When you plan to buy and move into a new house, there are many aspects to consider. You look for a house that you like with help of your real estate agent and then begin the buying process. At this point, you will have to hire house inspection services to perform a thorough inspection of the house. As you may well know, this is crucial to know the current condition of the house and understand the workings of its major components.
However, remember to do your research before you hire someone. Go through their standards of practice and find out which organization they are affiliated with. If you find that the inspector’s report does not follow any known standards, find someone else.
It is also important that you understand the details of the inspection report and what you should be focusing on.
An ideal inspection report will give you descriptions of all the major systems of the house (electrical, plumbing, etc.), their operability, and any repairs. Anything that can prove hazardous or is malfunctioning and can cause harm has to be reported.
The report should also disclaim any parts of the house that have not been inspected; house inspections are not exhaustive in the sense that they do not break apart the walls or floor to inspect the insides. They are non-invasive visual inspections.
What can you do to better understand the inspection report and the house?
Be present for the inspection
Remember, it is best if you do not get more than 2 people during the inspection. By avoiding crowds, you can freely follow the inspector around the house and ask questions for clarification. If you are unable to attend the report, be sure to read the report thoroughly and contact the inspector for further clarity. Rest assured that most certified inspectors do a good job, but be aware of the inspector’s process and how detailed they are.
Know what kind of report you will get
There are usually 2 kinds of reports - checklist report and narrative report.
Checklist reports are exactly what the name says; the report will consist of a list of items to be checked, along with a rating (usually “good”, “fair”, “poor”, etc.). This kind of report can leave you confused about the state of the house and what repairs need to be taken care of. Checklist reports were in frequent use in the earlier days but since they are very brief and do not provide more information, they can be ambiguous.
Nowadays, the more descriptive ‘narrative reports’ are used. They provide detailed information on all the systems of the house (some may add pictures as well). Narratives usually consist of
the description of the problem
an explanation of the problem’s extent and what it can affect
a recommendation on how to tackle the problem (for example, further inspections or evaluations)
Never hesitate to approach the inspector in case you have questions or are unable to understand anything in the report.
Discuss and organize repairs/defects
The final report will include every aspect of the house to the inspector’s best knowledge; needless to say, there will be a list of defects and repairs, even if the house seems to be in perfect condition. It is your job to look over the report and discuss it with the inspector as well as your real estate agent. You will need to prioritize the immediate and major repairs, especially if they have the potential for danger. Look out for the presence of mold, asbestos, lead, radon gas, or other hazardous substances that you need to give immediate attention to.
In summary, you as the buyer must not neglect any aspects of the inspection report. Knowing the standards of practice, understanding the inspector’s report, and being in continuous communication with your agent will all help you make a better decision regarding your new home.