Buying a home is the single most important purchase in your life. It would probably be the most significant investment you will ever make, and you will spend a substantial amount of time there.
If you don’t have the money out of pocket, you must also go into debt to acquire them. So, it stands to reason you can’t leave anything to chance. This is where a thorough home inspection comes into play.
A home inspection will shed light on the actual condition of the property and any potential issues that may need attention.
By following a systematic approach and paying attention to key details, you can make informed decisions and negotiate effectively with the seller.
And since that’s not a common daily activity, we decided to provide you with in-depth knowledge on conducting a home inspection before buying a property.
What is a home inspection?
In not-so-simple terms, a home inspection is a comprehensive evaluation of a property’s condition, typically conducted by a qualified professional known as a home inspector.
The goal of a home inspection is to assess the structural integrity, safety, and functionality of the property, identifying any defects or areas of concern that may impact the value or livability of the home.
Examples of areas inspected include the roof, foundation, electrical system, plumbing, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system, and more. A thorough inspection can uncover hidden problems and help buyers make informed decisions before finalising a purchase.
In simple terms, if you find some structural damage that compromises your safety, you wouldn’t want to home your family there, would you?
On the other hand, if a problem could be fixed, you can negotiate the price down, so you can repair the problem yourself for the money you saved. It’s all about the power of knowing where the issues are, so you can make a fair offer and plan your budget.
What does a home inspection include?
Home inspections are overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time.
A professional home inspector would be of immense help, indeed, as you can’t really check the structural integrity without having the expertise. Still, it’s a good idea to have your own checklist to follow. Otherwise, it’s easy to forget. Now there are a lot of things to check.
That’s why we prepared a full checklist of items you need to inspect:
- Is the heating system gas or electric? Are there enough radiators? Are there storage heaters installed? Where is the boiler, how noisy is it, and will it bother you? How old is it, and what is its service history? All essential questions regarding your safety.
- Parking. Is there a garage? Is there an off or on-road parking? Do you need a permit? Will you be paying for parking?
- Alarms. Are there burglars or fire alarms?
- Fuse box – Where is it? What’s its condition? When was it last serviced?
- Mobile and other service coverage.
- Council taxes.
- EPC rating. What’s the property energy performance certificate?
- Home report (Only in Scotland).
- Renovation permits. If there are any add-ons to the building, ask for the permits.
Inside each room
- Light switches – check if they work.
- Decore – Do you like it? How hard would it be to renovate? What’s its condition
- Flooring – what’s its condition?
- Natural light.
- Signs of mould or dampness – don’t hesitate to sniff around problematic areas.
- Wiring – Are there exposed wires? How old is the wiring? Where are the outlets
- Check for cracks in the walls and ceiling.
- Storage space – Is there enough storage space?
- Chimneys – are there any? Are they functional? Is there a fireplace?
Windows and doors
- How they open.
- Are they properly maintained?
- What type of windows are there?
- Check the frames. Are they in good condition?
- Do all locks work, and are there keys from each one?
Bathroom and plumbing
- Check taps – do they work properly?
- Hot water – is there any? How long does it take for it to come?
- Water pressure, especially in the shower.
- Is there a bathtub?
- Is there a shaver socket?
- Is there a window or an extractor fan?
- How’s the plumbing system?
- How hard is the water?
- When were the pipes last changed?
- Are there any leaks?
- Is there a garden?
- How’s the garden’s privacy?
- In what condition is the garden?
- What direction does it face (is there enough sun)?
- Are there any big trees near the house – Their roots might cause some structural damage in the long run.
- Are there any garden decorations?
- Are there any structures, like a BBQ, shed, or garage?
- Are there signs of pests?
- Are there cracks?
- Is it insulated?
- What’s the general condition and the building’s age?
- Is the roof leaking
- Are the chimneys straight?
- Are all tiles in place?
- What do the drains and gutters state – are they clean, new, and adequately moving the water?
- How old is the current roof?
- How is the transport?
- How’s the commute during rush hour?
- What amenities are there?
- Are there signs of pests
- Are built-in appliances in good condition and working?
- Are there safety features like Smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, safety barriers and others?
- How are the neighbours?
If reviewing a flat
- Is it leasehold or freehold?
- If leasehold, how many years are left on the lease?
- What’s the service charge?
- What are the communal areas’ conditions?
- Are outdoor spaces shared or private?
- What services are shared?
- How are the neighbours?
- Is there a residents’ committee?
What is not included in a home inspection?
Home inspections do not cover anything. You can’t break walls to check wiring, and you can’t move the seller’s furniture and belongings.
That’s why it’s much better when the home is already vacant. This is when the inspector can make the most. Note that if there is not a big enough crawling space under the house, the inspector won’t enter and check the foundation.
Moreover, they won’t move boxes or heavy objects or dig underground to see if there are any problems with the pipes.
How to prepare for a home inspection?
To ensure a smooth and effective home inspection, it is essential to prepare in advance. First and foremost, coordinate with the seller or the seller’s agent to schedule the home inspection at a mutually convenient time.
Ensure that you have permission to access all areas of the property, including basements, attics, garages, and crawl spaces. Clear any obstructions that may impede the inspector’s access to various areas, such as stored items or furniture blocking access points.
Collect any relevant documents, such as property surveys, floor plans, and previous inspection reports, which can provide additional insights into the property.
Prioritise your concerns and prepare a list of questions to ask the home inspector during or after the inspection. While it is not mandatory, being present during the inspection allows you to ask questions, seek clarification, and gain a better understanding of the property’s condition.
Next steps after a home inspection
After the home inspection, it’s time to evaluate the findings. Only then you can determine the appropriate next steps.
Here are three key areas to focus on:
Addressing serious issues
If the inspection uncovers significant defects or safety concerns, you may need to reassess your purchase decision.
Consult with your real estate agent, solicitor, or surveyor to understand the implications and potential remedies. This could involve negotiating repairs with the seller, requesting a price reduction, or in extreme cases, withdrawing your offer.
Calculating moving costs
Once you are confident about proceeding with the purchase, it’s important to consider the costs associated with moving. Calculate expenses such as using a reputable removals company, transportation costs, storage fees, and any necessary renovations or repairs.
Using the home inspection as a home improvement guide
Even if the home inspection doesn’t reveal major issues, it can still serve as a valuable guide for future home improvements.
Prioritise any maintenance or upgrades based on the inspection report, which can help you plan for the long-term care and enhancement of your new property.
Conducting a home inspection before buying a property is an essential step to ensure you are making a well-informed decision and safeguarding your investment.
Remember, a professional home inspection provides you with valuable insights and empowers you to negotiate effectively, prioritise repairs, and plan for the future, so don’t neglect this essential step in buying a home.