Buying a home is likely one of the biggest financial commitments you’ll ever make. It can also often be one of the most exciting. But before you plunk down your hard-earned cash on that house of your dreams, it makes sense to carefully check out exactly what you’re getting yourself into. The best place to start is by hiring a professional home inspector to conduct an objective evaluation. You can then make your offer conditional upon being satisfied with the results of the inspection.
What can you expect to learn?
According to The Home Inspection Network, a division of Brookfield RPS that provides a service connecting buyers and sellers with home inspection services across the country, a home inspection is an in-depth, visual examination and evaluation of the accessible structure (inside and out) and all major systems of the house. It also identifies structural problems or other defects, and notes any repairs that may be needed and what the associated costs will most likely be.
The main items examined in a home inspection are:
- Exterior of the home’s site/lot
- Building’s foundation
- Exterior walls of the home
- Roof coverings, flashings and gutters
- Roof support structure
- Electrical system
- Plumbing system
- Central air and heating system
Items normally not included in a home inspection include:
- The cosmetic or aesthetic features of a home
- Swimming pools and spas
- Fireplaces and other wood burning devices
- Systems such as the telephone, cable TV, alarm systems and lawn sprinklers
There are services that will inspect some of the above, so it is worthwhile asking an inspector beforehand if you want any of them to be included. Pricing can vary depending on the type, size and age of the home and if any specialty services are added.
It’s important to know that a home inspection can’t detect every possible flaw. It’s not a warranty that things will not break down at a future date, although some firms do offer warranty protection options for purchase. It’s also not an appraisal of the value of the home – a service provided by real estate appraisers, usually to determine the value on behalf of lenders. In general, home inspectors only inspect areas and items that can be seen and they can’t see through the foundation, floors or walls. The Home Inspection Network cautions that, “Unlike what you may have seen on TV, an inspector cannot knock down a wall to see what is inside it!”
A home inspection is, however, a valuable tool that can help you be aware of what costs, repairs and maintenance the home may require immediately, and over time. Hiring a home inspector to provide you with an independent assessment can help ensure you buy with both your head and your heart.