An inspection of the physical condition of a house should be included as a condition of closing the sale. Your real estate agent will make arrangements for a professional inspector to look for defects in the roof, plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems, paint, windows, doors, and foundation. The inspector will also check for dry rot, mold and pest infestations, and should check outside for any problems with grading, drainage or retaining walls. You might want to arrange for inspections for mold, asbestos, lead or radon. Depending on the property, you may want to ask for testing well water, oil tanks or septic systems. Most inspectors are qualified to conduct all of these tests, although some may require additional fees.
The seller is required to provide a disclosure sheet about any issues of which they are aware. This is just a starting point for the inspector, however, because there are likely problems the sellers either don’t know exist or have actually forgotten about.
It is most common for buyers to have the inspection done after they have made an offer and the sale of the house is contingent on the buyer’s approval of the results of the inspections and resulting repairs. Keep in mind that all objectionable inspection issues must be “repairs” and not “improvements”. A repair may be a broken window, for example, and an improvement would be new counter tops.
The inspection usually takes two or three hours and will usually cost between $200 to $500 depending on the size, age, location and type of home. Buyers are encouraged to be present during the inspection so they can ask questions, learn about maintenance of the property and get a sense of which problems are serious and which are fairly minor.
The inspector will provide a written report of all findings which will be presented to both the buyers and sellers. If the report shows no major problems, you can move forward with the purchase feeling confident that you are getting what you are paying for. If there are big issues on the report, like major termite damage or an antiquated electrical panel, you can negotiate with the sellers to have them pay for repairs or lower the purchase price, or you can back out of the deal completely.