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I just had my future home inspected; what do all of these issues mean, do they have to be fixed, and what else might be lurking?
Dated: April 20 2021
Demystifying the home inspection for anxious buyers
There was a time, not that long ago, where I would NEVER advise a buyer to forego a home inspection. If you have read my blog before, home inspections are one of the first items we recommend you skip, where appropriate, if you want your offer to be viable in multiple offers. That being said, I also want you to avoid unknowingly moving into a money pit. That means that when possible, you should inspect your new home before buying it. Buying a home can be scary. The home inspection makes it just a little less scary.
Let me demystify the home inspection process for you, so you can make an informed decision about whether or not to include an inspection in your offer.
So what, exactly is a home inspection?
A home inspection is a thorough, top-to-bottom (and sometimes inside and out, and even under!) view of the property. It should be done by a licensed, bonded, and insured inspector. Your inspector should offer a guarantee for their work, as well, in case something gets missed, and there ends up being a failed home inspection. Normally, the home buyer hires the inspector and pays them to do the inspection within a day or two of an offer being accepted.
An inspector checks a home - from the foundation to the roof - for structural integrity and defects. A good inspector will do the following:
- Run all of the appliances and mechanical systems to check for function, age, and defects
- Check the whole electrical system, including switches, outlets, breakers, fuse or breaker box
- Check all plumbing fixtures for function and leaks
- Operate all window treatments, windows, and fans to ensure functionality
- Look for leakages, problems with the roof and siding, and the foundation
In Minnesota, if an inspection contingency has been written into the purchase agreement, any items found during the inspection that weren’t apparent during the home tour, prior to the offer being written, can be addressed by requesting a repair or some sort of monetary settlement to settle the issue. Sometimes an inspector may uncover an item that is so serious that, if buyers and sellers can’t agree on how to resolve the item, can result in a contract being cancelled.
The inspection is a contingency built into a purchase agreement that, in most cases, allows the buyers to walk away and get their earnest money back; buyers don’t have to give a reason.
Here are some of the most common questions people ask me about home inspections:
“What are some of the biggest issues to look out for during an inspection?”
I always tell clients that inspections are for “health and safety” items, and “items they can’t live with.” Inspections are not for cosmetic problems, items that were readily apparent during the buyer’s tour, or items mentioned in the seller’s disclosure statement.
“The inspection showed lots of problems; should I walk away?”
It depends. Most items can be negotiated. Even some big problems can usually be worked out. But sometimes, the problem is just too much or not worth the emotional stress of negotiating it. Trust your real estate agent to do what they excel at: negotiating.
“My inspection showed a lot of things to be fixed; are we taking on too much?”
It is important to me that my clients are in a position to make informed decisions about what they are taking on in a home. That’s why even during the inspection process, I walk around with the inspector and my clients making a list of critical and safety items, plus common home repairs. I put a ‘fix cost’ estimate next to each of those items. After the inspection, I go through the list with my clients and we talk about what’s feasible for them in practical terms and emotional/stress-level terms.
“The inspection showed water damage; how big of a problem might this be?”
I work with some great contractors, including some incredible wet basement and roofing contractors that can bring practical, guaranteed solutions to what may first appear to be an insurmountable problem. Every case is different, but I have never been disappointed, nor have my clients, on a fix that we have offered on even the worst moisture problem in a home.
“The inspection showed things that weren’t disclosed by the seller; what do we do now?”
Luckily, the time to resolve those issues is during the inspection contingency, and you caught them in time! It is obviously a red flag if sellers lied about, obscured, or omitted items that should have been disclosed. You as a buyer can either walk away from the contract or make it part of your inspection repair request. You can even order a “2nd level inspection” on these items to see how bad they are. Once that trust has been broken between a seller and buyer, it is a good idea to move forward with extra due diligence.
Inspection issues underscore the importance of working with a Realtor on the purchase of your new home. They have the knowledge, experience, and responsibility as your fiduciary, to ensure you are making the right choice. Knowing what to expect and working with a professional should make your home buying process as smooth as possible.
Have inspection questions that I didn’t cover here? Reach out anytime; I’d love to help. - Chuck
Licensed Realtor, Stand-up Comedian, and Retired Police Sergeant. I took my 25 years of law enforcement experience, threw in my experience as a stand-up comic and college teacher, and used those ideal....
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