First Time Home Buyers Home Inspection Guide

A home inspection helps buyers feel confident about their purchase. Not only can a home inspection give warning signs for safety hazards, poor structural designs and costly repairs but it can help a buyer plan ahead. Nobody wants a real life money pit, the National Association of Realtors reported that nearly four out of every five homes sold in the nation are evaluated by a professional home inspector before they are sold. So, here it is...the Survival Guide to the home inspection and everything you need to know before you buy that dream home.

What is a home inspection? A home inspection is an independent, unbiased visual examination and report of the physical structure and systems, components and conditions, from the roof to the foundation. A third-party report and assessment of a home's condition is issued to the person who hired the home inspector.

In most states, home inspection contingencies are part of the purchase contract and you will typically hire your home inspector the week of opening escrow. The home inspection is an investment the home buyer makes to help minimize unpleasant surprises and unexpected difficulties, this is your report card on the homes current condition.

For the state of California, the Buyer's Investigation of property and terms is located in section 12. BUYER'S INVESTIGATION OF PROPERTY AND MATTERS AFFECTING PROPERTY. (Residential Purchase Agreement page 6 of 10). Section 14. refers to TIME PERIODS; REMOVAL OF CONTINGENCIES; CANCELLATION RIGHTS.

I can't stress enough how important it is to read through your PURCHASE CONTRACT, and ask questions if there is something you don't understand.

Real Estate Contracts

Never waive your right to a home inspection...I REPEAT...don't ever give up the option of having the home inspected. When you waive this contingency, you lose the right to make a request for additional repairs.

Think of your home inspection report as a tool to continue to negotiate the best price for your new home. [Click to Tweet]

The home inspection is not a 'wish list' for home buyers, your real estate agent should give you tips on how to negotiate repairs after a home inspection. The goals and objectives of the buyer and seller may also dictate the direction of the negotiation and agreement regarding repairs.

Home Inspection Contingency

Home Inspections are used as an opportunity for a buyer to identify any MAJOR issues with the home prior to closing escrow. When you hire a Buyer's Agent who is a member of the California Association of Realtors they have access to zipForms, these are the essential real estate transaction forms including current statewide contracts, local forms and more.

The RPA-CA (California Residential Purchase Agreement) contains the buyers Investigation of property and contingency time periods. Per the standard form a buyer has 17 days after acceptance, unless otherwise agreed to in writing, to complete all Buyer Investigations; review all disclosures, reports, etc.

How to Hire a Home Inspector

Hiring an inexperienced or unqualified home inspector can be disastrous for a home buyer and can even cause a seller to cancel the transaction. A good buyer's agent will have a few options on deck, we always refer out 2-3 home inspector's that we have worked with in the past and provided professional, quality service. However, do your due diligence, you as the buyer are the one paying for the service, hiring a cheaper/less expensive inspector is not always the best option. 

If you take the route of finding your own home inspector a great place to start is the California Real Estate Inspection Association, a non-profit association dedicated to using all its resources for the benefit of members and the home buying public they serve. 'Inspecting real estate is an incredibly knowledge-intensive profession, CREIA is all about educating and training its members to do the best inspection possible for their clients.'

You can search for a CREIA member on their site, these are inspectors who have passed the National Home Inspector Exam & CREIA's supplemental Standards of Practice/Ethics Test, have successfully completed the requirements for the Certified Inspector or Master Inspector and are in good standing with an active membership. Find a California Home Inspector here

I have also had clients that found their home inspector on YELP. Do what works for you and remember the inspection is only as good as the inspector doing it, check their credentials. 

What To Expect From Your Home Inspector

The home inspector is providing an objective opinion on the home's condition after completing a 2-3 hour extensive walk-through of the home. Before hiring a home inspector you can ask for a sample report, a good home inspection report is extensive, containing an outline of checklists, summaries, photographs and notes. Some reports will estimate the remaining useful life of systems and equipment as well as the roof & structure. The report should also include recommended repairs and replacements.

Complete Report Checklist_Home Inspector

CREIA has put together a list of Frequently Asked Questions by Home Buyers that will address some of the questions you may be having about Home Inspections. Access FAQ's here. 

The Biggest Mistakes to avoid for your home inspection

Again, the purpose of a home inspection is to minimize unpleasant surprises and unexpected difficulties after closing escrow on your new home. No home is perfect, and the home inspection is a general check-up not an X-ray exam.

Termite Inspector and Home Inspector

One of the biggest mistakes you can avoid is NOT attending the inspection. We highly recommend buyers are present at the time of the home inspection, this gives you the opportunity to shadow the home inspector and check for thoroughness. A good inspector will complete his inspection with a verbal outline of what he found, this also gives you the chance to ask questions. Sometimes reports can make issues seem worse than they are, a verbal explanation may ease some of your concerns.

Follow the home inspector and ask questions
Following your home inspector is a fantastic way to become familiar with the home, you will learn the location of shut-off valves, electrical panels as well as observe other details of the home.

Most buyers do not conduct a detailed examination of the home before putting in offers, upon taking this closer look at the property you can make sure this is the right home for you.

When you attend the home inspection you bring a second set of eyes and can address questions that the inspector may not have noticed. Now is the time to voice concerns if you have any, once you close on the home you become responsible for repairs and maintenance.

The second biggest mistake you can avoid is NOT reading the inspection report. Sure your inspector will give you a summary at the end of the inspection but this does not excuse you from reading the report. Take the time and read the report through and through, use the legend to understand each section meticulously. You should also use your report to gauge what other inspections might be necessary. For example, if he notes mold in the report you might want to hire a mold inspector to evaluate the property.

You've Received and Read Your Home Inspection Report - WHAT NOW?

hire a home inspector when buying a home
Once you have the results of all of your inspections, its decision time on how to handle the findings. Your real estate agent is a good person to consult for advice on which items should be addressed, this will happen through a Request For Repairs. Things to consider after inspections:

Which items pose health/hazardous issues?
Which items cost a lot to repair?
Are there any items that would prevent you from moving in on time?
Which repairs are you willing to handle on your own?

After you have answered these questions you can determine which items are the most important and make a decision. As long as you are still within your contingency period you will have these options:

  • Go through with the deal and close escrow per initial purchase contract price and terms 
  • Renegotiate through the request for repairs or ask for a credit through escrow to cover the damage/repairs. Or ask the seller to make certain repairs. 
  • Or cancel escrow all together and go back to the drawing board. 
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