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  • Scott Westfall

Homebuyer's Complete Guide to Home Inspections

Getting ready to purchase a house? Home inspections are an important part of the process, and this complete guide will help you prepare and invest with confidence.

Home inspections are designed to identify material defects with a property that would have an adverse impact on the value of the home.

Congrats! Your competitive offer on a new home has been accepted by the seller. Now what?

When an offer has been accepted, the next step is typically to schedule a home inspection to make sure there are no unforeseen issues with the property. This is an essential step to protect the home buyer’s investment during the sale process.

Keep reading as we answer all your questions regarding home inspections and as always, don’t hesitate to reach out for further assistance from our Hampton Roads local experts here at CGP Real Estate.

Table of Contents

What is a home inspection?

Home inspections are designed to identify material defects of a property that would adversely impact the value of the home or the buyer’s overall monetary investment. This can sound scary to someone buying a house, but it’s an important step in protecting the buyer.

A home inspection is intended to assist a buyer in evaluating the overall condition of a property before finalizing the contract. That way, if something is wrong with the house, the buyer isn’t locked into the contract just because they didn’t know about the defect before.

Don't confuse home inspections with house appraisals.

Should I get a home inspection?

The home inspection is that key element to give you peace of mind in your purchase. With a professional assessment, you can confidently move forward with the purchase agreement or determine the house may not be the wisest investment for you at this time.

Don't fall for the myth that, in a competitive housing market like 2024's, skipping a home inspection is a good idea. A home inspection is a powerful tool in the buyer’s tool belt. Savvy buyers will leverage the home inspection to:

  • Negotiate repairs with the seller

  • Financially prepare for future repairs and expenses

  • Decide whether this home is the right purchase for them

This is a crucial step in the home-buying process and one of the most important reasons to work with a licensed professional who will give you an honest assessment.

Thinking of buying a home in 2024? Read this first.

When does a home inspection take place?

This inspection typically occurs during the “due diligence” period of a purchase agreement, a time when the home offer has been accepted, but before you close - until professionals have given the green light on all that the seller has promised. They usually are performed within 5-10 days of your offer being accepted.

An inspection is one of the most common types of contingencies made in a purchase agreement. If any major issues are discovered with the home, you as the buyer can walk away from the deal without penalty at that time.

What should I look for in a home inspector?

An independent home inspection company will be scheduled to assess the property within a few days of contract ratification. The buyer typically chooses the company. If this is your first time buying a home, ask your top real estate professional to recommend a reputable inspector in your area.

Not all home inspectors are created equal. It’s important to choose an inspection company that has experience and is familiar with the specific style and age of the property, property location, and types of materials used to construct the home.

What happens during the house inspection?

Home inspections take approximately two to four hours, depending on the size and condition of the property. If possible, we highly recommend being present for the entire home inspection. Although you may sit around while the inspector completes the report, you will be able to review their findings with them in person as well as physically see any items of concern.

Inspectors are looking for serious issues with the home, so don’t expect them to comment on any cosmetic defects. In a home inspection, they are assessing only visible items and the functionality of systems on the property. They won’t look behind walls, into ceilings, etc.

Some key things home inspectors are looking at are the integrity of major systems (HVAC, electrical, heat, and water); signs of gross structural issues, and water damage. Any item of concern will likely need further inspection by additional specific professionals for a more detailed and conclusive report.

How much does a home inspection cost?

As a buyer, you can expect to pay an average of $250 to $450 for a standard home inspection. This cost typically does not include more detailed inspections of things like sewer lines and chimneys, or inspections for the presence of moisture, termites, radon, asbestos, or lead. Whether recommended by your home inspector or performed as another layer of protection, these areas should be assessed by a licensed professional in each field.

What questions should I ask my home inspector?

The primary goal of the home inspection is to mitigate the risk of unwanted expenses or unforeseen damages once you own the home. The final report will give you a run-down of repairs that need to be made, allowing you to negotiate with the seller or anticipate what repairs will cost you once you finalize the purchase.

It’s essential to ask lots of questions before, during, and after the inspection. Here are a few vital ones to get you started:

  • How old are the major systems?

    • Major systems include, but are not limited to HVAC, roof, windows, water heater, and kitchen appliances.

    • Ensure your inspector differentiates function versus age of systems as all major systems have a specific life expectancy. Therefore, a system may be deemed functional now, but may be past its life expectancy and will need to be replaced soon at the buyer’s expense.

  • What type of plumbing material was used in the house?

    • This question is significant if the home was built between the late 70’s to mid 90’s. During this time, quest piping was commonly used. Quest piping has been known to fail and should be replaced...which can be costly.

  • Are there any signs of water intrusion or damage in the attic, crawl space or basement?

  • Are there any signs of structural damage (i.e., doors that will not close, cracks in drywall, or brick defects above door frames and windows)?

  • What are the immediate repairs that need to be made to prevent further or future damage to the home?

  • What do you consider major issues with the home? Minor issues?

What is on a home inspection report?

Your home inspector will typically provide you with a report following the physical inspection. Your report may include photographs and detailed descriptions which help to clarify where the inspector went, what was looked at, and the condition of a system or component at the time of the inspections.

The report will list significant deficient components, safety issues, or conditions that need attention, repair, or replacement. It will also detail observations and information regarding less significant or discretionary deficiencies to be aware of.

It is a good idea to read through your home inspection report in full. If there is any item that you do not fully understand, don’t hesitate to reach back out to your inspector with questions.

Bonus: Home Inspections for Sellers

Home inspections aren’t just a tool for buyers - sellers can also order an inspection as they prepare to list their house. A pre-listing home inspection can help a seller avoid the hassle of any deal-breaking discoveries after offers have been made.

Sellers who get a home inspection before they list can better estimate the net proceeds they can make on their home sale. With the report, they will be able to decide if they want to have any necessary work done on the property before they start showing it to potential buyers to secure a higher sales price or sell more quickly.

The Bottom Line

Having a house inspected is a valuable tool for both buyers and sellers. Although home inspections cannot reveal every defect in a home, they are one of the best ways to mitigate risk as a buyer and prepare your home to list as a seller.

Want to know more about home inspections in Hampton Roads? Contact CGP for a free recommendation list of the top home inspection companies in Hampton Roads.


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