Last week we highlighted the process of negotiating a sales contract. During this part of the process, you typically will have negotiated an inspection period. Basically that grants you a certain number of days after binding agreement to have the major features and systems of the home thoroughly inspected. You might have a technician test the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system or a chimney sweep to inspect the fireplace. In most cases you will hire an overall home inspector. This inspector will check all of the major systems, structural integrity and will highlight any concerns in a full report following the inspection.
You may or may not know home inspectors are not required to be licensed in the state of Georgia. Therefore anyone can inspect a home, produce a report and call themselves a home inspector. Even the person that cuts your hair is required to be licensed. If home inspectors are not required to be licensed, how do you know if the home inspector you’re choosing is qualified? Besides speaking directly to the inspector to determine his or her qualifications, you should also ask for a list of references of his or her past clients. There are also several national membership organizations that inspectors can join that offer continuing education and minimum standards to maintain membership. Two such organizations are the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI) and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). Without proper state regulation of the industry, these member organizations work to ensure that their members perform to high ethical standards and maintain the credentials a consumer should expect from a professional.
Of course, a home inspection is not required. If you are a general contractor or otherwise possess the skills and knowledge to properly inspect a home, you certainly can do so yourself. However, I highly recommended you hire a certified professional as an objective third party. I always remind my clients that they are spending tens of thousands of dollars. Why would you not spend a few hundred up front to ensure the investment is as sound as possible?
As I said before, a qualified home inspector will produce an extensive report of his or her findings that will include any necessary recommendations for repairs and plenty of pictures. Some items that might be included in the report are the serial and model numbers for all major appliances, the size of the air filter in the furnace, recommendations for proper maintenance, etc. You might think of it as an owner’s manual for the home. This information could prove useful if you’ve negotiated a right to request repairs from the seller. Your repair requests will typically follow any recommended repairs discovered in the inspection. Your request for repairs is usually made stronger and deemed more valid if you can support the request with documented evidence from a proper home inspection.
While a home inspector will usually test the functionality of the major systems, you might also want to hire a company for the systems that do require a license to maintain and service such as electricians, HVAC technicians and pest control operators.
The case for hiring a certified, professional home inspector cannot be made too strongly. You might avoid potential problems that might leave you on the hook for costly repairs after the sale has closed. And closing the transaction happens to be the final step in the five-step process to home buying.
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