The short answer to “should I get a home inspection” is “yes.” The longer answer is “certainly yes.”

For most of us, buying a home will be one of the most expensive and important purchases we will make in our lifetimes. It is a purchase that can make either your dream come true or your worst nightmare come to life. A house devoid of grave repairs will be a comforting and enjoyable place to call home. On the other hand, a house in need of grave repairs will be not only expensive to repair, but sometimes even dangerous to yourself and your family. Fortunately, a qualified home inspector can help put your fears at ease.

A home inspection is a top to bottom, objective, non-invasive visual examination of a home or piece of property. In particular, non-invasive means that the components being inspected will not be dismantled, and if the item is not functioning, the inspector will not attempt to make any repair. The inspector will, however, provide you with a professional opinion on what should be done to correct the problem(s). As always, there is an exception. An inspector will remove covers on furnaces or electric panels to better evaluate their condition.

Inspectors are specifically trained in these areas so they are able to spot problematic areas that the average person would not be able to. More specifically, there are three major functions each inspector undertakes. An inspector will:

(1) assess the physical condition of the property (e.g. foundation, walls),

(2) point out items that are damaged or in need of repair (e.g. windows, boiler), and

(3) provide an estimate of the remaining useful life of major systems (e.g. electrical, heating, air conditioning, plumbing), structures, and equipment.

For example, an inspector may inform you that there are cracks in the foundation of your home that may be problematic, that the windows in the home are in need of repair, and that the boiler should be replaced within the next five years.

A professionally conducted home inspection will provide you with the information you need to make a wiser purchasing decision. You will have a greater understanding of the overall condition of the home after the inspection is conducted. The inspection report will put into writing all of the information the inspector provided you during the inspection and will provide additional information – information that you can use during the negotiating process.

Before hiring your inspector, verify whether he/she uses photo-editing software to manipulate photos of the property in order to point out problematic areas. High quality colored photos with superimposed circles or arrows that indicate areas of concern are much easier to follow than a report’s textual information.

Also, ask your inspector for a list of items he/she evaluates during a home inspection. The list is usually obtainable on the business’ website, and should include items such as the following:

> Electrical system
> Water heater
> Plumbing system
> Air Conditioning
> Insulation
> Ventilation
> Roof and flashings
> Gutters
> Crawlspace
> Foundation
> Grading
> Siding and trim
> Doors and windows
> Ceilings
> Floors
> Walls
> Chimney
> Fireplace
> Garage
> Driveway
>
Radon Effects

Some inspection businesses also offer wood destroying insect infestation inspections (e.g. termite) and radon inspections. These usually require an additional fee. Suffice it to say that these two inspections are also very important, but I will leave that for another article.

Overall, a home inspection provides a great opportunity for you to really understand the condition of a home. An inspection completed prior to purchasing property can end up saving you thousands of dollars in unforeseen repairs. More importantly, the information gathered from an inspection ensures that you are well equipped to make a wise decision on whether to make a purchase or not, including whether you and your family will be safe in the home.