Thinking about buying a house? That’s a big and exciting decision. Before making such a major financial commitment, you’ll want to check out this prospective property from top to bottom. A home inspection can identify all kinds of issues–from tiny details like drywall cracks, to major problems like water in the basement.
A home inspection can also help a prospective buyer create a wish list of upgrades. All of this information feeds back to the negotiation process, giving buyers and sellers key details that affect the property’s value. Some mortgage lenders require a building inspection, to get an accurate assessment of the investment they’re funding. But it’s smart for any prospective homebuyer to go through an inspection process. There are several options for having a house inspected.
A single option might suit your situation, but it’s not unusual to exercise all of the options discussed below.
3 Options for Home Inspections
Your best option will also depend on your familiarity with building professionals in the area. It’s always good to have a network of reliable contractors you can work with, but this isn’t possible if you’re moving into a new area.
Option #1: Hire a Licensed Building Inspector
First-time homebuyers and buyers who don’t have a basic knowledge of all the systems that make up a house are good candidates for the services of a licensed home inspector. You’ll pay for this service (prices start around $300), but you’ll get a report full of details on all systems, including the home’s structure, insulation, roofing, HVAC components, windows, doors, etc. Some building inspectors include a radon test.
An Internet search will provide you with building inspectors in your area, but it’s not easy to determine an inspector’s professional qualifications. Currently, there is no national standard for this profession; each state has its own requirements for certifying building inspectors. Most inspectors will have taken a course and passed a test; alternatively, they may have past professional experience as building contractors. Local real estate agents can provide reliable recommendations, or you can check out referral websites like Home Advisor for inspectors with good feedback.
The end result of a home inspection will be a written report that describes major house features (foundation, heating system, roofing, etc.) and any problems associated with these features. In other words, you’ll get a comprehensive overview of the property. But don’t expect this to be the end of your inspection journey. Depending on what your home inspection identifies, you may want to proceed with Option #2 and/or Option #3.
Option #2: Get Inspections from Specialist Contractors
Houses can have a wide range of problems, and many of these demand the expertise of specialty contractors. For example, if you conduct a radon test on a house you’d like to buy and get a result above 4 pCi/L (4 picocuries per litre of air), you’ll want to call in a radon mitigation specialist to inspect your home and develop a bid for a radon abatement system.
Similarly, if there’s a problem with water in the basement, make the call to a basement waterproofing contractor. In the building trades, these specialists are often referred to as subcontractors, and there are plenty of them: roofing contractors, plumbers, electricians, HVAC specialists, insulation contractors, mold remediation companies, and pest control experts–just to name a few.
The good news is that these guys will evaluate specific conditions for free, and give you bids on the repairs or improvements that need to be done. But you’ll have to do your homework and assess the honesty and reliability of the subs you call in.
Option #3: Have a Remodeling Contractor Go Through the House
If you’re an experienced DIYer with a good variety of remodeling projects under your belt, you probably have some solid ideas about the house you’re interested in buying. You can pretty quickly put together a list of items that need replacing, whether it’s appliances, carpeting, or windows.
You’ve probably also got some renovations and/or repairs in mind, like finishing the basement, upgrading attic insulation, or resurfacing the garage floor. When your wish list is complete, you can call in a few remodeling contractors to look over your list and bid out all or part of the total job.
As you walk and talk your way through the house with each contractor, you’re certain to learn about a few details you’ve overlooked, like the condition of the exterior trim or ductwork, for example.
Getting input and pricing from a few different contractors will help you prioritize what needs to get done. An experienced remodeling contractor will have his or her own network of subcontractors, which can eliminate the need for Option #2.