Should I Arrange for a House Inspection Before Closing?
The answer is a resounding YES. To avoid legal headaches and expensive repairs later, you should arrange for a professional inspection before finalizing the purchase of a new home. A satisfactory inspection may also be required by your lender or insurer. Be sure to consult with an experienced real estate attorney for guidance on how to word the contract of sale to protect your interests in case the inspection reveals unexpected defects.
The Sales Contract
Typically, the sales contract for a new residence should contain a provision that the agreement is subject to the buyer’s arranging and paying for a satisfactory professional inspection of the property, usually within a couple of weeks. The contract can provide either that the buyer has the right to cancel the sale if the inspection report is unsatisfactory, or that the seller has the right to make repairs or drop the price by the anticipated cost of repairs. In the latter case, if the seller declines to repair or reduce the price, the buyer can either go ahead with the original purchase agreement or back out.
Whichever option the contract includes, if the sale is ultimately cancelled, any down payment should be refunded to the buyer. In unusual circumstances, the parties may wish to try to renegotiate with new knowledge gained from the inspection.
Some states have certification or licensing programs for home inspectors. Certainly if your state does you should take advantage of the screening such a program provides and use a certified or licensed inspector. Otherwise, you should seek a professional inspector, someone in the construction field or a licensed architect or engineer. Seek referrals from real estate agents, lawyers, lenders, construction professionals or someone who has employed an inspector with good results. Do not hesitate to interview potential inspectors until you find the right one for your needs. Ask to see a sample of his or her previous work and be sure to check references.
Information to gather from a potential inspector:
- Professional background
- Education and training
- Certifications, licenses and professional memberships
- Insurance coverage in case mistakes are made
- Cost (variable by location and scope of inspection)
- Time estimate (should take several hours)
The value of joining your inspector throughout the entire inspection cannot be overemphasized. Ask questions and learn as much as you can; you are paying for his or her expertise. A standard house inspection should cover at least:
- Roof and gutter system
- Fireplaces and chimneys
- Foundation and drainage system
- Plumbing and electrical
- Furnace and air conditioner
- Water damage
- Structural soundness
- Basement and attic, including insulation
- Walls, doors and windows
- Floors and ceilings
- Garages and outbuildings
Depending upon the particular property, you may need to hire other specialized professionals to analyze potentially dangerous issues, such as:
- Swimming pools
- Lead paint
- Fuel tanks and underground storage tanks
- Environmental contamination
- Pest infestations
- Wells and septic systems
- Soil condition
Throughout the purchase of a new home, including the inspection process, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable real estate attorney. Legal issues can arise from the inspection, such as whether the defects are bad enough to require repair or justify cancellation, or how much the purchase price should be reduced.
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