The Home Inspection Contingency
Home inspections provide an opportunity for a buyer to identify any major issues with a home before closing. Your first clue that a home inspection is important is that it can be used as a contingency in your contract with the seller. This contingency provides that if a home inspection reveals significant defects, you can back out of your purchase offer, free of penalty, within a specific timeframe. The potential problems a home can have must be pretty serious if they could allow you to walk away from such a significant contract.
In some situations, realtors are also known to include home inspection clauses in contracts, such as those for a newly built residence. In new home construction, inspections generally cover:
- Foundations: Checking before the concrete is poured (once poured, there’s very little that can be corrected).
- Pre-drywall: Checking the structure and mechanics before the drywall is laid.
- Full inspection: A full walk-through is performed of the completed home.
What a Home Inspection Covers
Inspectors vary in experience, ability, and thoroughness, but a good inspector should examine certain home components and then produce a report covering their findings. The typical inspection lasts two to three hours, and you should be present for the inspection to get a firsthand explanation of the inspector’s findings and, if necessary, ask questions. Also, any problems the inspector uncovers will make more sense if you see them in person instead of relying solely on the snapshot photos in the report.
The inspector should note:
- Whether each problem is a safety issue, major defect, or minor defect
- Which items need replacement and which should be repaired or serviced
- Items that are suitable for now but that should be closely monitored
An excellent inspector will even tell you about routine maintenance that should be performed, which can be a great help if you are a first-time homebuyer.
While it is impossible to list everything an inspector could check for, the following home inspection checklist for buyers should give you a general idea of what to expect.
The inspector will complete a full inspection of the outside of the structure. This will include climbing into any crawlspaces under the home and using a ladder to reach and inspect the roof and other items.
The inspector will check for damaged or missing siding, cracks, and whether the soil is in excessively close contact with the bottom of the house, which can invite wood-destroying insects. However, the pest inspector (yes, you might want to engage one of those too), not the home inspector, will check for actual damage from termites, etc. The inspector will let you know which problems are cosmetic and which could be more serious.
If the foundation is not visible, and it usually is not, the inspector will not be able to examine it directly. Still, they can check for secondary evidence of foundation issues, like cracks or settling.
The inspector will let you know whether the grading slopes away from the house as it should. If it doesn’t, water could get into the house and cause damage, and you will need to either change the slope of the yard or install a drainage system.
Garage or Carport
The inspector will test the garage door for proper opening and closing, check the garage framing if it is visible, and determine if it is properly ventilated (to prevent accidental carbon monoxide poisoning). If the water heater is in the garage, the inspector will make sure it is installed high enough off the ground to minimize the risk of explosion from gasoline fumes mingling with the heater’s flame.
The inspector will check for areas where roof damage or poor installation could allow water to enter the home, such as loose, missing, or improperly secured shingles and cracked or damaged mastic around vents. They will also check the condition of the gutters.