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All about home inspections

Published: Oct 14, 2009

When you are looking to purchase a home, it's a good idea to get it inspected first. Think of it as a test drive before you plunk down your life savings and most likely, commit yourself to lengthy mortgage. You want to make sure you're getting a quality home. Below is everything you need to know about getting a home inspection.

  • Why get an inspection?

    A home inspection is the examination of a home, from top to bottom. Just like a routine physical that will alert you to any hidden health problems, an inspection will reveal if a home's structure or if any of its systems are in need of significant repair. Purchasing a home is a big investment -- you're likely to be spending thousands of dollars to buy your new home -- so, you'll want to be sure that your purchase is a smart one. (And that you don't buy the real estate equivalent of a lemon.)

    In fact, 99% of all agents counsel their clients to have a home inspection performed of homes they are looking to buy.

  • Hire a professional

    When you hire an inspector, look to hire the best -- it only make sense, since buying a home can be an expensive endeavor.

    Look to get a professional who's knowledgeable about a home's system -- that person is likely to be a licensed professional engineer (PE). You can search for a PE in your area on Nabie.org, the website for the National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers. You may also want to check up on inspectors you're considering on sites like the Better Business Bureau and Angie's List.

  • What does a home inspector check?

    A home inspector will conduct a visual inspection of the home, from the roof to the foundation. He will examine the roof, attic, insulation, the home's heating and air-conditioning systems, the plumbing and electrical systems, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, the basement and the foundation. The exterior of the home will also be inspected, taking into account factors like the condition of the driveway, fences, sidewalks, grading of the property, etc.

  • How long will it take?

    The average inspection of a single-family home should take two to three hours, according to hud.gov, the website for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

  • What is the cost?

    The fee for a home inspection can vary widely, depending on your home's location, size, age and the services being performed -- e.g., if there is a septic system that needs to be inspected, or if the home is being checked for radon. Typically, a home inspection for a single-family house will fall within the range of $300 to $500, according to hud.gov.

  • How do I get the results?

    A quality home inspector will provide a printed (not hand-written) copy of the results. Ask any inspector you're thinking of hiring about what kind of report he will provide and exactly what will be covered in the report. The report should note what systems in the home are defective and what needs repair. Also ask how long it will take for your inspector to get the report to you.

  • What should the results tell me?

    Your inspection report should reveal the overall condition of the home, what repairs are needed, the severity of the needed fixes and their potential cost. You can then use the results of the inspection to determine your next step -- e.g., if you're happy with the home as it is, or if you want to negotiate with the seller to complete some fixes or lower the price on the property.

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