Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions most people will ever make. When you’re about to put down a large chunk of money on what will likely be the most expensive purchase of your lifetime, it’s natural to want to make sure you’re making a solid investment. This is where a home inspection comes in.
A home inspection is an in-depth examination of the physical condition of a home, performed by a qualified inspector. The inspection allows buyers to learn about any issues or defects with the home before finalizing the purchase. This information can then be used to negotiate with the seller, walk away from a problematic property, or budget for repairs and maintenance down the road.
But home inspections aren’t free. So is paying for one worth the money and effort? Here, we’ll walk through the pros and cons so you can decide if you should get one.
The Pros of Getting a Home Inspection
There are many good reasons to get a home inspection before buying. Here are some of the biggest benefits.
1. It can save you from buying a “money pit”
Without an inspection, it’s impossible to know about hidden defects that could cost a fortune down the road. An inspector may uncover issues like roof leaks, cracked foundations, electrical problems, plumbing leaks, fire hazards, pest damage, rotten wood, and more. Home Inspection service in Phoenix can identify issues that you’d likely have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to repair. Knowing about these problems ahead of time allows you to either negotiate with the seller to lower the price or walk away before getting stuck with a “money pit” of a home.
2. It encourages the seller to make repairs
Sellers are obligated to disclose any known defects about the home. But many still try to cover up problems to make a sale. An inspection shifts leverage to the buyer, letting you request that the seller makes repairs or improvements before the sale. Most sellers will agree to fix at least minor issues identified by the inspection in order to keep the deal on track.
3. It informs your home insurance decision
The inspection report provides a detailed assessment of the home’s condition, which can be useful when taking out a homeowners insurance policy. Insurers may request a copy of the report to help evaluate the property’s risks and set coverage rates accordingly. Issues noted by an inspector may even prompt an insurer to mandate repairs before issuing a policy.
4. It lets you create a realistic budget
Knowing about defects ahead of time allows you to realistically budget for repairs and maintenance after moving in. Without an inspection, you may end up stretched thin and struggling to afford essential fixes. Careful budgeting can help you prioritize critical home improvements and avoid nasty surprises.
5. It may be required by your lender
Most mortgage lenders require a home inspection to ensure the property is in acceptable condition before approving a buyer’s loan. Even if you’re paying cash, you may want the option to refinance with a mortgage later. Getting an inspection upfront keeps that option open.
6. It gives you peace of mind
Perhaps most importantly, a home inspection provides invaluable peace of mind. Knowing your new home doesn’t have any hidden surprises that could put your family and finances at risk lets you rest easy. Catching issues early on means you can deal with them promptly, before they worsen or jeopardize safety down the line.
The Cons of Getting a Home Inspection
Of course, home inspections aren’t perfect and come with some downsides too. Here are a few potential negatives to consider:
1. It takes time
A thorough inspection involves checking the roof, attic, foundations, electrical, plumbing, heating, appliances, and more. This takes several hours, so you’ll need to schedule ample time when making an offer. Rushed inspections may miss important defects. You’ll also need to coordinate access to the property with the sellers.
2. The cost adds up
A basic inspection often costs $300-$500. More complex inspections or those completed on larger homes may cost over $1,000. Older homes or those in poor condition may require additional testing for things like lead, mold, or asbestos, which adds to the total expense.
3. Inspectors can miss things
Inspectors do their best, but they can’t catch every flaw. Most inspectors include legal disclaimers in their contracts to limit liability. Minor issues get overlooked in nearly every inspection. Very rarely, even huge problems like foundation cracks go unnoticed. There are no guarantees.
4. Repairs can stall the deal
If the inspection uncovers significant issues, you may request the seller makes repairs. But sellers aren’t always willing to fork over thousands on fixes — this can delay the sale or even cause it to fall through altogether. Be reasonable and strategic with repair requests.
5. You may not learn the full history
Even seasoned home inspectors can’t always determine if or how well repairs and renovations were made by past owners. An inspection provides a general assessment of current condition, but not a complete history of maintenance and upgrades over the years.
6. Some lenders don’t require it
While many lenders mandate a home inspection, some don’t necessarily require it if you meet their other loan criteria. However, skipping an inspection means you’ll remain in the dark about existing or potential problems.
Key Tips for Getting a Home Inspection
If you decide to get an inspection, here are some tips to get the most out of it:
- Hire a licensed inspector who carries errors and omissions insurance. Verify their credentials and look for membership in a professional association.
- Ask if the inspector offers thermal imaging, mold testing, sewer scope inspections, and other specialized tests based on your home’s specifics.
- Make sure you or your real estate agent can attend the inspection to ask questions and learn about the home.
- Request a sample inspection report to see the level of detail provided. Look for reports with lots of photos.
- Prepare a list of questions and concerns about the home to share with the inspector before they get started.
- Ask about any areas that seem inaccessible or are hidden behind furniture so the inspector can move items if needed.
- Don’t let an inspection contingency expire before receiving the inspection report. Leave time to request repairs.
- Understand that no inspection is 100% exhaustive and small flaws will likely be missed. Focus on catching big-ticket issues.
- Request quotes from contractors on any repairs outlined in the report so you know the potential costs.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, a home inspection is like an insurance policy. You hope to never have to use the information it provides, but you’ll be extremely grateful to have it if any issues do come to light. Paying $500 now to avoid a $30,000 foundation repair later is worthwhile for most homebuyers.
In summary, a quality home inspection with a detailed report can provide invaluable insight into a home’s condition, while helping flag any urgently needed repairs. This information aids in making a careful, well-informed purchasing decision. Though inspections aren’t foolproof, most buyers agree that the costs and minor drawbacks are worthwhile for the peace of mind they provide. Does a home inspection guarantee you won’t face issues down the road? No. But it remains one of the single most prudent steps you can take to gain awareness and protect your investment when buying a home.