Home inspections are standard protocol in purchasing property, whether a condo or a single-family home. Most buyers make their offers to purchase a home contingent upon their satisfaction with a home inspection and if purchasing a condo, an inspection of the entire building as well. In fact, as a buyer, it is your responsibility to hire a licensed home inspector to go over the entire property and give you a detailed assessment of the unit, its operating systems and the building so that you know exactly what you’re buying.
What is a home inspection?
A standard home inspection – in the case of a condominium – is a visual examination of the physical structure and major interior systems of the unit you intend to purchase. The inspector will review readily accessible exposed portions of the unit, which may include the walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, heating and cooling systems, appliances, and plumbing and electrical systems. Also, it is recommended that you have the overall building inspected, too. An inspection of this nature entails a review and assessment of the common areas that are the responsibility of the condo association, such as the roof, basement, mechanicals, foundation, entry way and front door security system, etc. Some additional inspections and/or tests that you may consider are those for lead paint, pests, wood destroying insects, air quality (including radon gas) and water, but these are at the discretion of the buyer. And sometimes, if the situation warrants, a home inspector may suggest bringing in an expert in a particular field – an electrician, plumber, roofer or pest inspector, for example, to get a more in-depth evaluation.
Who attends the home inspection?
As a buyer, you should be present for the home inspection. This allows you to observe the inspection and hear first-hand about the condition of the home, how systems work, what issues have been identified or what could arise, as well as upgrades that could be beneficial, although not mandatory, and also be optimally informed about the property you are about to purchase. The buyer’s broker typically attends, too, and the seller’s broker may be present as well.
What is the timing of a home inspection?
Buyers need to hire home inspectors immediately upon acceptance of their offer to purchase, but prior to signing a Purchase & Sale Agreement. The specific window of time for conducting the home inspection will be part of your offer. In today’s highly competitive Boston real estate market, inspections are occurring within one to three days of an accepted offer, if possible. Buyers should be aggressive in their timetable for scheduling an inspection to strengthen their offers. It’s more attractive to the seller to have the inspection completed right away to minimize the time the property is off the market in the event the buyer decides not to go forward as a result of an inspection item. It’s also advantageous for buyers to conduct the inspection as soon as possible so that they know sooner, rather than later, if there are any material issues that would be deal breakers.
How do you select a qualified home inspector?
The best approach to finding a good home inspector is ask your family, friends, neighbors and business colleagues whose opinions you trust, based on their recent experience with a home inspection. Also, you can rely on your real estate broker (if representing the buyer), who can provide names of inspectors with whom other clients have been satisfied. Another avenue is to tap into the list of state licensed home inspectors that service the area where the condo is located. A good inspector is thorough, addresses all your questions and provides a verbal assessment as well as a detailed report. It is his or her job to point out all the details, not just the problems. Be sure to ask about fees, which will vary depending on the size of the property and the extent of the inspection, and understand what’s included in the basic service as well as the fees for additional inspections/tests.
What documentation do you get from the inspector?
A licensed home inspector is required to provide the buyer with a detailed report, the format of which varies from inspector to inspector, as does the level of detail. The level of detail should be discussed in advance of hiring the inspector. With reports ranging from checklists to photos and diagrams, not all reports are created equal! Regardless, at the conclusion of the home inspection, you should be well-informed on the condition of the home with information ranging from visible, apparent problems to those identified through testing, to any items that pose a risk of concealed damage, to health and safety risks, to whether further assessment is recommended or required.
What should you do with the results?
As a result of what you learn in the inspection, you will be better informed about the condition of the home and the decision to purchase the subject property. Depending on the findings – from serious defects to minor repairs — you can proceed with the transaction as originally agreed, though there is usually some negotiation between the buyer and seller. If this is the case, you can request that the seller repair or replace items that are not in satisfactory condition or request a credit to address the issues yourself. Or, you can renegotiate the purchase price or decide not to proceed further as a result of a material finding in the inspection.
Recognize that no home is perfect…not even a brand new one, but it is up to you to decide on priorities and what you need in order to sign a Purchase & Sale Agreement.