Is that old leak going to be a problem?

As home sales continue at a brisk pace, some buyers have asked what is meant by a home inspection, and whether they should do one.

Buying a home is an emotional decision.  When touring a property, buyers often are focused on factors such as the space, layout, and amenities, and they may be on a tight schedule or be visiting multiple properties.  None of that is conducive to noticing details about the physical condition of the property.

A home inspection addresses exactly that.  It is a walk-through at the first few days of the contract, done with a licensed home inspector hired by the buyer.  Home Inspectors are trained to look for those things that may escape casual notice, and to differentiate whether or not something is an active or recurring problem.  Put another way, it is the Home Inspector’s job to alert the buyer to potential leaks, plumbing or electrical problems, structural issues, failing HVAC or appliances, and the like.

The Inspector will observe the state of the property and the major components, systems, and appliances.  He will then prepare a report that notifies you of any problems and concerns, including things that you may have to fix as the new homeowner.

Most of the commonly used real estate contracts allow the parties to negotiate a solution when significant defects are identified in the report.  In the case of “As-Is” contracts, they allow the buyer to ascertain whether serious defects fundamentally would change the cost of ownership.

The inspection is optional, but usually is a predicate to the buyer invoking rights under that aspect of a real estate contract—even when the buyer already is familiar with the property.  Most contracts only allow a few days for the inspection to occur, after which the opportunity is lost, so it is important to act quickly – and to ask if unsure where to begin.