Buying a home can be one of the most important financial investments you will ever make. But how do you know if the house is everything it appears to be?
If the home you are about to purchase does not have the structural integrity to give you peace of mind, you may be buying into a money pit and sleepless nights. A home inspection is one of the smartest ways to educate yourself about the physical condition of a property you want to buy.
A home inspection is a visual inspection of the physical structure and mechanical condition of a home, from roof to foundation. The inspection is designed to identify problems that may exist, advise of repairs needed and, in some cases, provide preventive maintenance advice. A home inspection points out the positive aspects of a home, as well as the maintenance that will be necessary to keep it in good shape.
A home inspector may be a residential architect, structural engineer or building contractor. Home inspectors are not regulated by any federal government agencies, and in many states they do not require licensing. However, structural engineers must be licensed.
It is up to the buyer to ask prospective inspectors questions about their experience and knowledge when deciding whom to hire. When looking for a home inspector, the Better Business Bureau suggests the following general guidelines:
▪ Ask friends, acquaintances and even your real estate professional for recommendations. Be sure to check with the BBB for a business review on any company that you are considering.
▪ Look for someone who is familiar with the type of home to be inspected. Does the inspector specialize in residential or commercial property? Be sure to ask for references and then check with those references. Also ask for proof of insurance.
▪ Be sure to understand costs and what the inspection covers. An inspector is not insuring your home, so ask for a preinspection agreement that will help you understand the depth and limitations of the service. Are appliances inspected? How about HVAC systems?
▪ Ask prospective inspectors questions about their professional training, continuing education, relevant experience and the length of time in business. Find out if the inspector belongs to a professional association for home inspectors. Membership in professional associations may offer added assurance of an inspector’s qualifications and training.
▪ Look for home inspectors who are committed to avoiding conflicts of interest, who refuse to be involved in any real estate transaction or who deliberately obtain repair work that could benefit them financially as a result of their inspection work. This can help you avoid confusion between necessary repairs and optional upgrades.
▪ Be present during the inspection. The majority of inspectors will allow you to tour the home with them and ask questions during or after the inspection. The inspection can last anywhere from two to five hours, depending on the size of the home.
▪ Ask how soon after the inspection you will receive a copy of the home inspection final, written report. Carefully read your home inspection report and make a list of items that need correcting. This will help you to determine your future expenditures for repairs and maintenance. The report will contain useful information that serves as a reference for you in the future.
Home inspections aren’t the equivalent of having a crystal ball, but by doing your homework and hiring a trustworthy inspection company, you can have some peace of mind that your dream home doesn’t turn into a nightmare.
For more trustworthy tips, visit bbb.org.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia & the CSRA Inc., serving 41 counties in central Georgia and the Central Savannah River Area. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at: 1-800-763-4222, website: www.bbb.org or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com