(Part 5 in a Series.)
Congratulations! You’ve found your dream home! Your offer has been accepted and your attorney is working on the contract of sale. But before you sign that contract, let’s make sure what you’re purchasing is what you’re expecting. You don’t want any expensive and unpleasant surprises after you close!
The fifth critical member to add to your team is a home inspector or engineer.
A home inspector will meet you at the house and inspect the entire structure, including all systems and utilities, from roof to foundation. Plan on spending at least a few hours with him. He will point out every issue and concern he encounters throughout the inspection. Since quite a bit of information will be provided, he will also deliver a detailed written report, following the inspection.
A thorough inspector will examine the basement, foundation, or crawl space under the house. He will go up into the attic. He will examine the roof either up close or with binoculars from the ground. The heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical systems will all be examined to determine their functionality and remaining useful life.
A thorough inspector will call attention to every issue he encounters, large and small, serious and trivial. But a good inspector will explain why some issues are serious while other issues are trivial. He will put an estimated price tag, or cost to cure, on every issue he discovers.
It’s critical every home buyer realize that unless they are purchasing a newly constructed home, every house will have some issues that need rectifying. Whether you’re buying a house that’s 10 years old or 100 years old, there’s bound to be something that needs attention! It’s the inspector’s job to add perspective to each concern and it’s up to you to decide whether these concerns warrant becoming a topic of negotiation with the seller.
Some issues are obviously major. If the foundation is crumbling and the house is in danger of sliding into a ravine, I’d seriously reconsider your purchase. On the other hand, I remember a certain first time buyer that became hysterical because the home didn’t have the required GFI outlets. (Ground Fault Interrupter outlets are the electrical wall outlets with the little push-button circuit breakers, found in bathrooms and kitchens, which prevent accidental electrocution.) Her inspector made a huge mountain over a molehill of a problem. And this buyer let a handful of twenty-dollar items prevent her from purchasing what was otherwise a perfectly good house.
Home inspectors can come from many different backgrounds with varying levels of experience. The home inspector you retain should have professional affiliations, such as NABIE (National Academy Of Building Inspection Engineers) or NSPE (National Society Of Professional Engineers). Unlike home inspection trade societies (and there are many), NABIE and NSPE accept only Licensed Professional Engineers as members. Members of NABIE need to meet tough entrance requirements, are highly qualified in the home inspection profession, and adhere to a strict code of ethics.
As with all of the professionals you’re adding to your team, ask for recommendations. Your real estate attorney, Realtor, and even your Mortgage Planner can probably recommend a competent and helpful home inspector. With a detailed inspection report in hand, you can ensure the seller addresses certain repairs they are responsible for. You can budget for other issues you’ll have to address once you take possession of the home. And you’ll ensure that the biggest investment of your life doesn’t become a money pit.
Warren Goldberg is President of Mortgage Wealth Advisors, a Certified Mortgage Planning Specialist®, and a published author. His interviews include Blog-Talk Radio, Newsday, and the Long Island Herald. Since 1992, he’s been sharing his financial knowledge and wealth-building strategies, including how to properly use your mortgage as a financial tool. His clients regularly express their trust and appreciation by recommending friends and family call when in need of mortgage, real estate, and financial guidance.