Home Inspections 101
Real estate customs vary from state to state, but if you’re purchasing a home in New Jersey, here’s an overview of what I’ve learned in my 15 years experience selling real estate.
Once attorney review is completed and the house is “under contract,” you may schedule and complete your home inspection. To hire an inspector, get several recommendations from your Realtor or from others whose opinion you trust who have used them. Be sure to ask about references, memberships in professional associations, professional training, and experience. Please (and I can’t stress this enough) don’t just “google” home inspectors or randomly choose someone from the phone book (does anyone even use a phone book anymore?)! You’re involved in one of the largest purchases you may ever make so it’ll behoove you to choose someone by recommendation!
A home inspection is a visual exam of the structure and systems of a house. It details the challenges with the property and if they’re serious enough to have the seller address or correct, or worse case scenario, to prevent a sale. The three main points of an inspection are physical condition, items in need of repair or replacement, and the remaining useful life of major systems.
A report won’t cover defects that are not visible or inoperable systems (e.g., A/C during the winter). How can you prevent yourself from potentially purchasing a home when, for example, the central air cannot be tested when temperatures are too low? In this case, the buyer’s attorney will request an amount of money held in escrow after the sale closes. Once it is safe to test the central air system, if it operates without issue, the escrow is returned to the seller. The amount of the escrow should be sufficient enough to cover repair or replacement of the system should it fail to work correctly.
It is IMPERATIVE that the buyer be present during the home inspection: you can ask the inspector questions, and the inspector can point out areas of potential trouble and may offer maintenance tips. To miss your home inspection and then receive a report where you’re not exactly certain what the inspector is referencing is doing yourself a huge disservice.
Expect an inspection to take 3-5 hours (older or larger homes should take longer), and expect charges of $400-$700 depending on size.
While the subject of home inspections is being discussed, should the subject home have a septic system, the septic should be inspected on the same day of the home inspection, if at all possible. Septic inspections are handled by a separate inspector who specializes in septics. That inspection could range from $350-500.
The seller is not required to make repairs, but the buyer can use the report in negotiating (to request a credit as opposed to having the seller make repairs or ask for a reduction in the sale price). Although some sellers will disagree, it’s actually more beneficial for them to cooperate with the buyer because of disclosure requirements. I always explain to my clients, buyers and sellers, that a known defect in the property must be disclosed to the buyer public. Once a seller learns, for example, that the roof leaks, should the original transaction be cancelled, that defect runs with the house and must be disclosed to all future buyers. Not disclosing a known defect is considered fraud, which will be dealt with quite severely (triple the amount of damages awarded to the buyer). So you can see how it really is in the buyers’ and sellers’ best interest to work out a remedy.
The home inspection report is typically delivered within 24-48 hours. Review the report, note your concerns and send the report and your list of requests to your attorney. She will send a letter to the other attorney with same, who will share with his client, the seller, and the process of (hopefully) closing out the inspection contingency will be completed.
Remember the title of this blog post is Home Inspections 101 and is intended to be a general overview!
If you have any questions about the process, please feel free to contact me directly at 201-240-8699 or send me an email at AntoinetteSellsNJ@gmail.com. I’m always happy to assist with your real estate concerns or questions!