An important component of a home sale is an expert inspection of the property. In fact, most REALTORS ® strongly recommend that an offer to buy includes a home-inspection contingency. Generally the buyer pays for the inspection but this, like many things, is negotiable. A home inspector will examine a property, then detail findings and trouble spots.
Exactly how important is this? “I always recommend an inspection,” declares Paul McArtor, of Charlottesville’s Montague, Miller & Co. REALTORS®. “For example, I had a buyer of a new home who decided to spend the $400 for a home inspection.” A few minor problems were found which the builder corrected. “One of the items,” continues McArtor, “was the back of a drain pan that had been accidentally flattened during installation of the upstairs heating and air conditioning system. Seemed like a minor thing, but if the HVAC had leaked it could have caused a ton of damage to the upstairs and ceiling below.”
On the other hand, he continues, some people choose not to have a home inspection. In one such case, buyers discovered plumbing and electrical issues as well as some wood rot after the sale was closed and had to fork over quite a bit to repair things. “If they had known beforehand,” McArtor notes, “they could have negotiated with the seller about paying for repairs or have opted out of the purchase altogether.”
What Do Home Inspectors Do?
“We do it all,” says Buddy Carlisle of Carlisle Home Inspection Services, a Charlottesville business for 27 years. “New and existing homes and light commercial.”
When you engage a home inspector, Carlisle explains, you are hiring a professional who has training and experience in the building industry. Inspectors evaluate the condition of the property’s major systems and its structural integrity. They also identify areas that need to be watched, repaired, or replaced. For example, moisture, mold, and water damage are often signs of significant leakage that can be serious and expensive to correct.
An inspector who discovers a major problem will usually recommend an appropriate professional with expertise analyzing that particular situation.
There a number of local home inspectors in our region and each may have a slightly different list of items to inspect. That said, inspections generally cover a property from top (roof) to bottom (foundation) and everything in between including electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems as well as attics, interior and exterior walls, doors and windows, cellars, fireplaces and other items.
A comprehensive inspection will take at least a couple hours, depending on the size of the property and Carlisle encourages people to accompany the inspector. This way you can ask questions and gain a better understanding of the systems in the home.
He explains that home inspections often uncover problems that are a surprise to the homeowner. “When you live in a house you overlook everything,” he observes. “We go through the attic and find leaks people don’t know about. Another thing is safety especially with electrical systems.”
New Protection for Consumers
Today individuals performing home inspections in Virginia may choose to receive certification in this field, but this is not required. In fact, people can set themselves up as home inspectors without any sort of certificate or true expertise.
Starting July 1, 2017, however, this changes. A couple of years ago the General Assembly moved to restrict inspections on new construction to Certified Home Inspectors who complete the special building code training module required for a New Residential Structure (NRS) specialty designation.
In addition, as of that date, home inspectors—for both new and existing properties—must have a license issued by the Virginia Board of Asbestos, Lead and Home Inspectors.
Individuals with unexpired certifications previously issued by the Board will receive a license to work as a home inspector, but those without certification who wish to become licensed will have to apply for licensure. Only inspectors with an NRS specialty license will be able to perform inspections on new structures.
These regulations will clearly protect consumers from unreliable “inspectors.” But wait a minute, Carlisle cautions, people have a way of sneaking around requirements.
“People might call themselves something else other than home inspector,” he says. He suggests people seeking a home inspection ask to see the inspector’s license. “The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) is the oldest professional group around with the largest membership in the country,” he adds. ASHI offers a variety of training, both online and in seminars. “Being a member would also be a very good recommendation.”
Should I get an inspection before I put my property on the market?
“It’s not a bad idea,” says REALTOR® McArtor, “but I don’t usually recommend it. The buyer will most likely do one anyway which means you spent additional money that you didn’t have to. Also, it’s possible that you will fix items the buyer may not have asked for. That also could cost you extra money.”
On the other hand, a “clean” inspection report can be a positive selling point, especially on an older property.
Whether you are buying or selling, it makes good money sense to understand what home inspections are all about.
Before Marilyn Pribus and her husband put their California house on the market, they paid for a home inspection, made suggested corrections, and left the report on the kitchen counter as a selling point.