Home buyers tend to have a lot of questions about home inspections. Are they required? How are they different from appraisals? When does it take place? Here are answers to these and other common questions.
1. Home inspections aren't required, but they're worth it.
There is no law that says you have to have an inspection when buying a house. It's an option that is generally left up to the home buyer. But while you're not required to have a house inspected before purchasing, it's generally a wise idea to do so. Unless you are a licensed contractor or builder, you probably don't have the experience necessary to evaluate the structural aspects of the home. Home inspectors specialize in that very thing.
2. It's different from a home appraisal.
Home appraisals and inspections are similar procedures, but they have two very different goals in mind.
- A home inspector will alert you to any potential repair issues, or other problems with the structure and installed systems.
- A home appraiser, on the other hand, is primarily focused on determining the market value of the house.
If you are planning to use a mortgage loan to finance your purchase, there's a good chance the mortgage lender will require you to have a home appraisal. They do this to determine how much the house is worth. But the inspection is usually optional, and it focuses on the condition of the home.
3. It usually happens soon after the contract is signed.
As far as the timeline goes, a home inspection typically takes place shortly after the buyer and seller have agreed on the purchase price and signed a contract. At that point, the buyer will often hire an inspector to perform a complete home inspection.
The seller does not need to be present for the inspection. In most cases, the seller will actually leave the premises so the inspector can come in and do what he/she needs to do. Home buyers are almost always present during this process. The seller's listing agent might grant the inspector access to the home. Or they might put a lockbox on the door. But as far as the timing goes, it typically takes place soon after the purchase agreement has been signed during the inspection contingency period.
4. It helps you uncover any serious issues with the house.
The inspector will closely examine almost every aspect of the house. That includes the foundation, the roof, the electrical and plumbing systems, HVAC and more. They will provide you with a detailed report of any repair issues or other problems that he finds. This kind of report is invaluable to someone buying a home, especially when you consider how much money is on the line.
5. It's a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Home inspections typically range from $500 - $750, depending on the size of the house and other factors. When you consider the amount of money you are going to put into the home – and the amount you might be borrowing from a lender – it's a relatively small price to pay for peace of mind.