If you’re buying or selling a home, it’s important to understand what a home inspection entails and how it affects the sale or purchase of a house.
What Is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is an objective visual examination of the structure and systems of a home by a neutral third party. Basically, it shows you what’s wrong with the property, if anything, and if it is serious enough to prevent a sale. (Note: An inspection does not concern code violations and therefore does not guarantee that the home is free of them.) Home inspectors usually use terms like pass/fail, adequate/inadequate, poor/average/above-average, and sufficient/insufficient.
The three main points of the inspection are to evaluate the physical condition of the home, identify items in need of repair or replacement, and estimate the remaining useful life of the major systems, equipment, structure and finishes. Home inspectors will test a dishwasher by running a rinse cycle, test a microwave by turning it on for five seconds, test an oven or the burners by turning them on but they do not place dishes in the dishwasher and grade dish cleanliness, or boil water on a burner or cook something in a microwave, nor will they bake a turkey in the oven and report on its ability to hold temperature.
An inspector cannot report on defects that are not visible, such as defects hidden behind finished walls or beneath carpeting, and inaccessible areas. Seasonally inoperable systems (swamp coolers, air conditioning, underground sprinklers, etc.) will not be turned on during the inspection, unless weather permits testing. If you're concerned about particular tests being administered I recommend you talk with your home inspector.
Hiring an Inspector
To hire an inspector, get recommendations from your Agent, or from friends and family. You can also find home inspectors in the phone book under “Home Inspection Services.” When interviewing inspectors, be sure to ask for references and memberships in professional associations. Montana does not require any license or certification to be a home inspector but there are some major organizations recognized for offering certification. Some endorsements to look for can be NACHI, AHIT, ASHI and others Find out about the inspector’s professional training and experience.
It’s a good idea to meet your inspector following the inspection for a few reasons: You can ask the inspector questions, the inspector will have the opportunity to point out areas of potential trouble, and many inspectors also will offer maintenance tips. Some people suggest a buyer or homeowner to be present during the entire inspection. I disagree with this notion because home inspectors, like any professional, employ methodical processes and precise measurements, and any home inspector required to explain every test and system, while doing their inspection, will most likely become irritated. We need to all realize home inspectors inspect homes, they are not hired to explain how systems work, nor educate you about the sprinkler system, or show you how to change the furnace filter. If you want to know about home systems, roofs, insulation, water heaters, furnaces, electrical, plumbing, etc. then you need to hire professional tradespeople, or do some reading. I like HomeAdvisor.
Making Suggested Repairs
The seller is not required to make any repairs or replacements. However, the buyer can use the inspection report as a negotiating tool. For instance, if certain repairs or replacements are made, the buyer might offer to pay more, or if they’re not, the buyer can bid lower and, in most cases, the buyer can terminate the transaction if they are unhappy with the inspection results or, the parties are unable to come to an agreement about what issues are addressed and who is going to pay for the repair(s).
Costs and Time Involved
The inspector’s most important priority is accuracy, and accuracy takes time. The chances of mistakes are more likely if the inspector rushes through. Your inspection may take between two and five hours. Older homes take longer than newer ones. If you decide to test for radon your home inspector will usually place a radon-sensing machine in your home for 3 days. Radon testing is not included in a typical home inspection cost, so be prepared to pay $75 - $100 for this test. Expect your inspection to cost from $300 - $400 depending on size. It may be one of the most important investments you make when buying a home. You can also ask the seller(s) to provide a home warranty to ease any anxiety you might have.