Home inspection: What to expect
If you’re buying a home, then you’re in one of the financially riskiest places of your life. After weeks, or months of searching, your new home is now becoming a reality and you’re getting set to make the biggest investment of your life.
But before you can pick out the curtains and paint colours and decide how you’ll redo the kitchen, the property needs to be inspected.
For cautious home buyers a property inspection is one of the most important parts of the purchasing process, yet many buyers don’t know what to expect from the various players involved. Here’s a guide:
- As the buyer, you need to learn as much about the property as possible before you finally commit yourself by signing on the dotted line. You should do some of your homework prior to the home inspection: Review the seller’s property disclosures and know up front what concerns you and what you want the inspector to pay special attention to. Think about things which may have concerned you while visiting the house. Maybe the seller disclosed that some building work was done on the house years ago. Check that there are approved plans for this building work. Before you confirm the sale, know exactly what you’re getting into and that there aren’t any surprises down the road.
- Estate agents: In South Africa the home buyer mostly deals directly with the listing agent (who represents the seller). However, if you do have a buyer’s agent then your agent should also be available to discuss with you the inspection report. Good agents have been through dozens of inspections and know how they work. They should have basic knowledge of what to look for. Most importantly, they know what’s important and what matters in the big picture. If you’re getting a really good price on the home, your agent would probably advise you not to bother the seller over minor repairs. However, if you’re paying top price and discover serious flaws, then your agent can guide you on how to best proceed after the inspection.
The listing agent should be familiar with the property and should be asked to address any concerns revealed in the inspection report. For the seller and the listing agent, the inspection is one of the last hurdles to get through and concerns could arise during the inspection, which could kill the sale or affect the property’s value. That’s why astute listing agents advise sellers to get a property inspection before going on the market, to prevent any last-minute unknowns or red flags. Sometimes, it seems as though the listing agent is there to “defend” the property against the buyer, the buyer’s agent and the home inspector. It shouldn’t be. Though the listing agent is there to be an advocate for the seller, everyone should have the same goal in mind: to facilitate a clean and fair sales transaction.
- The inspector: Usually the buyer hires the home inspector, who should be qualified and reputable. Most buyers get a referral for an inspector from their estate agent and the buyer usually pays the inspector’s fee. A good inspector will remain impartial and not be an alarmist, though they will point out things to be addressed. The inspector isn’t a part of the transaction and shouldn’t get into the nitty-gritty of your deal – nor would they want to. The inspector should provide you with a detailed report on the condition of the property as well as some feedback on future maintenance. If possible walk through the property with the inspector – some things are better understood in person than read about in a report later. Alternatively do not hesitate to call the inspector to discuss any aspects of the report which need further explanation.
- Oom Gert: Finally, it’s important to understand why having Uncle Gert the family building expert on hand during the inspection isn’t necessarily a good idea. It’s an even worse idea to try and save money by getting Oom Gert to do the inspection. While it may seem logical to bring a relative or close friend who “knows about building”, remember that these people aren’t trained property inspectors. Sometimes, the most well-intended people can end up causing harmful consequences. Oom Gert may feel it’s important to point out as many negative things as possible, just to seem helpful. He’s far from impartial, however, and you run the risk of raising red flags when they don’t need to be.
Time for a meeting: After the inspection, you and your agent will need to talk about what the inspection report revealed and to plan your next steps. Hopefully, the inspection confirmed that the property was in excellent condition and you are one step closer to picking out your new paint colours. Or some additional negotiations may be needed after the inspection.
Either way, it helps to know what to expect going in and to be prepared for anything.