John Adams: Home inspection is important for any buyer

Here are the questions I am asked most frequently:

What exactly is a home inspection?

A home inspection is an impartial visual examination of the physical structure and major internal systems of a residential building, much like a physical exam that your doctor might perform on you. It is not an appraisal, a warranty, a code inspection or an insurance policy.

What does a standard home inspection include?

The inspector will review the accessible exposed portions of the structure of the home, including the roof, attic, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, basement and foundation, as well as the heating/air conditioning systems, interior plumbing and electrical systems for potential problems.

Remember, if the inspector can't see it or get to a system, it, he can't include it in the inspection.

Why is a home inspection so important?

The purchase of a home is a large  largest single investment. You should learn as much as you can about the condition of the property and the possible need for any major repairs before buying that house. A thorough home inspection helps minimize the possibility of unpleasant surprises, which can be very expensive.

After the inspection, you will have a clearer understanding of the property you are about to buy, giving you confidence and peace of mind.

How much does a home inspection typically cost?

In the metro Atlanta area, $300-$500 is typical. A thorough inspection usually takes two to three hours. The results are given in a  written report of areas needing attention.

It's always a good idea to compare rates  from several inspection services in your area, asking exactly what is included in the price. The inspector's experience, training and professional affiliations should be important considerations when making your decision.

How do I find a reputable home inspector?

The state of Georgia currently has no licensing  or educational requirements for home inspectors, so an inspector's reputation is particularly important.

Real estate agents and closing attorneys typically are familiar with reputable home inspectors. If you are given a referral, you will want to make sure that the home inspector is either a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI.org) or the Georgia Association of Home Inspectors (GAHI.com). Each association requires training and experience, and all members subscribe to a code of ethics.

When should you order an inspection?

Most sales contracts include a seven- to 10day inspection contingency, so that if there are substantial problems, you can renegotiate or withdraw altogether and get a refund of your earnest money. Defects of a cosmetic nature are typically not included in the inspection contingency.

Smart sellers order an inspection before they put their home on the market and use that inspection report as a marketing tool. However, buyers should not rely on an inspection furnished by the seller for reasons of prudence.

Do I have to be present for the home inspection?

 No, but I strongly recommend that you attend, for two reasons:

1) You can watch the inspector do his job and ask questions directly, and

2) You will learn, firsthand, about the condition of the home and become familiar with all its features and components.

What if my inspector finds problems with the home?

No home is perfect. If problems are discovered, it doesn't mean you shouldn't buy the house, only that you will know in advance what to expect.

Depending on your contract agreement, you may be able to negotiate the purchase price of the home with the seller, possibly offsetting repair costs.

What if the inspector misses something, or I discover a problem later on?

Inspectors will ask you to sign an acknowledgment that they are not responsible for defects that are hidden from sight or in areas that are inaccessible. Also, I inspectors are human and are being asked to make a lot of judgment calls.

For example, if a furnace appears to be working properly, but it is 10 years old, is it good or not? The correct answer is that the furnace is "near the end of its service life," but that it may have another three to five years service ahead of it.

 While the inspector can examine the burner and the heat exchanger, and look for signs of rust or decay, the inspector cannot know when the furnace will stop working.

Bottom line: The more you know about the house you are buying, the better prepared you are to make the final decision and avoid future surprises.

John Adams is an author, broker and investor. He answers real estate questions on radio station WGKA (920 AM) at noon every Saturday. For more real estate information or to make a comment, visit www.money99.com.

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