Maybe you’re buying a home and you’re short on time (not to mention money). Or you’re about to put your home on the market, and you want to go into the selling process with as much edge on the competition as possible. Either way, the question may be plaguing you: should you get a home inspection, or should you skip it?
The short answer? Yes, getting a professional home inspection is almost always the right call.
But in case you need a bit more convincing, we’ve got you. Read on for 9 compelling reasons to get a home inspection—whether you’re a home buyer, seller, or an average homeowner.
Back to basics: What is a home inspection?
A home inspection is a thorough visual review of a residential property’s physical structure and components. The professional home inspector closely examines all visible aspects of the home, checking for repair issues, safety hazards, and anything that might need to be replaced.
A home inspector usually follows an inspection checklist to review essential components, which might include:
- Roof and attic
- Windows and walls
- Electrical work
- Installed systems and appliances (garbage disposal, dishwasher, garage door opener, etc.)
- Heating and cooling systems
- Basement and foundation
- Exterior of the home, including siding, roof, porch/patio, and yard
Home inspections are typically conducted during the time when the property changes hands. Occasionally, the seller may order a pre-listing inspection before putting the home on the market. And in most cases, the buyer orders an inspection before finalizing the purchase.
Why should home buyers get a home inspection?
The most common scenario in which someone might order a home inspection is when they are about to buy the property. The buyer’s inspection typically takes place after the offer has been accepted, and before finalizing the sale.
It makes sense that potential homeowners would want to know everything they can about the condition of the home they’re about to spend their life savings on, right?
Home buyers should get a home inspection for several reasons, which all have to do with giving you as much information as possible about the condition of the property and making sure you’re paying the right price.
1. Avoid a huge money pit
As you might imagine, there are several elements of home ownership that can get quite expensive. Major components of the home—like your roof, appliances, and bathroom fixtures—naturally need to be replaced over time. And major structural issues, like a leaky basement or faulty wiring, can lead to expensive damage and repair down the road if not caught early.
That’s why it’s essential to have your new home inspected before you finalize the sale. Regardless of whether the property is decades old or new construction, there’s potential for major issues that could cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars shortly after moving in.
The cost of a home inspection—which averages between $300 and $600—is extremely affordable compared to many common repair costs. It’s best to know any major issues from the jump.
2. Negotiation leverage
Even the best homes usually have some defects of repair needs. If your inspection report reveals problems, you’ll have leverage to negotiate the purchase contract to your benefit. As the buyer, you can:
- Do nothing (accept the house ‘as-is’)
- Ask the seller to make repairs before finalizing the sale
- Request a discount on the sale price
- Ask for a credit towards your closing costs
In some cases, you may even have the option to back out of the sale entirely. Most home sale contracts include an inspection contingency, which gives the buyer the right to have the home inspected within a specified period of time (usually 5-7 days). It also allows the buyer to cancel or negotiate changes to the contract based on the inspection results.
Most inspections don’t result in a buyer backing out, but they could. It’s better to know whether anything is a home purchase deal breaker while you still have an out.
3. Identify any safety issues before moving in
As a home buyer, it’s likely that your most important concern is whether your potential new home will be a safe place for your family to live.
Home inspectors help give you an idea of any potential safety hazards, such as faulty electrical wiring, missing or loose stair railings, or dangerous levels of radon in the air. These safety hazards should be addressed as soon as possible, either by negotiating repairs with the seller or asking for a discount on the final sale price so that you can have those repairs done yourself.
4. Catch things your eye would miss
The property may look like a dream home to you, but how much can you tell about the real condition from the eyes of an expert? That’s where an inspector comes in.
Of course, a home inspection is a visual inspection—meaning the inspector isn’t going to get invasive. They won’t look behind walls or under floors, for example. But many “hidden” issues are hiding in plain sight. These problems are considered hidden simply because they aren’t immediately noticeable to the untrained eye, such as:
- Pest infestations
- HVAC problems
- Roof damage
- Blocked chimney
- Electrical or plumbing problems
- Structural defects
Hiring a home inspector means teaming up with an experienced third party who can identify problems you likely wouldn’t otherwise notice.
5. Get an idea of future repair or replacement expenses
Other defects found by home inspectors may not necessarily present a safety hazard or be an immediate concern, but you’ll still want to repair or replace them in the future. Buying a home is an expensive process, to say the least—so it can be extremely discouraging to discover surprise repair costs within the first year or two of moving in.
Your inspector should give you a thorough report of all their findings, from major to minor and everything in between. You can use your inspection report to get an idea of what to plan and save for in the future, whether it’s a roof that will need to be replaced in the next few years or a water heater that’s on its last leg.
Why should sellers get a home inspection?
Another scenario when you might want a home inspection is if you’re preparing to sell your home. Many sellers choose to get a pre-listing inspection, which is exactly the same process as a buyer’s inspection, except that the seller pays for it.
The reasons to get a seller’s inspection have to do with getting a good idea of the home’s condition and making sure you’re setting the selling price reasonably and realistically.
6. Get an actionable repair to-do list
If you’ve lived in your home for a while, you may have gotten used to certain defects and don’t even notice them anymore. A detailed home inspection report can serve as an unbiased checklist of issues you might want to repair before you put your home on the market.
Especially if you have a limited budget, a home inspection can give you an idea of the items you should prioritize when conducting pre-listing repairs.
7. Price your home accurately and get an edge in a buyer’s market
As any real estate agent will tell you, pricing a home is about more than researching comparable properties nearby (otherwise known as a comparative market analysis) and gauging whether it’s currently a buyer’s or seller’s market. Knowing what kind of shape your house is in is critical for setting the right price when you list it.
And if the competition is fierce, knowing your home’s strengths and weaknesses can be a tremendous asset. Your real estate agent can advertise the impressive results from your home inspection—like a roof that’s in great shape—to help set your home apart from other properties in your area.
Even mentioning that the home has had a pre-listing inspection can give potential buyers more interest in your property. And buyers may feel more confident making an offer if there’s already an existing inspection report that you can allow them to review.
Why should homeowners get a home inspection?
Finally, even if the home isn’t changing hands, a home inspection is still a good idea. Home owners should get a home maintenance inspection every year or two to ensure your house is in good shape and address any minor repair or replacement needs before they become major problems.
8. Catch potential catastrophes early
It’s an unfortunate law of nature that things tend to break down over time. And your house is no exception, even if you take great care of it.
A regular home maintenance inspection can help you stay on top of the natural entropy at work in your home, making sure you catch issues like cracks in your foundation or outdated electrical wiring before they lead to expensive catastrophes.
The return is definitely worth the regular investment if your home inspector catches potential money pits before they become a reality.
9. Find any safety hazards
And aside from the cost factor, there are also risks to leaving your home to its own devices for years at a time. Over time, hidden dangers to your family’s safety—such as a clogged furnace vent leading to a backflow of carbon monoxide into your living space—may only be uncovered during a professional home inspection.
Get a home inspection—it’s absolutely worth it
Whether you’re a homeowner, putting your property on the market, or considering buying a new house, a home inspection is an invaluable asset. A professional inspector can give you the lowdown on the condition of the property, which enables you to make the right decisions for your family’s safety and financial peace of mind.
Now that you know all the reasons to order a home inspection, the next step is to find the best home inspector for you. Check out HomeGauge’s Find an Inspector tool to see qualified, experienced professionals in your area today.