What exactly is a home inspection?

I have been inspecting properties for over 20 years now.  I am somewhat surprised about how many of my clients are unsure what a home inspection really is or what it is for.  Some questions I receive are:

  1. What do I do with the inspection?
  2. What happens after the inspection?
  3. Do the sellers fix all the issues you find?
  4. Does the bank require a copy of the report?

Let me go through the process of what a home inspection is about, not so much the technical aspect of a home inspection, but more the purpose.  We all know you should get a home inspection, but why?

Let me start off by saying it is definitely the best idea to get an inspection on a home you are purchasing.  It can help reduce risk when purchasing a home.  Don’t let anyone talk you out of it.  The following will summarize from start to finish the purpose of a home inspection.

  • The best advice I can give is do your research when looking for an inspector.  DO NOT BASE YOUR SOLE DECISION ON PRICE!  Take price into consideration, but many sub-par or struggling inspectors under cut pricing to get business.   Saving $25 dollars is nothing if the inspector is under qualified and does not report on a major structural issue that cost thousands to repair.   What are their qualifications?  How long have they inspected?  In Wisconsin, inspectors need to be licensed.  Check reviews.   Some Realtors will give out names, check them against your own web search.  Also, this day and age, reports should be digital with pictures.
  • The purpose of an inspection is for you, the client.  You are purchasing a home and you want (or should want) to know what type of condition the home is in.  Has it been maintained?  Does it need extensive work?   Everyone has a budget and you need to take into account the cost of the home along with any upgrades or repairs that may be needed.  Some of you may not know much about homes, so this can be a learning lesson on what to look out for, where shut off valves/switches are located, and general maintenance.   We at MK include a lot of info in our reports, some comments just being helpful reminders to clean gutters or apply window well covers, some marginal items may included sticky doors, caulking that is needed, minor reports or conditions.  Then there may be some items labeled defective which may include, safety issues, major damage to the home.   If your inspector isn’t notifying you of these items you may not be getting your moneys worth.
  • Upon completion of the inspection, make sure all your questions are answered.  There are no dumb questions, so don’t feel ashamed asking anything.  Your paying for a service.   Make sure your satisfied.  We at MK write down most of the information that we mention or point out so you will have something to reference to as needed  (pictures included).   It’s a lot of information to process.   So, once complete, you will receive a copy of the report (as will your Realtor).  You then can discuss on how to proceed about any major issues that have been brought to your attention.  You made an offer on a home that you like, if the inspection revealed some major issue, you and your Realtor will need to negotiate with the sellers.   To answer one of the questions, the sellers do not necessarily have to fix anything.  But, in most cases, larger or safety issues are generally negotiated on and repaired.   You want to feel comfortable with what you are purchasing.
  • At the time of this writing, in the Green Bay area, lenders and insurers rarely ask for a copy of the inspection.   Again, the inspection is for you, evaluation of the property and to report on any issues that should be corrected.  If needed, bring in the right professionals recommend to evaluate any significant issues noted in the report.

Well, I hope this helps on understanding more about the process and purpose of an inspection.  In summary, get a qualified, experienced, digital reporting inspector.  It’s all for your protection and to help reduce risk in the purchase of your new home.