Avoid unpleasant surprises before you buy
Once your offer to purchase a home has been accepted by the seller, buyers will typically have 10 days (longer if specified in the contract) to complete a home inspection.
The home inspection is a crucial element of any home purchase and is the best way to avoid unpleasant surprises before you buy. After all, even if a house looks like it’s in great condition, appearances can sometimes be deceiving.
Education is another great reason for getting an inspection. Most buyers want to learn as much as they can about their purchase so they can protect their investment. Don’t be afraid to follow the home inspector around, or ask questions. Good home inspectors are happy to share their knowledge and educate the would-be homeowner. Expect to pay between $300 and $500 for your inspection.
What does the home inspector look for?
Your inspector will identify apparent defects, problems that require immediate attention, and potential issues that might arise down the road. While not all inclusive, here’s a basic list of items the home inspector will evaluate:
- Structure: Is the house foundation solid? Are there cracks or separations in floors or walls?
- Roof: Are there cracked, missing or damaged roof tiles, shingles, flashing, and fascia, all of which can result in leaks; loose gutters; defects in chimneys or skylights?
- Exterior: Are there cracks in siding, rot, or decay; is there cracking or flaking masonry; cracks in stucco; dents or bowing in vinyl; blistering or flaking paint; is there adequate clearing between siding, stucco and earth?
- Window, doors, trim: Are windows and doors in good working condition, frames are secure and without rot, caulking is solid and secure, and glass is undamaged?
- Interior rooms: Are walls leaning; are there signs of faulty framing; or stained walls, ceilings or baseboards that could point to roof or plumbing leaks?
- HVAC: Is the HVAC system operating in both heating and cooling mode, what is the age of the system, and does temperature output from vents meet manufacturers recommendation?
- Kitchen: Do range hood fans vent to the outside; do ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection exist for electrical outlets; are there leaks under the sink; do appliances operate properly?
- Bathrooms: Are toilets flushing, drains draining, showers spraying, and tubs securely fastened? Are there signs of mold?
- Plumbing: Inspectors are evaluating pipes, drains, water heaters, and water pressure and temperature.
- Electrical: Is wiring and electrical panels in good shape; are breakers tripping; do light switches and outlets function properly?
- Grounds: Are there signs of current or future water issues such as standing puddles, faulty grading or downspouts, or leaks in landscape watering lines?
In most cases, results are available immediately and the home inspector will review his or her findings with you and alert you to any costly or potentially hazardous conditions. A detailed, written report, including photographs, will typically follow within 24 hours.
A common misconception is that the seller should repair or rectify every defect found in the home inspection. Keep in mind that, unless you’re buying new construction, you are not buying a new home. In fact, your Arizona purchase contract states “Buyer and Seller agree the Premises are being sold in its present physical condition as of the date of contract acceptance.”
So, does this mean you’re locked into buying the home if the inspection reveals some major flaws or costly repairs or improvements? Absolutely not!
By default, your purchase is contingent on a home inspection. If major problems are found during the inspection, you can back out of the deal. If repairs are warranted, you can usually negotiate a resolution with the seller, and if not, still cancel the contract and receive the return of your earnest money. Your buyer’s agent will explain those options and timelines in more detail.
Know that your inspection may identify minor repairs or cosmetic defects that were “apparent” when you viewed the home before making an offer — those defects should be considered in the price you agreed to pay for the home. The scope of negotiating repairs, therefore, should focus on defects that were not visible or apparent to the untrained eye, and discovered only after being examined by a qualified inspector.
Keep in mind that in many resale homes, some of the home’s mechanics may be aging, but as long as they are still operational, it is not reasonable for the buyer to ask or expect the seller to perform upgrades. Instead, purchasing or negotiating a home warranty will help defray the cost of unexpected repairs after closing.