12 Home Inspection Myths That Simply Aren’t True
After shopping around, securing financing, and negotiating with the seller, many prospective homeowners think that the inspection must be straightforward in comparison. In many cases, it can be, provided you go in knowing what to expect. There can’t be that much to expect, right? You’d think so, but many buyers have misconceptions about what the process involves or how to approach it. That’s why we’re here to address some common home inspection myths and clarify what you might’ve heard.
1. An Inspection Is a Guarantee of Quality
While home inspectors are usually seasoned professionals, this doesn’t mean that they’ll be able to find every little thing wrong with a house. The inspector may not explore every little corner of the home or get on the roof to assess it for safety. This isn’t to say that the inspector won’t do their job — in most cases, inspectors work hard to find major and minor issues that need to be resolved. The issue here is simply that the inspector is human, and as such, some things may go under their radar.
If you’re concerned about what the inspector could miss, you’re free to join them every step of the way and ask as many questions as you need. If you see something amiss in the building, don’t be afraid to point it out. Bring a pad and pen to take notes on what you see as well as what the inspector has to say, and plan ahead of time to ask about your biggest concerns. In especially concerning cases, you may have the option to bring in a second inspector that can comb back through and find things the first inspector may not have noticed.
In any event, make sure the inspection service you’re going through has current general liability and professional liability insurance certificates. So long as their insurance policies cover more than the cost of inspection, there’s a good chance you’ll be compensated if issues do arise post-inspection.
2. Inspections and Appraisals Are Basically the Same
If this were true, nobody would be trying to get both done. They’re similar in that both help you make a judgment on a home that’s for sale. The key difference is what, specifically, they’re judging. Appraisers assess the house’s value for financing purposes, usually on behalf of a lender, while inspectors investigate the property to determine the condition it’s in. An appraisal often considers whether the house meets base standards, but they don’t go much further than a visual check. The comprehensive report for the buyer comes from the inspection.
So how does each of these help you as a buyer? To put it simply, appraisals are designed to assess several facets of data and determine what the home is currently worth, which may be different from the price the realtor has set. Appraisals are typically carried out on behalf of your mortgage lender to help them determine how much they should be loaning you. This way, they don’t lend you too much money for a house that isn’t worth it, and they don’t underestimate and lend you too little.
Inspections are typically carried out and paid for by the buyer, and the process gives you insight into the condition of the home. This is to shed light on issues that need repairing in order for the home to be safely livable. Both inspections and appraisals can be carried out prior to accepting an offer, so you can be sure you’re paying exactly what the home is worth.
3. Inspectors Give a Pass or Fail Grade
Buyers all have different opinions on what they’re willing to deal with in a new home. A “minor plumbing issue” in one buyer’s eyes might be an unacceptable flaw in another’s, for instance. In light of this, inspectors don’t assign an overall “grade” to a house, nor do they help renegotiate the price or give you an answer on whether you should buy. The resulting report is meant to be an objective assessment, one that helps you answer that question yourself.
The trouble here is that without a defined grading system, it’s hard to get a solid idea of what causes a home to pass or fail an inspection. Fortunately, the inspector will also recommend solutions for the findings in their report. Think of it a bit like seeing your doctor for a checkup: If your doctor found an issue with your eyes, he or she would refer you to an optometrist. In the same vein, inspectors would recommend specialists like electricians or plumbers to help you resolve certain issues in the home.
4. Buyers Aren’t Allowed at Inspections
This one is anything but true. In fact, inspectors encourage that you attend the inspection in person. It doesn’t matter if you know the first thing about residential construction and maintenance — in fact, the main reason to attend the inspection is to learn from what the inspector uncovers. Though the inspector is going to write a report for you to look over, this is the ideal opportunity to ask questions, take notes and get more detailed information. First-time homeowners can especially benefit from this, as they can learn about the workings of a house, the regular maintenance they’ll need to do and the repairs and upgrades they should anticipate in the near future.
Tied to this myth is the idea that buyers shouldn’t bring anything to an inspection. On the contrary, it’s actually very helpful for you to bring some of your own tools like a measuring tape, level or square to check parts of the home yourself. At any rate, have a notebook and pencil on hand to keep track of what’s going on during the inspection. Take notes, jot down any important findings, and hold onto this information in case you need it later.
5. New Homes Don’t Need Inspection
It’s very rare that a house comes in perfect condition when you buy it. This remains true even for newly-built properties. Constructing a home involves many different multiple subcontractors and workers, meaning there’s a chance for something to get overlooked. Any faults present from construction may not get noticed immediately by the new owners, particularly when the new home hasn’t been lived in. The builders may not encounter issues that owners will in everyday activities. Because of this, it’s a good idea to have a third party take a look before purchasing.
Consider, too, that if you later sell the home and the new inspector uncovers any pre-existing faults, you’re the one who will be held accountable for fixing them instead of the builder. Catching these early on with a home inspection before purchase lets you avoid liability.
6. Refurbished Homes Don’t Need Inspection
Just as builders can make or overlook mistakes and flaws in a newly constructed residence, previous owners may fail to address p as they refurbish a house to put it on the market. Home inspectors know where to look for common problems, and an extra set of eyes always helps in picking up what someone else may miss.
While many sellers are acting in good faith, some might be looking to make a quick buck. House flippers may cut corners in remodeling to maximize profit margins, buying low-value homes and selling them at higher prices. This leads to a home with a surface-level appearance of being refurbished, only for various unaddressed problems to arise after you move in. An inspection can uncover these and prevent you from regretting the purchase.
7. Any Home Inspector Is Fine
It may surprise you to hear that in the U.S., only 30 states require home inspectors to be licensed. No matter where you are in the country, make sure you’re going with an inspector who is professionally licensed. Even with a licensed inspector, you should still read up on their credentials and see what kind of experience they have in the field. Some inspectors are more qualified than others, and you want the most experienced person possible to assess the safety of a home.
You are not obligated to wait until after you’ve accepted an offer on a home to start looking for an inspector. In fact, it’s a good idea to interview several potential inspectors before sealing the deal. This way, you can meet each person face-to-face and ask them directly about their work and experience. Another great way to get a reading on the best potential inspector is to compare inspection reports. When you interview a potential inspector, ask them for a sample copy of a report they’ve done on a home. You can review the sample to get a better look at how they communicate as well as how in-depth they go with their inspection.
8. Inspectors Can Give Home Buying Advice
Home inspectors are there to assess the quality and safety of a building as well as identify issues that need to be resolved — while they may be highly experienced, that doesn’t mean every home inspector can give you advice on buying a house. The inspector likely cannot give you the full scope of information you need to make a good decision. Even if they could, it isn’t the inspector’s job to do so. This tends to fall in line with the old adage of bringing a car to a mechanic and asking if he or she would purchase and drive it.
This is simply a case of asking the wrong person for advice. If you need additional information or support with this process, there are plenty of resources online and in print for you to research. You can also speak with others in your network who have recently purchased homes or find an online forum of new homeowners to get advice from.
9. Inspectors Can Help with Price Negotiation
In a similar vein as homebuying advice, home inspectors aren’t there to help you negotiate the price on a house. Their job is to inspect the home’s quality and safety, collect data and present it to buyers and sellers to get everyone on the same page. While they may find small or even significant issues that could ultimately affect the selling price, it is not the inspector’s job to present these issues in a way that would sway the cost in your favor.
Think of it like this: You wouldn’t bring a farmer to a grocery store, ask him to pick out all the lowest quality produce, and then demand the cashier sell it to you for a lower price. The same goes for the home inspector, so don’t expect them to hunt for price-changing issues on your behalf. Sellers are not necessarily required to make repairs or changes following inspection; rather, the summary report is designed to give you an idea of what repairs costs would be for you as a homeowner and give you an opportunity to walk away.
10. ‘City-Approved’ and ‘Up to Code’ Mean the Same Thing
There are some significant differences between municipal (city) inspectors and home inspectors, so the results of their work won’t always be the same. Municipal inspectors are typically brought in by the realtor and check the property for things like zoning, permits, parking requirements and safety concerns like fire and carbon monoxide detectors. They are only assessing whether or not certain municipal guidelines have been met for the building, not the quality of the home.
Home inspectors focus on the quality of the building, the condition of the framework and walls, the state of the internal wiring and plumbing systems, signs of previous damage, and countless other aspects of the building. A home inspection typically goes much further in-depth than a municipal inspection, so just because the house is “city-approved” doesn’t mean that it’s “up to code.”
11. Home Inspectors Are Only Helping Sellers and Realtors
Any professional can tell you that working with a client should be an unbiased, completely objective experience. This absolutely applies to home inspectors as well. These professionals are here to ensure that a home is in good condition before anyone moves in, and the information they collect is meant to fully inform both sellers and buyers on what state the building is in and what needs to change. For you, the buyer, this is a crucial tool in discovering what you’ll be getting yourself into by moving forward with the purchase.
It may be best for you to personally hire a home inspector rather than going with an inspector the realtor suggests. In cases like these, the realtor may be primarily focused on making the sale, and there is a chance they will put pressure on the inspector to speed up the process or word the summary report in a misleading way. This doesn’t always happen, but the possibility does exist.
12. A Long Inspection Means Lots of Problems
As a new buyer, you may be concerned if your home inspection takes longer than you were expecting. Don’t panic — for first-time homeowners, inspections often take much longer than usual. This is because inspectors take the time to explain the basics of the home and property, as well as answer any questions the buyers may have. Because the inspector is going in-depth on things like furnace maintenance, electrical wiring, plumbing and repairs, the process can go on for quite some time.
Don’t get too wrapped up in the length of the inspection. Countless factors need to be assessed, and your inspector is working hard to make sure you’re informed and equipped to make a good decision. Let the expert do what you’re paying them to do, no matter how long it takes.
The home buying experience can be intimidating, especially when things like inspections come into play. Fortunately, being more aware of what the inspection process entails can make everything much easier on you. The most important takeaway here is this: In the modern market, it’s your right as a buyer to have as much information as possible before making one of the largest investments of your life. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions, take pictures, do your own research, and get a second (or even third) opinion if you feel it’s necessary. Be there as often as possible when anything is happening to the home, and remember that you’re allowed to take notes.
At the end of the day, the housing industry is supposed to support you, the buyer. Never be afraid to hold your realtor, inspector or any other professional to such a standard.