A home inspection can spare you from unpleasant surprises after you buy. After crunching the numbers, searching your favorite neighborhoods, and weighing the pros and cons of each property you have toured, you’ve chosen a house that seems like the perfect fit for you.

While it may be “perfect” when it comes to location, price or features, it’s now time for you to find out about the home’s imperfections before you hand over your cash.

No matter how much time you spend looking over the home, you’re probably not qualified to perform an assessment of every aspect of it before you commit to its purchase. Houses are composed of many complicated components, such as heating and cooling systems, electrical wiring, plumbing, a roof, siding and more. A licensed home inspector can provide a good assessment of the overall condition of the house and its parts. As a buyer, here’s what you need to know about getting a home inspection.

What is a home inspection?

A home inspection — the visual examination of the structure and systems of your home — typically covers the electrical, heating, and air-conditioning systems; plumbing; roof; interior walls and ceilings; insulation; windows; doors; fireplace and chimney; appliances; and foundation.

Keep in mind that if an inspector cannot access a particular area, such as a very steep roof or an attic overflowing with heavy boxes, they likely won’t be able to inspect it and is not necessarily obligated to do so.

Why should I get an inspection?

Once you’re armed with an inspection report from a qualified inspector, you can make a more informed decision about purchasing, which may mean you proceed with the transaction as planned, ask the seller to make some repairs or concessions, or terminate the sales contract.

Sometimes a seller will perform their own inspection to provide information to potential buyers. Even if a seller has already performed an inspection, it might be in your best interest to have a buyer’s inspection completed. Your inspector can confirm the seller’s inspection report or may find additional items that might need attention.

When should I have the inspection?

You will want to contact a home inspector right after you sign a purchase contract. That way you can schedule the inspection before the contract’s termination option period expires. This approach enables you to follow up on any problems uncovered by the inspector. And if you find something you can’t live with, you’re within your rights to terminate the contract without penalty. Your Realtor can advise you on the timing of your home inspection and answer any questions you have about the termination option in your contract.

The time to find an inspector, though, is before you sign a contract on a house. Make sure you identify at least two inspectors in case one is unavailable. Ask friends and family for their inspector recommendations and follow up with some research of your own.

After you’ve determined that a potential inspector is licensed, make sure you ask questions about their fees, a list of items that are included or not included in the inspection and if you can attend the inspection. Your Realtor can help you decide what other questions might be worth asking for your particular situation.

A home inspector’s job is to find problems, not fix them. If your inspector finds a problem with a house’s wiring, call an electrician. You can get an estimate of the cost and severity of the repair and decide how to proceed with your purchase. Watch out for any inspector who finds a plumbing problem and immediately tells you that they’re a licensed plumber.

You may also want a specialist to further inspect a questionable item. For instance, if your inspector notes problems with the foundation, you’d be wise to get an opinion from a structural engineer. Certain property aspects, such as a pool or hot tub, might require a specialist’s assessment instead of a home inspector, especially if your inspector identifies an item as one he does not inspect. It’s worth having the right sets of eyes on these types of special items before the deal is done.

It’s unlikely that you’ll find a home without any problems — even newly constructed properties might have flaws. Even so, a home inspection can make you a better-informed home buyer. Once you know the condition of your dream house, you and your Realtor can discuss how to proceed.

For more information on home inspections and the home buying process, visit HAR.com.

Jennifer Wauhob, with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene — Katy, is 2022 chair of the Houston Association of Realtors/HAR.com.

This post was originally published on this site