Under Close Inspection

NW_0912_Inspection

A home inspection can tell you plenty, so don’t skip this step before buying a home.

If you’re shopping around for a new home, a professional inspection is a must before you buy. In fact, though a home inspection is voluntary on your part, it should be a contingency in any offer you make on a house. That way, if the inspection reveals any major issues, you can back out of the offer without penalty.

Your best bet is to go with an inspector that’s a member of a nationally recognized organization, like the National Association of Home Inspectors or the American Society of Home Inspectors. Be sure to ask for references.

Here are five things a home inspection can tell you.

  1. What might be lurking inside what seems like the perfect house. Even if you’re handy or know your way around home repairs, a trained inspector can find little things that could lead to big trouble. For example, soil that’s too close to the foundation could be a welcome mat for wood-eating insects. The inspector will look for signs of other kinds of pests too.
  2. How much maintenance the house may need. Does the grading slope away from the house? If not, you’ll have to change the slope of the yard or install a drainage system to prevent flooding. An inspector can also tell you things like how often you’ll have to repaint a wood exterior or how many years the roof has left before it needs replacing.
  3. Whether the electrical wiring and outlets are safe and reliable. This isn’t just about a financial decision—it’s about your safety. Faulty electrical systems can cause shocks, injuries or even pose a fire hazard.
  4. The little things you’d probably never think of. Would it occur to you to inspect the septic tank, check if well water used in the home is safe to drink or look for underground oil tanks? Probably not, especially if you’ve never lived in a home where these features are an issue. (You may need specialized inspectors for some of these.)
  5. Whether buying the house is a good idea. If there are major issues, like a crumbling foundation or serious structural problems, the house just may not be worth the trouble. But if the issues are smaller, such as minor brickwork needed on the exterior, the inspector’s report gives you the justification you need to ask for a price reduction or a credit at closing to make the repairs. You can also ask the seller to repair these items as part of your agreement.
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