If you were buying a used car from a private party, you would probably want to have your mechanic check it out before you laid down your cash. After all, there is just so much you can discern from looks alone, and even a spin around the block might not reveal problems that could crop up once the seller has disappeared with your hard-earned money. Really, wouldn’t you agree that a trip to your trusted grease monkey at $40 an hour is well worth the cost when you consider that it could save you a lot more loot down the road – literally?
The same is true when you offer to buy a “used” home. While you may be tempted to skip a home inspection because of its several hundred dollars cost, you would be wise to make the investment for a multitude of reasons. Here are ten good ones:
- Contingency – You may think that you’re a great negotiator and that you’ve made a terrific deal on your home purchase, but unless you have the experience and training, you’re likely to miss some crucial deficiencies in a home’s structure, condition and/or mechanical systems. And that means you could be buying someone else’s troubles. A professional home inspection allows you to back out of your deal if the inspector reveals problems that would cost you way more than you bargained for.
- Objectivity – Buying a home is usually an intensely emotional decision. It’s easy to overlook the glaring shortcomings of your “perfect” new home when you’re wearing rose-colored glasses. An objective home inspection report will help bring you down to earth and put you in a more business like demeanor. You may think you’re buying your dream house, but a detailed home inspection may prove that your intended purchase is more like a nightmare with four walls.
- Safety – Older homes, especially, may contain lead paint, asbestos-filled tiles or insulation, radon or any number of other health hazards. A home inspection will reveal the type and extent of safety issues. You don’t want to gamble with your family’s health just because you like the fact that there’s room in the garage for your wave runner.
- Negotiating Power – A home inspection allows you, as the buyer, to negotiate who will be responsible for needed repairs before money changes hands. If a seller is unwilling to spring for items that need maintenance or upgrades, the purchase price can be adjusted downward to reflect the costs you might have to incur once you’ve got the keys to the kingdom in your own hands.
- Insurance Discounts – A positive home inspection report tells your homeowner’s insurance company that your house is in good shape. Added to the insurance company’s own inspection, you may be able to purchase a policy at a discounted rate.
- Hidden Problems – Sometimes problems are hidden deep inside the structure of a home and are invisible to the naked eye. Termites and rats, for instance, can cause terrible damage to an otherwise good-looking house, but can’t be detected without a thorough home inspection. Mold is another problem that may be lurking in unseen places. Unless you’re willing to climb, crawl or creep in tight, unlit spaces, you should make sure that your home inspector is.
- Illegal Additions or Installations – The seller may have been a talented do-it-yourselfer, but a home inspection can reveal if alterations or installations were completed without the proper permitting or if they fail to conform to local building codes and standards. Illegal room additions, for example, can affect your insurance, taxes, usability and resale value. It’s better to discover any illicit construction before you sign on the dotted lines.
- Determining Future Costs – Home inspectors are experts at helping you determine which systems may need replacement, how soon, and how much it could cost you. An older home may have charm and character, but a twenty year-old air conditioner may leave you sweating in the middle of your first summer when it breaks down. All mechanical systems have life spans. It makes sense to know how long they’ve been around and how much longer you can expect them to function properly.
- Protection – Home inspections are critical if you are buying a property “as-is,” such as in a short sale or foreclosure. Houses that have not been lived in for awhile tend to decay faster than homes that have current occupants. Abandoned houses can also be more easily vandalized and/or damaged due to weather-related events.
- Peace of Mind – In the end, home inspections afford you peace of mind and give you the knowledge that you are making the right choice – and paying the right price – for your new home. There is no substitute for a complete understanding of the condition of the house you plan to live in. Buying a home while foregoing a professional home inspection is a little like buying that used car just because you like the color of the paint job. It’s important to remember that it’s what’s under the hood that really counts.