Congratulations! Your offer got accepted, escrow is opened, and you’re wiring your deposit tomorrow….so what’s next? This may be the stage where many people encounter a slight level of confusion or unfamiliarity about how to proceed, especially if they are first time home buyers or don't have the proper guidance. Luckily that is easily remedied however, because every aspect of the home buying process is pretty systematically laid out for people to follow. The answer to the question of what youshould be figuring out, is who will you be hiring to conduct your home inspection?
Your home inspection is one of the most essential parts of the purchasing process. Considering that buying a home is probably the single greatest purchase most people will make in their lifetime, how do you ensure that you are protecting yourself and your family from getting duped into buying a money pit that may lead to unwanted headaches? Well to answer that question we need to rewind just slightly to when the purchase contract itself (the offer), is being filled out. It is vitally important to note that you don't EVER want to waive your right to perform an inspection in the paperwork. In a seller’s market like the one we're in now where many properties fetch multiple offers and move quickly, some buyer’s may tend to get wrapped up in the idea of making their offer as desirable as possible and forfeit their rights to aninspection. They're doing this in an effort to put themselves at an advantage over the competition, but they are doing it at a huge potential expense by exposing themselves to a tremendous amount of risk. You never want to forfeit this right because by doing so you are no longer hedged against any unforeseen complications with the property.
The next point of concern then becomes where do you go to find a reputable and reliable home inspector? Probably the best place to start would be to ask your agent for a recommendation. This of course doesn't mean that you blindly accept any name they provide. As with any aspect of buying or selling a home, you always want to do your own due diligence. Ask your agent to suggest a few names (they are required to give you no less than 3 referrals depending on the state you live in), and call eachinspector to discuss their process and prices. Always remember that you are hiring them to look out for your best interest, so don’t necessarily only use the price quote as the single determining factor. It's important that you feel good about working with that inspector as they are going to be performing a critical part of the home buying process. Look up reviews on them (Google and Yelp are your friends), and you sometimes even ask them for references if they'll provide them.
One thing of importance to note: although you want to do the appropriate amount of research before making this decision, it's worth mentioning that you do have somewhat of a limited window (the "contingency period") to get your inspections all handled, so you don't want to get stuck in paralysis by analysis and drag your feet on this. Set aside some time after your offer has been accepted to get this accomplished. Interview at least three inspectors to get an idea of their approach, background, certification, cost and turnaround time for the report. A bad inspector can cause a lot of confusion, and even in some instances cost you the house (we've seen it happen), so spend the time necessary to figure this element of the process out, and then commit to someone and set the appointment date.
Ok so let's now fast forward a bit to inspection day. One question that I get asked a lot from clients is, “Do I need to be there during the inspection?” Although not mandatory, my answer is always a resounding “YES!". I like to strongly advise clients to put aside some time to be there for the process, because not only will they understand how it's done for future reference, but they will gain some valuable insight about the home. That's not to say that it's required for you to be there for the entirety of the inspection (which generally takes 1-2 hours depending on the size of the home), but I do like to advise clients to show up for at least the last 20-30 minutes or so. This way, you'll catch the tail end of the inspection and the most important part of it all: where the inspector will review with you all of his findings.
The inspection itself is very thorough and detailed, which is all laid out in the "Inspection Report". This report can range anywhere from just a few pages to over 60 pages (there are sometimes a lot of photos of the property the inspector will reference so it can add to the document size). Its good to go over any of the concerns either right there in person, or a little later in the event the seller is present and you don't want to discuss things in front of them. Here's the most important part of all of this: ASK QUESTIONS. Now's the time to ask Mr. Inspector any and everything you want to know about the place. You paid this person to do a detailed and intensive inspectionfrom top to bottom of the property, so make sure all matters of concern are discussed.
After the inspection report is received, you need to sit down and talk to your agent about the how to handle any repairs (if any need to be addressed). If present, safety concerns are the main issues that should definitely be dealt with as the priority. You do not however want to be “nit-picking” every single little item that the inspectorremarks on either. If you're buying a home that's previously been lived in (which most people are), just remember that there might be some minor blemishes here and there from the previous owner inhabiting the home. Very few lived-in homes get delivered in absolutely brand new, immaculate condition. Most of those can be remedied with a little time and some elbow grease.
It is the responsibility of the agent throughout this entire process to be using their expertise in explaining to you the way the requests for any repairs should be handled. Sometimes, its better to have the seller credit the buyer the costs for the repairs, and have the buyer have their own contractor take care of the work, instead of demanding that the seller fix them before the property exchanges hands. Doing it this way ensures escrow isn't held up, and you can also choose your own contractor to ensure the work is done by someone of the your choice, rather than the seller's.
This is of course on a case by case basis and depends on the severity of the repair, so you and your agent should use your discretion and better judgement in these instances.
Just remember, even with all the new fancy technological gadgets that inspectors now use and all their years of experience in that line of work, no home inspector can predict ALL of the future problems a house may develop during the time you reside in it. There have been a couple of occasions where we have closed escrow on a property, and within several days after doing so something may've went wrong with the home. You can do everything in your power to try and ensure you're not a victim of this same scenario, but from time to time in rare instances it may happens. It's even happened to me personally on a couple of homes I've bought in the past.
As a buyer, your objective is to always do your best to be knowledgeable and informed of the investment you are making. You probably wouldn't purchase a car without getting it checked first by a mechanic, would you? So then why not take that same level of precaution when you are buying a home? Better safe than sorry.
A great site to visit in order get more information on home inspectors that are ASHI Certified (American Society of Home Inspectors) is HomeInspectors.org. Doing this in conjunction with asking for referrals and looking up reviews can guide you in the right direction to picking the best home inspector for your property.