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So Youíve Put an Offer on a Home. Whatís Next? authorSo Youíve Put an Offer on a Home. Whatís Next?
by Kevin McMahon of ABC Home Inspection, LLC
11-14-2004

Youíve finally found the home of your dreams, 3 bedrooms, attached garage, and a great neighborhood. You fix sights on the freshly painted walls, new carpeting, beautiful cabinets and a huge back yard. What are you forgetting? Everything else! Donít forget about the plumbing, heating, A/C, electrical, insulation, ventilation, exterior and roof. These are the most overlooked items because most people know very little about these things, or what to look for. You decide to make an offer on the home.

Whatís next? Donít forget about getting the home inspected. When you made the offer, your realtor should have gone over the inspection contingency in your contract. Simply stated, itís a clause in the contract that your offer is contingent upon a home inspection, and you have a certain amount of time to get the home inspected. It allows you to have an unbiased professional look beneath the cosmetic items into the complex working components of a home. It also allows you to either renegotiate your offer based on the inspection, or at the very least it lets you know what lies ahead of you if you do decide to purchase the home. A sellerís disclosure statement is nice and most sellers are honest, but many donít realize that problems may exist in their home.

Ask your realtor for a list of home inspectors in your area. Most will be happy to provide you with a list of inspectors. If not, pull some brochures from the realtors lobby, try the phone directory or the internet. Most home inspectors these days have a website where you can read about the services they offer. Take the time and call a few from the list to form your own opinion. Some realtors will offer to hire a home inspector for you on your behalf. Be sure your realtor has your best interests in mind if you go this route. This is your money and your lifetime investment youíre talking about.

When you call a home inspection company, here are a few important questions to ask:

Are you a licensed home inspector by the state? Many states do not require home inspector licensing. If the state you are looking for a home inspection in requires licensing and the home inspector says he is not licensed say thank you and politely hang up the phone. All home inspectors are required to be licensed in the state of Wisconsin and to keep their license they are required to attend 20 hours of continuing education per year.

Are you affiliated with any home inspection organizations? Most good home inspectors are associated with a national home inspection organization like NACHI (National Association of Certified Home Inspectors), NAHI (National Association of Home Inspectors), or ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) and/or a local organization like WAHI (Wisconsin Association of Home Inspectors). Each organization has its proís and conís and like any organization, are suited to that inspectors specific needs. Most importantly however, these organizations have strict guidelines to a code of ethics and continuing education.

How long will your home inspection take? A thorough home inspection should take between 2 Ĺ - 4 hours or longer depending on the size, age and condition of the home. In some cases a smaller home (1000 sq. ft. or less) can be inspected in 2 hours. If the home inspector says he can do it in less time, think about how thorough the inspection is going to be.

What type of home inspection report do you use? Some home inspectors use computer generated onsite reporting, some use a handwritten checklist, some do computer generated reporting and send you the home inspection report after theyíve had time to look it over twice before sending it out. Each has their pros and cons.

Computer generated onsite reporting is nice and you get your report right away. The downside is the inspector doesnít have time to look any items up that may be in question or be very descriptive in their report.

A hand written checklist in my opinion is the most incomplete type of report. You do get your report right away, but it is usually something like: Kitchen countertop: poor. This doesnít give you much of a description of the defect, like what exactly is wrong with it.

The computer generated home inspection report is in my opinion the best style. You get a neat, professional looking report, the home inspector has had time to be descriptive and to look up any items that he may have had questions on (no, we donít know everything and if we say we do, take that as a sign). The downside is you donít get your inspection report for a day or so, but the report can get to you quickly if he/she emails it to you.

Some inspectors provide you photos of problem areas in their home inspection reports. A picture is worth a thousand words. If they donít include photos in their report (digital or otherwise) you may want to find an inspector that does.

Ask for a sample report. Most good inspectors will be happy to send you a copy.

What is your experience and background? Most home inspectors started out with a construction-based background. This is very useful in home inspections. Attending a University with emphasis on construction, or attending a Home Inspection School is almost a necessity in this trade. If an inspector tells you he was in retail (for an example) this may be a time to look elsewhere, or ask a follow-up question as to why he went into the profession and what he has to offer that others inspectors donít.

How much do you charge for a home inspection? This is a very important question. The question you really should be asking yourself is "how much are you willing to spend on the most important investment youíre ever going to make?" Think about this. Do you really want to price shop on something this important? Yes, you donít want to pay too much, but you donít want to scrimp either. Youíre paying $100,000+ for your home and now is not the time to go with the lowest price. Home inspectors have overhead costs like any other company; insurance, vehicle, gas, equipment, training, professional organization dues, etc. Regardless of what anyone might say, most donít work every day of the week or every week of the year.

An average home inspection costs between $250 and $400 or more depending on the size, age and condition of the home.

Some home inspectors base their fees from the listing price or square footage of the home. Based on what is uncovered in the inspection, you will probably be able to save the home inspection fee and maybe more. For example: A new water heater will cost you in the neighborhood of $800, and if the inspector finds that the one in the home is nearing the end of its useful life, the inspection just paid for itself and then some. Its money spent wisely.

Most good home inspectors encourage you to follow them on the inspection, and I highly recommend it. It will give you a chance to see what he sees, and ask questions. Be sure to ask questions! The inspector will usually to be happy to answer them for you or if he doesnít know the answer right then, he should offer to look it up and call you with the answer. This is also a time to find out where key components like shut-off valves or the breaker panel is located in case of an emergency, or get tips on routine maintenance items.

A home inspection is a visual, non-destructive examination of a home. It is not technically exhaustive. Inspectors cannot see defects behind a wall, ceiling or furniture. He or she will just use their knowledge and experience in their visual examination. If a component doesnít work by normal means of operation the inspector wonít try to get it operating by any other means. He/she will only open those panels that are normally used to service a piece of equipment. If a danger exists to the inspector, he/she will not inspect that piece of equipment. They will just defer to a professional who is more experienced in that type of application.

Home Inspectors do not move furniture to inspect, so having the home ready for the inspector prior to the inspection will not only speed the process, but give you a more thorough inspection.

You will more than likely not get the chance to meet your inspector before the inspection, so asking these important questions will help make your decision easier.

Having the home inspected is the best thing you can do to have a more informed decision on the purchase or sale of your home. After all, this is probably the biggest investment you will ever make.

For more information on the regulations that govern the Wisconsin home inspection industry, visit the Wisconsin Department of Commerce website at: http://drl.wi.gov/prof/homi/def.htm.


Kevin McMahon is a Wisconsin licensed home inspector, a certified home inspection professional, and owner of ABC Home Inspection, LLC based in Stevens Point, WI. He performs home inspections in South Central, Central, and Northern Wisconsin. Kevin has over 20 years of construction, inspection and educational experience. He is a member of the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), the Wisconsin Association of Home Inspectors (WAHI), the Portage County Business Council, and a volunteer fireman.

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