If you’re getting ready to buy a home, there are tons of things to include on your list of to-dos. One of the most important steps in home buying is the inspection. Home inspections are designed to help you make wise decisions about a property you’re interested in based on its condition and other factors. Whether you’ve had a home inspection before or you’re new to the process, sometimes reading the home inspection report can be a bit confusing. This guide explores the details of your report so you’ll be able to decide whether or not the property you’re interested in is right for you.
There are many situations where you’d need a home inspection to help close a sale.
You’re selling a house. If you’re planning to sell, getting a home inspection early can help you detect potential problems so you can make repairs now. The inspection will help you determine if the home has any issues that might deter buyers from making an offer or that could present problems later on.
You’re buying a house. Buyers should always get a home inspection since it can alert you to any underlying problems with the property that you can’t see with the naked eye. A home inspection report can also be used to negotiate the price with the seller later if you need to do so.
You want to know the value. While a home inspector can’t tell you the value of a home, they can give you some insight into its condition. Homes with minimal problems tend to be worth more, while homes in distress or properties that need a lot of attention can translate into a lower value or asking price.
Once the home inspector is finished, you’ll receive a report for review. Here are some things that are included in a home inspection report, as well as a few things that aren’t typically covered in a standard home inspection:
Roof. The report will tell you the condition of the roof, including gutters, downspouts, flashings, skylights, chimneys, and the roofing material itself.
Ventilation & insulation. Your report should include how well the attic, foundation, and crawl spaces are insulated and how well everything is ventilated.
Exterior. Your home inspection checklist and report should include information about the condition of the exterior, such as vinyl siding or paint, windows, walkways, driveways, exterior stairs, decks, and exterior doors.
Structure. The home inspector should indicate the current condition of the home’s basement, foundation, or crawlspace and should include information about any cracks, signs of water penetration, foundation movement, and other structural concerns.
Cooling & heating. Check your report to find out about the condition of the HVAC system, including the condition and location of the thermostat and what type of system is used in the home.
Fireplace. If the home has a fireplace, the report will cover the condition of the damper doors, doors and frames, and other visible portions of both the fireplace and chimney.
Plumbing. This is one of the most thorough parts of a home inspection and should include information about the home’s water main and shut-off valves, pipes, and plumbing, the water heater, all toilets, sinks, tubs, and showers, as well as all drains and waste systems.
Electrical. Read your report carefully to find out about the electrical main, panel, all light fixtures and outlets, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and the home’s wiring system.
Doors & windows. The report will also include basic information about all doors, windows, flooring, walls, ceilings, and stairs. The inspector will confirm that all stairs have a proper railing and that all other components are properly sealed and/or in safe, good condition.
What’s not included. Your home inspection report likely won’t include information about the swimming pool, well and septic system, mold, radon, pests, or asbestos. These items are important, but you’ll need to hire a separate inspector for an additional fee if they’re a cause for concern.
Now that you know what’s included in your report, how can you identify areas of concern? Some reports are color-coded to make reading and translating each section easier. The color green indicates that everything is fine, blue represents a minor concern, yellow a moderate concern, and red translates to a major concern that needs repair. To protect yourself and your investment, there are other things to look out for when reviewing the report:
Home inspectors use lots of special terms and acronyms when completing a report. Here are some important terms that you should be familiar with so that you know what they mean for you.
(F) Functional. This letter or term means that the item inspected is working properly, allowing for normal wear and tear.
(NI) Not Inspected. If a component of the home isn’t inspected, it’s usually because it’s inaccessible or the utilities aren’t turned on.
(AE) Additional Evaluation Recommended. If you see this term, it means that the inspector recommends that you investigate the item further to ensure that it’s safe, working properly, or to determine the root cause of a problem.
(S) Safety Concerns. Pay close attention to this terminology, since it indicates a possible safety concern. Many lenders will require these items to be addressed before they’ll approve financing on a home.
(R) General Repair. This code indicates that a specific item is in need of repair, but it doesn’t always mean something extremely expensive or dangerous.
(D) Defect. If you see this term, it means that a component of the home needs to be repaired by a licensed professional.
Buying a home is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, which is why your real estate agent will recommend a pre-purchase home inspection if you’re serious about making an offer. Pre-inspections are designed to pinpoint any red flags or possible issues with the property before you make an offer. Always read the report carefully, and sit down with your Realtor so you can discuss your next move.
Here are a few pointers that will help make reading and interpreting your home inspection report easier:
Once your home inspection is complete, where do you go from here? Here’s what to keep in mind before you make an offer or sign a contract.
Buying a house is an exciting experience, but it’s important to do your due diligence in order to make sure that you’re getting the best property possible. A home inspection will ensure you’re aware of any potential problems that might cause major headaches later on. And if the report comes out clean, you can move into your new and forever home with peace of mind, knowing that it’s a solid structure with no major problems hiding in the wings.