Home Inspection Can Be an Ounce Of Prevention

Typically home inspection is arranged and paid for by the buyer, but in some cases a seller might hire an inspector to get a better sense of the condition of the property before negotiations begin.

The average inspection takes one to three hours.

Defects often cited by inspectors include inadequate wiring; worn-out furnaces; heat pumps that don’t work properly; carbon monoxide leaks; and cracked heat exchangers.

In homes at least 20 years old, the most common items needing repair are roof shingles, electrical wiring and water drainage, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors, a nationwide organization.

In new construction, it reports, inspectors find water seepage in the basement, inadequate attic ventilation, poor roof construction and substandard masonry and finish work.

Pittsburgh home inspections are usually for the benefit of the buyer, and generally come after a deal has been struck.

But there’s the rub. Sales contracts usually stipulate that the deal is contingent on a favorable inspection, and an inspection that turns up costly defects could give a buyer cold feet.

Some real estate agents view inspectors as “deal killers,” although in many cases a bad report just leads to more negotiating over the selling price.

The inspectors’ association believes the best time for an inspection is when a seller first lists the home with a real-estate agent.

That way a favorable report can provide the seller with a sales tool, while one that spots defects can give the seller an opportunity to make repairs early and thus eliminate any surprises later that could ruin a deal.

With more focus on seller disclosure, though, an inspection done for a seller could lead to more accurate disclosures and “keep sellers out of hot water,” said one inspector.

Once an inspection has been performed, the buyer should receive a written report detailing findings.

The home inspection industry has no standards for this report, so there will be variations in its format, depending on the inspector. According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, the report should describe the condition of the home at the time of the inspection, based on visual observation, and should provide an indication of the need for major repairs.

Finding defects doesn’t mean one shouldn’t buy the home, only that the consumer can know in advance the type of repair costs to anticipate.

If repairs are needed, the buyer may be able to negotiate to have the work done by the seller, or lower the price of the home based on the cost of the repairs.

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