When Tony Jones and his wife, Nikkia, bought their first home in Atlanta in 2004, they made sure to have it inspected before signing off on the deal. The home was newly constructed and they intended to live in it for years, so they wanted to make sure everything was just right.
“We wanted to get an inspection because we are in an industrial area and we wanted to get testing done for radon, for water clarity, and for air quality,” Jones says. “We wanted to make sure that we were getting a quality-built home.”
The home inspection is a visual examination of the physical structure, major components, and mechanical systems of a home. It is meant to give the buyer a reasonable, unbiased disclosure of the conditions existing in the home before the purchase. That includes visible physical defects or any significant health or safety hazards.
“[Home buyers] need to be able to sleep well at night knowing that they’ve made the proper decision,” says George Haynie, an Atlanta area home inspector who is on the board of directors of the Georgia Association of Home Inspectors. “The job of the home inspector is to make the purchasers more informed consumers.”
Finding problems before you close on the deal can provide leverage to negotiate a better price or give you the chance to have the seller make repairs you won’t have to pay for. Follow these recommendations to make sure your inspection makes the grade.
CHECK THE SALES AGREEMENT
Typically, you will have time to have a professional property inspection done before closing. But you must be certain to have this provision included in your sales contract.
“In most cases the buyer is requesting that if the seller accepts the offer, they are accepting with the contingency that the buyer has a home inspection completed within a certain number of days,” says JoAnne Poole, former president of the Maryland Association of Realtors. After the inspection, the buyer then has to respond to the seller within a reasonable number of days to discuss how to proceed.
There are several items that should be clearly spelled out. Poole says the sales agreement should state which repairs the seller is willing to make if any problems are found during the inspection. It should also note the circumstances under which the buyer can ask for release of contract and receive a full refund of earnest money (the deposit submitted with your offer to show good faith). This could happen, for example, if the inspector finds a major defect that the buyer finds unacceptable.
FIND A GOOD INSPECTOR
Once the provisions of the sales agreement are in place, find a reputable inspector. Realtors may have an inspector in mind, but conduct your own research. Ask friends and family, real estate professionals, mortgage brokers, real estate attorneys, or appraisers for referrals. There are local and national home inspector associations that can provide referrals, references, and background information (see sidebar: “Home Inspection Checklist”).
The Joneses consulted someone who had experience inspecting and building homes. “It’s good to