In residential real estate, a home inspection is one of the final and most important hurdles buyers must clear prior to closing. During this process, a professional home inspector evaluates everything from the basement to the attic — and every area in between. A good home inspector will also offer clients information on proper upkeep of the residence.
“We want to teach them how to maintain the property, because it’s the biggest investment they’ll ever make,” says Alden E. Gibson, ACI and RHI, president of the American Society of Home Inspectors and president of Inspections by Gibson.
Remember, when you purchase a home you inherit everything that comes with it; this includes all the things you love about it, but also its flaws. A proper inspection provides valuable information that allows you to make educated decisions about your next steps.
How do you choose a home inspector?
First and foremost, be sure that the home inspector you’ve chosen is licensed by the state. The Home Inspection Advisory Committee licenses home inspectors and regulates the home inspection profession. This license ensures that the health, safety and welfare of New Jersey residents are protected, and that home examinations are regulated and performed in compliance with state law. A licensed home inspector will have met all the standards and educational requirements for licensure, and is required to renew his or her license every two years.
If you are ready to hire a home inspector, you have a few options. Referrals from trusted real estate professionals, such as your mortgage lender, are a popular resource. You can also do your own research, in which case a good place to start is the New Jersey Association of Licensed Professional Home Inspectors. Here, you can search by name or county to find a licensed inspector in your area.
Just as you might interview any contractor, you should feel comfortable asking a potential inspector some qualifying questions to ensure that he or she is the best person for the job. It will also help to set your expectations going into the inspection, which is a crucial part of the home-buying process. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the following are some of the key questions to ask a home inspector:
- What does your home inspection cover?
- How long have you/your company been inspecting homes?
- Are you specifically experienced in residential inspection?
- Do you offer to do repairs or improvements based on the home inspection?
- How long will the home inspection take?
- How much will it cost?
- What type of home inspection report do you provide and how long will it take to receive the report?
- Will I be able to attend the home inspection? (The answer should always be yes).
- Do you maintain membership in a professional home inspector association?
- Do you participate in continuing education programs to keep your expertise up to date?
How much does a home inspection cost?
As with anything, the cost of a home inspection varies. Some of the factors to consider include what region you’re in, the size and age of the home, and the experience level of the home inspector. In Northern New Jersey, be prepared to spend a few hundred dollars. Regardless of the cost, it’s important to understand what is, and is not included in the inspection.
What should a home inspection include?
According to the National Association of Realtors, some of the items that should always be examined during a routine home inspection are:
Structure – The structure, which includes foundation and framing, is what enables a home to combat weather, gravity, and the earth around it.
Electrical – You should be informed of the condition of service entrance wires, service panels, breakers and fuses, and disconnects. Also take note of the number of outlets in each room.
Exterior – This, of course, includes the house, but expect the inspector to also examine sidewalks, driveways, steps, windows, doors, siding, trim, surface drainage, and any attached porches, decks or balconies.
Fireplaces – Certainly one of the most charming features of any home, fireplaces can also be dangerous if they’re not properly installed or maintained. Inspectors should examine the vent and flue, and describe solid fuel-burning appliances, e.g., wood heaters and fireplace inserts.
Heating and air conditioning – A home inspection should reveal the age of the water heater, its energy rating, and whether the size is adequate for the home. The inspector should also describe and inspect any central air or through-the-wall cooling units.
Interiors – A good inspector will keep an eye out for leaks, insect damage, rot, construction defects, and other hazard. These are discovered by evaluating walls, ceilings and floors; steps, stairways, and railings; countertops and cabinets; and garage systems.
Plumbing – No one wants to find out that their home has poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots, or corrosion, but these are often indicators of larger, more expensive problems so it’s important information. Your inspector will identify any plumbing issues by thoroughly examining the water supply and drainage systems, water heating equipment, fuel storage systems, drainage pumps and sump pumps.
Roofing – Information you should except to receive from your home inspector regarding your roof includes its age, roof draining systems, and whether there are any buckled shingles, or loose gutters and downspouts. You should also be informed of the condition of any skylights, as well as the potential for pooling water.
Ventilation/insulation – These components must be deemed adequate in the attic, as well as in any unfinished areas, such as crawl spaces. Insulation should be climate-appropriate. Lack of proper ventilation can cause excess moisture that may result in mold and water damage.
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