you a copy of the inspection. Some have printers they bring and give you a copy of the report on the spot.
Purpose of the Inspection
A home inspection is to help the buyer understand the property they are buying. It is the best way to know what you are getting as far as the condition and potential concerns. When you have an inspection done you shouldn’t be thinking that you will use it to tally up all the little things and beat the seller down in price. A good inspector will point out a lot of things part of this is to educate a buyer in what is involved in taking care of a home. If you find a legitimate concern that definitely affects the value of the property you are buying this is the time to have your agent notify the sellers agent in writing of your desires. Do you want the property for less? Do you want them to fix the problem? The seller does not have to do anything but you can ask. Sometimes seller will help you out and fix things. You can also just get out of your contract if this is something you do not want to deal with. You need to do this within the time frame specified in your contract for due diligence. Talk to your real estate agent about this during the process.
Houses that Have Been Flipped
You might be buying a home that has been renovated with new appliances, counter tops, paint and carpet. Yes it looks nice and new but remember that prior to the fix up it may have been treated badly and not kept up at all by a previous owner. It might have been vacant for several years. What about the plumbing, furnace, hot water heater, roof and more! As a buyer you have an inspection to find out the physical condition of the property from a third party professional who is trained to make a condition assessment of the roof, walls, and foundation; the condition of the plumbing, electrical, mechanical, heating and air conditioning systems and fixtures. They also look for geological problems. These are all things usually looked at during a general home inspection. They only dabble in some of these things meaning they are not experts in geographic conditions but they can make notes if they see a possible problem that they believe is from ground movement, water and so on. They will suggest that you get other more detailed inspections if they have concerns Inspectors can also test for the presence of lead based paint , methane gas, mold and termites in the home. These tests are usually at an extra cost. When you are checking out inspectors make sure you are clear on what is included and how much the extra cost .
Home inspections are full of disclaimers. This is the norm these days. Roofs would be a good example of this. An inspector might say. The roof has been patched in a few places or has a some shingles missing. They usually recommend a roof inspection from a roofing contractor. If you are getting an FHA or Utah housing loan the roof will need to have at least 3 years of life left in it. As some inspectors have gone through their reports with me I wondered why we even got the inspection! They say things like this works an example would be; on the furnace they check for cracked and leaky chambers, clogged burners and dirty conditions giving you the details of what they find. But then they put in a disclaimer and say check with an HVAC company. The truth is they cannot be held responsible for things they didn’t notice and some things you just simply do not know until they break.
Choose a Professional Inspector
Considering disclaimers it would be a good idea to hire someone that has good credentials such as engineering degree and or general construction license. Someone who knows about properties and construction. Current certifications through inspection association and state business licensing boards are important to check for. Your real estate agent can give you a list of local inspectors that have done good work in the past for other clients. This can help aid in your selection of an inspector.
One thing that inspectors usually never check is sprinklers, sewer and water lines outside the home. In older homes large trees and roots can play havoc on sewer and water lines. If the home is old enough the pipe lines outside just corrode so these are things you need to find out if they have been checked recently or replaced by the seller.
Types of Inspections:
General Home Inspection- The inspector will make a condition assessment of the roof, walls, and foundation; the condition of the plumbing, electrical, mechanical, heating and air conditioning systems and fixtures. They also look for geological problems.
Some homes are going to require different additional types of inspections. Based on the age of the home you are buying will determine the kind of additional inspection’s that might be needed.
HVAC- some older homes still do not have their green tags which are required a home inspector cannot give a green tag only an HVAC person can. The furnace and hot water heater have to meet certain standards. A Green tag is an adhesive sticker placed on your space- and water-heating natural gas appliances by a licensed and certified1 heating contractor. The Green Sticker verifies these natural gas appliances have been properly derated (adjusted) to safely burn natural gas at your altitude. All natural gas space- and water-heating appliances need a Green Sticker indicating that they have been checked and, if necessary, adjusted to properly burn local natural gas supplies. If not properly adjusted, these appliances may produce excess carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless and tasteless gas that is poisonous and can cause serious injury or, in extreme cases, even death.
Roofing- Your general inspector might recommend a roof inspection if they feel that there is not 3-5 years of life left in the roof.
Site inspections- Might need to be completed by a structural engineer, or a soil report could be completed by a local geologist if the site is in question. We have areas in our valley that have had problems with earth movement. General inspectors will look for red flags in the foundation and cracks in the house.
Exterior water lines and sewer inspections- One thing that inspectors usually never check is sprinklers. Exterior water lines and sewers lines should be checked in homes that are built prior to the 1970’s. In older homes large trees and roots can play havoc on sewer and water lines. If the home is old enough the pipe lines outside just corrode so these are things you need to find out if they have been checked recently or replaced by the seller. Companies like Roto Rooter can help with sewer line inspections.
Good Realtors Always Recommend Home Inspections
Get some advice from your Realtor about the process and what kind of inspections might be needed. Do this early in your process so you have enough time to work through the due diligence process. Make a decision on what kind of inspections you think you will need based on the home you are buying and the area you are buying in. A good place to start is with a general home inspection done by a certified inspector. Let them make additional suggestions if needed as they look at the property and conduct their inspection. The value in the inspection is that it will help you substantiate the purchase and help you understand the importance of maintaining a home properly.
©Teresa O Larson PC, 2005-2015