The Must-Read Guide to Prepare for Your Home Inspection As a Buyer

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Let’s back up to right before you schedule your home inspection.

Chances are you just signed a contract, which means the lender, realtor and lawyers are probably already approaching you with their list of requests. You need to get your current home on the market, you probably have a busy job and a few kiddos at home, and life has officially taken a turn to Crazytown!

But just because things are busy doesn’t mean you should neglect your obligatory home inspection. Not only can not giving attention to your home inspection impact the sale, but the results could cost you well into your future if you’re not prepared. This must-read guide gives you all of the facts you need to have for scheduling your home inspection, with helpful tips on how you can make the most of this tedious step … even amidst the chaos of buying and selling!   

What will a home inspection cost me?

Home InspectionA quality home inspection will cost you, the homebuyer, about $250-$400 depending on the size of the home. As much as these unexpected expenses seem endless during the moving process, this is one expense you do not want to skip. Hiring a quality inspector can make such a significant difference to highlight the good, bad and potentially dangerous components of your new home. You want to make sure you hire an inspector who is licensed and knowledgeable … even if that costs a few extra bucks. This tiny investment can save you thousands of dollars (and a lot of heartache) in the long run.

How do I find a quality inspector?

Home Inspection

So you know you want to invest in a quality inspector, but you’re not really sure where to find one. You’re not alone! The best place to look is your realtor. If you really trust your realtor, she probably has some recommendations. Usually, realtors come to their buyers’ inspections, so chances are they have met a lot of inspectors and have seen which ones are thorough and which ones aren’t.

Says Lexi Newman, a real estate agent heading Lexi Newman Real Estate out of the Los Angeles area, “I’ve observed countless inspections over the years, and while some inspectors spend hours examining every nook and cranny and then doing additional research at home, others breeze on through doing the bare minimum.”

Again, you want to squeeze every bit of usefulness you can out of every step of the process. Continues Newman,
“Your realtor attends inspections day in and day out, knows what constitutes a quality inspection, and can point you in the right direction … Find out if the inspector is certified with the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). Ask them how long they’ve been inspecting, if they come from a construction or contracting background, and what they did professionally before becoming a home inspector. Also, find out what sort of report they put together and how fast they are able to send it to you -this is a crucial part of repair negotiations during escrow, and a quick turnaround time is extremely important so your realtor has time to negotiate.”

And if you don’t love your realtor? Try speaking with friends or neighbors for their recommendations. The bottom line is that you should always go with someone who has good “cred” with someone else you trust and respect. There’s too much riding on the line to go with someone who hasn’t proven to be anything less than amazing.

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How long will the inspection take?

The time for an inspection varies based on the size of the home you are purchasing and how thorough your inspector is. On average, we suggest allowing for at least two hours, but on the long end, it’s usually not any longer than three hours. 

What should I bring to the inspection?

Home Inspection

Some inspectors expect payment at the completion of the inspection, so be sure to have an approved payment method ready for the cost of the inspection on hand. Beyond that, we suggest wearing casual clothes in case the inspector wants to bring you into the deep nooks and crannies of the basement or attic to educate you about future maintenance. This is not required of course, but it is a sign of a great inspector!

We also think it’s extremely important for you to bring these things:

  • Notebook
  • A pen
  • Cell phone camera
  • Measuring tape

And here’s why …

What else can I do while the inspection is happening?

This may be the last time you have access to your new home until the final walk through (or even closing day!), so be as prepared as possible to get the most out of this critical time. Of course, your first priority is following along with the home inspector and listening to them as they relay observations, maintenance tips or stats on any of the home’s mechanicals. There will be a lot of information coming your way, which is why the pen and notebook will come in handy to jot down all of these tips.

However, there’s another important opportunity here!

Your homeowner’s insurance company will request information about your new dwelling in order to prepare an insurance quote over the next few weeks. Usually, they request information about the mechanics and age of specific parts of the home (like the roof) for the end proposal. Sometimes they even have discounts available if parts of your home were recently replaced, so getting all this information while your home inspector is with you is a great way to be ahead of the game for the insurance team.

What should I do if the inspector doesn’t want me tagging along?

Home Inspection

Sometimes home inspectors don’t want you following them from room to room taking notes while they create a detailed report. In that case, we still think you should keep busy doing the following things. First, take as many photos as possible of the home, and specifically, these things:

  • The layout
  • Outlets
  • Doors
  • Anything you want to change when you move-in

The last one will help you calculate how much time you’ll need in order to have everything you need by moving day.

Because you probably won’t have access to the home until the day (or day before) closing, these photos will be a very helpful reference. If you have enough time, we also recommend taking your phone and creating a simple video of the home. Why? We find that if we forget to snap a photo of something, we can still find the information we need by looking through the video footage. Plus, having this video for your memory will be fun to look back at someday!

Also, take measurements now!

Do you love the size of the current homeowner’s dining room table, TV, or sectional couch? Measure these items so you can start furniture shopping without problems! Rugs especially can be a tricky accessory because they are often too small for a space. If you find that a previous homeowner has done the rug sizes correctly, take a measurement and make note. Virtually anything you think looks good (or bad for that matter), get it jotted down so you don’t forget. (Trust us, you will forget.)

What should I make sure I get from the inspector?

After the home inspection is complete, you should receive a detailed written report from the inspector. You will need this report to negotiate improvements with the current owner, or in extreme cases, to back out of your original contract. Save this report in your files even if you plan on moving forward with the sale with no issues. 

Is there anything else I should probably know?

Home Inspection

If you really like your home inspector after the inspection is over, don’t be afraid to ask them for referrals for other professionals in the industry.

If you are looking for someone to eventually come fix the HVAC or maybe update the gutters after you move in, inspectors often have some really great contacts to share. Or at the very least, be sure to grab their contact information so you can follow-up later when you’re looking for referrals for just about any job around the house.

Also, don’t be afraid of asking too many questions! These people are professionals and often have an endless wealth of knowledge when it comes to all things home-related. Some important things people often forget to ask:

  • Inquire about all specific mechanics in the home (e.g., furnaces, vents, switches, attic fan, etc.)
  • How often you should be servicing, cleaning or updating these specific items
  • The most updated codes to uphold
  • Routines of services providers (e.g., cable, water, electrical companies, etc.)

It’s overall just smart to ask too much versus too little. Remember that inspection time is mostly for you, not the inspector, so make use of this important moment in your home buying journey!

These Things Should Always Be Deal Breakers While House Hunting

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We’ve talked before about things you should overlook when house hunting, but being flexible and seeing past a home’s imperfections isn’t always the thing to do.

Don’t get us wrong, there are a lot of things that should be overlooked because they can easily be changed down the road. However, some things should never be overlooked. We like to call them “deal breakers”.

Making a list of your deal breakers is essential to finding the perfect home for now and well into the future. That’s why the things on this list should be non-negotiable. Seriously, don’t get emotionally attached to something that will create resentment down the road. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your family to create your own list of deal breakers before your house hunting adventure begins, but we’ve compiled a list of the most important ones in order for you to jump-start the process!

A Real Potential for Water Damage

House Hunting Deal Breaker - Water Damage

A lot of household problems can be fixed, but being subject to water damage is one that is not even close to an easy fit. Before committing to a house, be sure to research if it’s in a flood zone. (FEMA has a handy website that can search all flood areas by address.) Also, take notice of its elevation on the block compared to other homes. Is this house at the lowest point on the street? Will your basement constantly be at risk of flooding and causing you large problems and even larger repair bills? Make sure you look very closely for any signs of water damage.

Do your research so that you know exactly what you are getting into, and are not surprised by a flooded basement after the first rain in your new home.

(All Different Kinds of) Safety Concerns
House Hunting Deal Breaker - Safety Concerns

Safety concerns are a very broad category, so it’s important that you get as specific as possible when creating your house hunting deal breaker list. Safety concerns with electronics can be caused by amateur workmanship, such as plumbing or electrical problems. But this could also be caused by other household issues, such as:

Check the links for helpful ways to test for common safety concerns. Before you buy any house, let alone a suspect one, make sure to hire an inspector. If they report any problems, know exactly what issues result in you walking away from the deal and which ones you are willing to deal with (and potentially pay for!). Having this information clear before the home buying process will allow you to remain objective during this emotional time.

Below Average School District

If you have kids, be sure to investigate the local school district before you buy a home in that district. Niche.com provides a comprehensive look at most every school system in the country, including elementary, middle and high schools. You can also look at schools individually!

House Hunting Deal Breaker - Poor School District

Even if you don’t have kids, we still encourage you to do the same because that school district will impact the resale value of your home in the long run and should be considered before you purchase.

Structural Damage to the Home’s Base

House Hunting Deal Breaker - Structural Damage

Structural damage in a home can cause some serious problems down the road, not to mention what a nightmare it would be to try to re-sell a home that has these large issues. It’s important to consider this when house hunting in order to avoid large project costs down the road. Look for shifting of the home in cracks, uneven floors or a drooping roof to identify potential structural damage. If you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to Google a contractor or professional so they can assess the situation and reassure you the house is a safe long-term investment.

Unless you are buying a foreclosure for pennies on the dollar, structural damage is certain to massively impact your investment in a negative way.

A Floor Plan That Doesn’t Work for Your Family

House Hunting Deal Breaker - Bad Bones aka Floorplan

All rooms can be rearranged, redecorated, repainted or even switched around, depending on your family’s needs. However, don’t trick yourself: a sweet overlook may be cool, but the layout of the home or the square footage of the home is not so easily changed, especially without a massive budget and an extra-large construction project. Are you looking to double your investment by knocking out walls?

It’s okay to look past the cosmetic upgrades in a home, but don’t look past what the pros call “the bones” of the house: the layout, the number of rooms, the number of bathrooms or again, even simply the square footage. The bones are permanent and will directly impact your lifestyle. Are you willing to change your life just for that sweet view?

House Hunting Outside of Your Price Range 

House Hunting Deal Breaker - Over Budget

Buying a home out of your price range is a slippery slope and a financial decision that can put a lot of stress and pressure on you and your family.

It is also the most common deal breaker people ignore!

If you have a strict budget you need to follow, adding this deal breaker to your house hunting checklist will be a great way to “check yourself” and make sure that you are coming in under budget and not putting an unnecessary strain on you, your marriage, or your family. Besides, it is almost always better to invest in a cheaper property than to live with what you cannot afford.

What’s on Your House Hunting Deal Breaker Checklist?

All of these may fall on your house hunting deal breaker checklist, or maybe some of them… or maybe none at all. Technically, the most important thing is shedding light on the fact that people don’t often consider deal breakers ahead of hunting for a house. That’s why a house hunting checklist is crucial to avoid getting emotionally invested and making an impulsive decision that you’ll regret later on.

Remember the biggest rule: once you agree on which deal breakers gets added to the checklist, you cannot purchase any home that has even one of the things on it, regardless of how adorable it may look! This cute house may look great now, but it probably isn’t the best investment for the long run. Hold strong, the right one will come along… it always does!

4 Cases Where You Really Should Move to Save Money

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It’s true what they say: there’s never a “perfect” time to move. But sometimes making that decision is the best thing for you and your family.

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