Purchasing a new home is an exciting chapter in your life. It’s the beginning of a new adventure, but it’s also a huge decision that should not be made lightly.
While you may have found the perfect house for you and your family, it’s important that you make sure the house is truly as great as advertised. Paint colours, cabinets or tiles can be changed rather easily, but some other aspects of the home may not be so easy to change or fix – which is where a pre-purchase home inspection comes in handy.
A pre-purchase home inspection before putting an offer down on a home or condominium can bring ultimate peace of mind before signing the contract. This way, you know exactly what you’re getting into with your new home.
By knowing the true condition of your future home, you can make an informed decision about the value of the house before putting down an offer. You’ll know how much money you’ll have to put aside for future upkeep or renovations.
The Two Goals Of A Pre-Purchase Home Inspection
A pre-purchase home inspection gives you a chance to determine the true value and condition of the house. This includes structural soundness, the condition of mechanical systems, and more.
Any problems the house has will be brought to the attention of everyone involved before closing on a sale. This gives you leverage to request these problems be fixed by the seller before you move in. In some cases, the seller won’t want to resolve these issues, so the second option is to lower your offer to account for these renovations.
Home Inspection Contingency In The Contract
If you are feeling pressured to sign a contract before the pre-purchase home inspection has taken place, then you should consider adding a clause that states the sale is contingent upon a satisfactory structural inspection. You will have to specify when the inspection is to be carried out. In the case that significant issues are found with the home, you may back out of the sale, free of penalty, within a certain amount of time. However, it’s important to note that the defects in the home must be pretty significant to walk away from the sale altogether.
Not All Home Inspectors Are Created Equally
Some inspectors are better than others. By that we mean different inspectors have different qualifications and varying levels or experience or enthusiasm. However, a good inspector will know what to look for and how to spot signs of trouble.
There are certain components of the home that should always be checked by your inspector. Once the inspection has been completed, you will receive a report that lists their findings.
You can and should be present when your home inspection takes place. This way, you can get a firsthand account of your inspector’s findings and ask any additional questions you may have while in the home. They’ll also be able to elaborate on any issues they find within the home, which may help clarify the issues better than relying on pictures and a report.
Your inspector should inform you of the extent of each issue found in the house, such as whether it’s a safety issue, a major defect, or a minor defect. On top of that, they’ll be able to tell you which issues require full replacements and which issues just need to be repaired or serviced.
If you are a first-time homebuyer, your inspector can also help to walk you through regularly scheduled maintenance that should be performed on the house.
What A Pre-Purchase Home Inspection Covers
Depending on the home, its individual features and the experience of a home inspector will determine just how thorough your inspection is. But the below list should give you a general idea of what you should expect to be covered.
The outside structure of your home should be thoroughly inspected. This includes checking out crawlspaces under the home, an inspection or of your roof, the seal of your windows/doors, and more.
In many cases, the inspector will not be able to investigate the health of your foundation, since it may not be visible. A good inspector will, however, be able to check for secondary signs of foundation issues such as cracks or settling.
In a home the grading should slope away from your house, not towards it. The inspector will be able to determine which way your grading slopes and therefore how susceptible your house will be to water damage. In cases where the grading slopes towards your home, you’ll need to either change the slope of your yard or install a drainage system. Both solutions can be very pricy and should be discovered before you purchase your home.
Chances are you weren’t invited up on a ladder to check out the condition of the roof during the open house. Your inspector will be able to check your roof to determine the age and condition, as well as any potential damage or poor installation that could allow for water damage to occur in the home. They will also check for loose, missing or badly secured shingles, cracks or damaged mastic around your vents. Additionally, they will check the condition of the gutters.
Having a strong, secure roof doesn’t just protect against water damage. It also protects against pests entering your home through your roof and residing in the attic. These pests include raccoons, squirrels, and even bats.
Your garage may not seem like such a big deal, but it’s an addition to your home and therefore should be in proper working order. Does the garage door close properly? Is it framed securely? Is there a good seal between the house and garage to protect against accidental carbon monoxide poisoning? These are all things your home inspection will check for you.
If your water heater is kept in your garage, it’s even more important to get an inspection done. Your water heater must be installed high enough off the ground to prevent a potential fire or explosion hazard. Gasoline fumes from your car mixing with your heater’s flame can explode if not installed properly.
It’s important that your inspector checks all the toilets, faucets, and showers to look for any visible leaks while testing the water pressure too. You’ll also be told what kind of pipes the home has if any pipes are visible. If the home has very old pipes, they may recommend an additional inspection to determine when or if they need to be replaced and offer a ball-park cost for the repair.
Additionally, the inspector should show you where the home’s main water shutoff valve is, and how to use it if you are unsure.
Electrical varies quite a bit from house to house, especially in older homes. Your inspector will let you know what type of wiring your home has, ensure there are functional ground fault circuit interrupters and test all outlets. Functional ground fault circuit interrupters are crucial as they protect you from electrocution, electrical shock and electrical burns. The electrical panel should also be inspected to ensure they are in proper working order to eliminate any safety issues or potential fire hazards.
Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning
This part of the inspection is very important to determine not just if pricy repairs are required but what your monthly energy bills may look like. Not only will they determine the age of your furnace and air conditioning, they’ll also ensure they are working properly. Your inspector will also determine the age of your ducting and determine any potential leaks.
On top of that, they will check for leaks and whether or not the home has sufficient insulation. Some insulation, especially in older homes, contains asbestos, which can have a detrimental effect on your health and is very expensive to remove.
What A Pre-Purchase Home Inspection Won’t Tell You
It’s important to understand that a pre-purchase home inspection can’t tell you everything about the quality of the home. There are many things that are impossible to know unless you strip your home down to its basic structure. However, a skilled home inspector will know what to look for in your home. For instance, if you have a home with slanted floors, it may be a sign of a structural foundation issue.
Your inspector will not be able to look inside walls, pipes, chimneys or behind electrical panels.
A pre-purchase home inspection is a must before buying a home to understand what the bigger potential issues are with the home and ensure there are no surprises once you get the keys. On top of a regular pre-purchase home inspection, there are additional inspections you can perform to get the clearest possible picture about the true quality of a home.
For instance, AmeriSpec offers these inspections in addition to full pre-purchase inspections:
- Home Energy Evaluations to help ensure a healthy and more energy-efficient home.
- Indoor Air Quality Evaluations to test for minor irritants in the air such as dust or pet dander to major ones such as chemical vapours.
- Radon Testing to check how high the concentration of radon (a deadly carcinogen in high amounts) is in your home.
- Sewer Scoping to make sure the pipe carrying wastewater from the home is in good condition and not blocked by tree roots.
After The Inspection
After the inspection has been conducted, you’ll receive a detailed report with all your inspector’s findings. Once you have this information, you can make a more informed decision about whether or not you wish to go ahead with the purchase.
- If the house is in good shape or only requires slight renovations, you can choose to sign the deed as is.
- If the house is in relatively good condition but requires some serious renovations, then you and your realtor can approach the home owner and come up with a new agreement. This agreement can be for the same amount, but have a clause that the current homeowner performs the renovations before you move in. Alternatively, you can re-submit a new offer for less money due to the fact that you’ll have to make these costly renovations yourself.
- If the home is owned by the bank and/or being sold-as, you won’t be able to add in clauses requiring renovations. However, it can help you make the decision on whether or not you will move forward with the purchase. If you decide to move forward with the purchase regardless of the inspector’s findings, you’ll have a better idea how much money you need to put aside to make the necessary repairs before moving in.
It’s important to remember, a home is a massive purchase that should only be made once you have all of the information. Don’t let realtors or sellers convince you to waive a pre-purchase home inspection. It may cost a little bit more or delay the sale by a couple of days, but in the long run it may save you thousands of dollars.
The bottom line is, a pre-purchase home inspection is your right, so don’t be afraid to insist on it.