The Real Truth About Home Inspections

Doing an inspection on a home is probably the most important part of the whole home buying process. During the inspection you have a chance to really dig into the house to figure out if there are any major problems that you didn't know about. You might want to cancel after the inspection, you might want to get $5,000 off the price or you might be just fine.

So what happens during a home inspection?

Most offers we write are subject to a satisfactory inspection. During the inspection period you can cancel anytime for any reason. You have about 7-10 days to do your inspection, come up with the results and negotiate with the sellers. Inspections are typically about 2-3 hours long, and most buyers hire a professional inspector to perform them. Inspectors are generally guys or gals that have been in construction for a long time and just know how to find things to look for on houses. Most of them have been trained to pick stuff out that a lot of buyers miss on first glance, so I think it is a really good idea to do an inspection – especially if you are a first time home buyer.

General inspections typically cost $300-$400. The inspector goes through the house and looks at everything from the interior to the exterior, the condition of the furnace, AC, water heater, etc. If you want to test for high levels of radon gas you can do a radon inspection for $150. Radon is a gas that is everywhere, you can't smell it or taste it, but sometimes the gases get trapped in basements without enough air flow. If there are high levels of radon, that can be dangerous and cause cancer. So you can test for the gas and if levels are high you can install a radon mitigation system for around $1300-$1500. This would be done by a professional contractor and is typically pretty easy to install. Most buyers don't do radon inspections, but I am seeing a lot more of them done now than I used to. We’ve even had some lenders not lend on a property if the radon levels are too high. So if you want to play your cards right, you could get the $150 test – and if the radon level is high, you could ask the seller to pay for the install of the mitigation system. If they say yes, you just saved $1300.

You can also do a sewer line inspection, which typically cost around $130-$180. During the sewer line inspection, a drain-repair guy, or a sewer-line guy, will stick a tiny camera down the main sewer line – which is usually accessible via the basement – to see if there are any cracks or holes in the sewer line that could cause a problem. They also look for tree roots and things that could block up the line. I think it is a good idea to get a sewer line inspection, here’s why:

One time, I put an offer on a foreclosure, got the offer accepted and did a line inspection. The inspector found some problems – nothing that needed to be fixed right away – but I was able to get $2500 off the price of the house. At the end of the day, having a sewer line inspection done will give you peace of mind, and can increase your negotiating position if you do find a problem – or it could end up saving you a lot of money because fixing those lines can cost up to $10,000 .

So what happens if your inspector finds a bunch of problems that you didn't know about, or are concerned about?  For the most part you start negotiating, and that is your realtor’s job. You want to try to come to a solution that works for everybody involved. If the concerns are legit then most buyers and sellers will be able to come to an agreement, but it really depends on the motivation levels of both parties. Some buyers are more demanding and want $10,000 off a price, and some sellers are not willing to negotiate at all. My advice is to work with a good realtor that has a lot of experience going through properties, knows how to spot things that are going to be a problem and has a background in construction. He or she should be able to spot a lot of the problems on houses before you even write an offer so that will save you a lot of time. It is better to find a house that seems pretty clean when you do your first walk through, and then – if you like it and you think it is a good value – make an offer and do your inspection. If you have any questions please let me know – and if you thought this was helpful, and you liked the article, please share it with somebody you know. Thanks.