Next to bringing a child into the world, the most expensive project someone will undertake is buying a home. So are there any ways to avoid what befalls Tom Hanks and Shelley Long in the 1986 movie “The Money Pit”? Enter the home inspector.
A home inspection report documents the condition of the house’s major systems like foundation, roof, electric, plumbing and HVAC and notes potential issues that are present or could evolve. If the inspector is certified in other areas, the report can also address environmental issues, such as radon emissions or water quality for wells.
While occasionally a seller will order the home inspection as an aid in pricing the property, in most cases, it is the responsibility of the buyer. Though banks do not require a home inspection report in order to obtain a mortgage, Lea Lucas, who works for Coldwell Banker-Townside Realtors, says because her company recommends it so highly, they require buyers who decide against having a home inspection to sign a waiver.
Since 2017, the Commonwealth of Virginia has regulated inspectors with a certification process, with the intent of creating an independent, objective source of information to facilitate the home buying process. Most contracts are signed before the inspection, and each real estate contract’s stipulations are specific to that transaction. However, in the event of serious issues being found in the inspection, buyers can use that information to renegotiate or to get out of the contract.
Getting a report can be a daunting experience. “We call it the Moment of Truth,” says John Langen, owner of Pillar to Post Home Inspection. “Do the facts of the condition of the house align themselves with my desire to own this property?” Thirty to 100 pages listing all the issues facing the buyer can be intimidating, but Lucas cautions her clients not to panic. “No matter what, everything is fixable, it’s just a matter of negotiating with the seller.”
Some have said that if you have a house, you don’t need any other hobbies, because there is always so much to do, things that need to be fixed, things that need to be updated. John Heubi of That Place Home Inspections in Pearisburg says: “We do our own work at home and if a home inspector walked into our house today, he or she would find a big long list of things wrong with our house. It’s hard to keep on top of everything, but that is part of home ownership.”
More importantly, prospective buyers need to be aware that the long list of issues in a home inspection report does not mean that the house isn’t livable or does not meet the current code requirements. If the systems were up to code when the house was built, most or all of these things are grandfathered in, so the buyer doesn’t have to do anything until that system fails. Realizing that education is an important part of their job, some home inspectors invite the buyer to accompany them during the process. “The list might be long,” Heubi explains, “but we can show them that one item might only need a $7 part.”
The process gives Langen the opportunity to do what he calls his Home Orientation for the buyer, explaining all of the systems in the house and their location. He marks things with stickers to make it easy to find later and notes the condition and maintenance each will require.
Sydney Darden, first time home buyer who just purchased a property in Christiansburg, was happy to accompany her home inspector, Bob Peek of Inspections, Inc. “It was a little expensive, but so worth it,” she says. And she’s ready for the next time she needs one. “I now know what type of moisture in a basement is concerning and what isn’t, what types of cracks in the walls are bad and what is okay.”
Because of low inventory and high demand, home buying today is a seller’s market and often home buyers wonder if a home inspection is worth it because they may have little negotiating power with the seller. Still, knowledge is important. “Lots of first-time home buyers are maxing themselves out to buy a property,” Heubi declares. “They’re so excited; then they walk in and realize the roof is leaking and suddenly they need to put $20,000 that they don’t have into a new roof. So it’s a dangerous game to play at this point. Better to have that knowledge before you commit.”
So, if you are in the home-buying market, the home inspection report could help you in two ways. First, it can be a negotiating point of the price in the final contract. Second, it can give you the information you need to know exactly what you’re facing in being the new homeowner of a specific property, what repairs or renovations you will need to do or have done and about when. And that beats going into such a very large investment blind.
Mentioned in the article:
That Place Home Inspections
Pillar to Post Home Inspectors
Coldwell-Banker Townside Realtors
Text by Becky Hepler