You may be surprised to learn that a home inspection is not required in order to obtain a mortgage. Your bank will, however, require an appraisal, which serves two purposes: 1) it ensures you are not overpaying for the property and 2) it helps identify health and safety issues that will need to be remedied.
Before signing the sales agreement on my current home, I looked at several other homes in the area with my real estate agent. This was my fourth home purchase and, as in the past, I hired a home inspector to look at the property. What I didn’t realize at the time was how important this decision would turn out to be.
Selecting a Home Inspector
Selecting a home inspector is an important decision. Your realtor can provide you with a list of licensed home inspectors in your area. Another great to place to start is Yelp or Angie’s List to check reviews. Once you have narrowed your list of potential candidates, the next thing you will want to do is schedule an interview.
Here are a few interview questions you should ask a potential home inspector:
- How many years experience do you have inspecting residential homes?
- Do you have a current certification with American Society of Home Inspectors or another similar organization?
- Can you provide proof of errors and omissions insurance that can protect me in case you miss something in the inspection?
- Will I be provided a detailed written inspection report?
You will also want to ask your real estate agent to verify that the home purchase agreement contains an inspection contingency clause so that you have the option of canceling the contract if the inspection uncovers serious issues. Having this clause in your contract will allow you to ask the seller to make necessary repairs, which will ultimately save you money.
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Be Present and Have Your Own Inspection Checklist
The average home inspection lasts about 2.5 hours and you will want to be present for the entire inspection. Your home inspector will have a standard checklist of items that they will examine during the inspection, however, there are some things they won’t look at. One of the items that I wanted the inspector to look at was the air conditioner evaporator coil, which is located within the air handling unit. I knew if this wasn’t cleaned regularly, it could be a very expensive item to replace, and since the outdoor condensing coil was poorly maintained, I suspected the entire HVAC system had not been properly taken care of.
I shadowed my inspector during the entire inspection process and we eventually ended up in the attic so that we could inspect the HVAC air handler. When I asked if I could visually inspect the evaporator coil, the inspector hesitated and stated that this is not something that he typically inspects. I insisted that we look at it so we removed the panel, and, as I suspected, the coil was filthy and heavily corroded. Had I not been persistent, this could have been a $1,500 surprise repair bill down the road.
Be Willing to Order Additional Inspections
During the initial walkthrough of the property, I noticed some fresh paint in the garage and under the sink that didn’t match the rest of the home. I thought this was odd, so I shared this red flag with the home inspector. He suggested that we test those areas for moisture. The test results indicated higher than normal moisture in both areas, which can be an indication that mold may be present.
Since I felt that I could negotiate the repairs on the HVAC system with the seller, I decided to shell out the $500 and order a mold test before ruling out this property. This turned out to be a wise investment, as the test results showed mold in the wall space in the garage and kitchen, and the mold spores had become airborne. Remediation costs could easily top $10,000, so this was obviously a deal-breaker. I called my realtor the next day and told him I was no longer interested in the property.
Even though home inspections are not required in order to obtain a mortgage, my experience illustrates how valuable a home inspection can be. By investing in the right home inspections, I was able to avoid a very expensive maintenance nightmare.
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