When you work with me as your buyer agent, you will hear me advise you to obtain a home inspection. When I do this, I am looking out for your best interest as my client. Not only should you know the home you’re buying, your loan type likely requires a good report on the quality and safety of the home. It’s your lender’s investment, too.
When it’s time for the general home inspection, you can expect to:
Pay $300-900+ at the time of inspection(s)
Spend 1-2+ hours at the home with your agent and the inspector(s)
Learn something new about your home (and homes in general)
Find something that needs to be fixed
A home inspection is something you pay for as a buyer. It’s an exciting and scary purchase. Not everyone can easily cover the expense of buying a home. The prospect of paying hundreds of dollars to discover a defect with the home you don’t even own yet is not a pleasant one. But the alternative — paying a mortgage on a home with major issues — is far less pleasant.
There are real benefits to obtaining a home inspection. A good home inspector will not only make you aware of defects, they will point out the positive details of your future home. You’ll learn the location, age, and condition of the systems and features of your future home and how to care for and maintain them. For some loan programs, inspection cost can be counted toward the percentage of the purchase amount that you’re required to pay at closing.
Be aware that different inspectors have different qualifications and different opinions.
It’s best to choose an inspector with multiple certifications and credentials. You want someone with experience and a high rate of customer satisfaction. Inspectors who belong to professional organizations like InterNACHI and ASHI must pay a membership fee and adhere to strict standards of continuing education in order to maintain membership.
Home inspectors who have been inspecting for a few years have seen the best and worst. I asked Tiffany Wilber of Inspect All Maine to tell me the worst defect she’s seen during a home inspection. It was “a house that had major issues with the foundation. To the point where you could be on the outside of the house on one side and look straight through the opposite wall of the foundation.” Sometimes, she said, “so much work is needed it is easier to just start over.”
In the rare case that things are that bad, most inspectors will stop the inspection and discuss the magnitude of the problems they are finding rather than waste anyone’s time or money. You will likely only be charged a small travel fee when an inspection is terminated because of defects. But not everything that an inspector warns you about spells doom for your home purchase. All homes need maintenance. And sometimes even more serious issues aren’t as problematic as they seem. Tiffany told me that “most people see mold as a big problem, but I feel mold can be remediated easily. Though there is a cost to do the remediation… actual mold issues can be easily taken care of.”
Though opinions can often vary among home inspectors, Jason Lamoreau of Maine Inspection agrees that mold is really not as big a deal as many people think. “People get really freaked out by mold. That’s all they can think about. They think they’ll get really sick and they have little kids to worry about.” But in Jason’s experience, mold in an attic rarely affects the air quality of the living space below.
“It’s about stack effect,” he explained. “Heat naturally lost from the home is drawing up and escaping out through the ventilation.”
Jason told me people “get so hung up on the mold there, they don’t think about why. When they find levels in the attic like that, they find moisture in the basement or crawl space. Often there’s a lack of a vapor barrier. It’s common to find poor ventilation in the bathroom causing mold in the attic.” Of course it should be remediated, but “if you don’t solve the issue that created it, it’s just going to come back.”
While his customers are worried about mold and structural issues, they should be more wary of peeling paint. “Everyone knows a roof is really expensive and a septic is really expensive, but they don’t think about the cost associated with painting.” Peeling paint is panned by appraisers for federally backed loan programs like Rural Development, Federal Housing Authority, and VA loans. Cost to paint a house can easily climb up to $20,000 and so a lot of people tend to put it off. But “small chipping and peeling paint spots can lead to big problems,” Jason said. Rotten wood leaves room for water and pest infiltration and can increase heating costs.
All of this information may be overwhelming you, but rest assured that you won’t need to retain or translate everything by yourself. Inspection reports are often emailed within a few hours of the inspection, and your real estate agent (me!) will help you understand the results and strategize if needed. You should make the time to attend your inspection. Inspectors like Tiffany and Jason will make sure you understand any concerns they have with the structure or systems of your future home.