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What to Expect When You Inspect

So you’ve found your dream home, negotiated the price and signed the contract. It’s smooth sailing from here on out, right? Think again. Aside from other major hurdles like financing and appraisal, you need to first get through the home inspection.

A few notes about home inspections:

-They are typically done within the first few days of the buyer’s due diligence period. (I typically tell my clients to start calling around to schedule once it looks like we are going to reach an agreement with the seller.)

-The buyer is not required to have a home inspection. But as long as I’m a licensed agent, I will adamantly recommend a buyer have one performed.

-The seller is not required to make any repairs recommended by the inspector. This is another point of negotiation.

-No house is perfect. Every property has issues. Whether it’s something minor like a window latch in need of repair or something more major like black mold—every house will have something come up on the report. There is no “perfect” home. Not even new construction.

Let’s start with what a home inspection is: It is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of the house from the roof to the foundation. (Or, in the case of a condo purchase, it includes what is between the four walls of the condo and all of the systems servicing it.) It is not required that the buyer attend the home inspection, but I always recommend it (especially for my first-time buyers!) You can observe the inspection, ask questions and learn a lot about maintenance items regarding the home.

The inspector works for you—the buyer—and is charged with notifying you of what conditions exist that you could NOT see during your home tour. Though the inspector may note cosmetic issues (like scuffed floors or a broken tile) I typically advise buyers to be concerned with the more major deficiencies in the home.

Your Inspection Report

The inspection report is typically divided into several sections which may include:

* Structural elements: walls, ceilings, floors, roof and foundation

* Exterior: grading, drainage, siding, trim, fascia, windows, gutters and leaders, driveway and walkways, patios and decks

* Roof and Attic: framing, ventilation, insulation, age and type of roof, flashing, evidence of leaks

* Plumbing: including toilets, sinks, faucets, pipe material, showers/tubs – evidence of leaks and malfunction, water pressure will also be checked

* Electrical: panel, circuit breakers, type of wiring, exhaust fans, receptacles, ceiling fans and light fixtures

* Systems/Components: Hot water heater (age and condition), furnace, duct work, chimney and fireplace, central air (weather permitting – it is usually not checked if temps are under 65 degrees.)

* Appliances: range and oven, dishwasher, garbage disposal, built-in microwave

* Garage: walls, slab floor, garage doors and electric door openers wil be checked

You will receive a detailed report from your inspector. Most of the inspectors I work with have the report back to the buyer the same day. Reports can vary in length from just a few pages for a smaller condo, to 50+ pages for a large home. A good inspector will include lots of photos that the inspector took while walking through the home. The report will typically have a summary page highlighting the major items. Remember, the inspector works for you and his job is to discover everything he can about the home. There will likely be a long list of items – this is normal. If the items are major to you, then discuss with your agent or attorney the best way to approach the issue.

Negotiating Repairs

You may want items to be further evaluated by specific contractors in that field (such as electricians or plumbers) or you may decide to request that the seller repair the items. I often suggest buyers ask for additional closing costs or a reduction in sales price to offset the cost of the repairs. When it comes to repair, I encourage buyers to be reasonable. If a home was built in 1955 it will likely have some deferred maintenance, items that are not up to current code, or other issues. This is expected with an older home. Be reasonable. Sellers can get irritated if they feel the buyer is asking for items that aren’t significant. Decide which repairs are deal-breakers for you, and go from there. The good news is if the buyer really wants to buy, and the seller really wants to sell an agreement can usually be reached.

For a list of Atlanta home inspectors I recommend, email me at