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7 Things New Home Buyers Need to Know About Getting a Home Inspection

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Zachary Walston
Zachary Walston
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In today's hot seller's market, buyers are making more concessions than ever. Some even go as far as to waive due diligence (not recommended). In most cases, however, you have a few days to mull things over and back out of a contract. One of the most important tasks to do during this time is the inspection.

While inspections cost several hundred dollars upfront, I always recommend my buyers get one. You want to know what you’re getting into with your new home and this gives you the opportunity to walk into your new home eyes wide open about any potential issues that could occur down the road or to renegotiate if any major problems are found. - Lindsay Walston

Lindsay is a real estate agent based out of Atlanta, GA. I recently spoke to her about buyer concessions and home inspections. She was adamant home inspections are a must. It's not as simple as Googling 'home inspectors' and picking the first option. There are some tips and tricks to maximizing the experience.

How do I choose a home inspector?

Choosing the right inspector is really important. You need someone who will be able to provide a thorough assessment of your new home. - Lindsay Walston

One of the best ways to find someone is via a personal or professional recommendation but you still want to thoroughly vet them to ensure they are qualified. Make sure the company is bonded and insured, get references, and request a sample of an inspection report so you can get an idea of what to expect. Compare prices and see what level of training and certifications your potential inspector possesses.

Cheaper is not better. You get what you pay for.

What does an inspection include?

That depends on the inspector.

Never assume something is covered in the baseline price. Always ask. - Lindsay Walston

As a rule, radon testing, lead-based paint assessments, and pest inspections are typically an extra cost and require special certifications and training to complete. So, if you are looking for these things, make sure you are upfront during your screening so that you can get an accurate price, but first, ensure your inspector is certified to perform these additional assessments. If you have specific concerns about a house, relay them to your inspector. They may recommend additional testing based on their findings.

How much does a home inspection cost?

Cost depends on a couple of different things. There is significant variability in pricing depending on where your new home is located and the qualifications of the inspector themselves. Any add-ons like radon testing, mold testing, or other additional assessments will typically increase the price.

In the Atlanta area, I have seen costs that range from $400-1,500. It may be tempting to skip out on this additional out-of-pocket expense but don’t do it. You want to ensure you have as much information as possible about your new home and if any issues are identified it may give you the opportunity to get these things addressed before you even move in. - Lindsay Walston

If you skip the inspection and find the issues later, you’re on your own.

Do I need to attend the inspection?

Lindsay usually recommends buyers attend at least the last 20-30 minutes of an inspection to review the findings in person with the inspector themselves. This allows the opportunity to ask questions and get clarity around any findings. If you have specific questions or concerns about certain features or potential issues with the home, however, it might be better to attend the whole inspection in person.

Always clear it with your inspector first but attending the entire event can give you a little bit better of an idea of exactly what you’re dealing with and allow you the opportunity to see any potential issues for yourself. Depending on the size of the home, an inspection can take hours, and they tend to occur in the middle of the day, so you’ll have to plan accordingly.

What happens if an issue is found during an inspection?

No matter the age of the home, there will be something that pops up on the inspection. Guaranteed. - Lindsay Walston

No home is perfect, and issues will pop up, even in the new construction springing up throughout the suberbs of Atlanta. There is a chance you will need to negotiate at least a few repairs, but it is important to be reasonable during this process. No seller will fix everything on the inspection list, so selecting the highest priority items is important to ensure that your requests are granted, and you don’t kill the transaction. Your real estate agent can help guide you through this process as well to make it as smooth and successful as possible.

How do I negotiate for repairs?

There are generally two ways you can negotiate for repairs: get a credit to do work after you move in or have the seller complete the repairs in advance of closing. - Lindsay Walston

Credits are usually more convenient for a seller, so they don’t have to go through the trouble of getting repairs done. By hiring someone to do the repairs yourself, you can ensure whoever does them does good quality work. If you request that a seller complete a repair, ensure you specify in your negotiation that a licensed and insured specialist does the work and that receipts are provided in advance of closing.

You don’t want a seller DIYing specialist level repairs and you do need proof that the work is completed as requested. You should plan to inspect any completed work thoroughly during your final walkthrough.

What else do I need to know?

Home inspectors are generalists. If a major issue is found, it may be beneficial to get an expert to look into a problem further to get a more accurate understanding of the problem and the potential cost to fix it.

Your inspector is like your primary care doctor. They may know something is wrong but if they suspect a heart condition, they will likely refer you to a cardiologist to get a more thorough workup and diagnosis. The same rules apply here. - Lindsay Walston

Buyers often forget home inspectors are human and some things can be missed. Nothing is 100% guaranteed and sometimes certain issues may not be able to be fully assessed due to lack of access. Inspectors can’t see through walls or flooring to identify a potential problem, and you don’t own the house yet so you can’t instruct them to tear through sheetrock or pull-up flooring to get a better look. Some inspectors do offer limited warranties on their work but it is important to understand exactly what they cover and entail.

Atlanta buyers have enough to worry about in this market and are paying exorbitant prices. Don't add uncovered home issues to the list.