Is a home inspection necessary when buying a house?
OK, now the longer version. The mere fact that you’re asking whether or not you need an inspection tells me that yes, in fact, you DO need a home inspection.
Why are home inspections important?
Because you aren’t a home inspector, and you most likely have either no experience or just enough to be dangerous. I don’t mean this in a mean way, everyone started off with no experience. But both scenarios SCREAM to me that you DO need a home inspection.
I just bought my favorite kind of house: ugly, outdated, and in need of a LOT of love. There are weeds in the backyard, a smokey smell in the house, wallpaper from the 70s, used-to-be-white carpet, tiled counters, and wallpaper from the 80s. It has a weird-but-fixable layout, out-of-code stair railings, and more wallpaper. (UGH!! Curses on the person who invented wallpaper!)
I wrote up the offer while on vacation, because that’s how it always seems to happen. We negotiated the price, locked it in, and I frantically scheduled my inspections for that week, as I was off to another conference the following week. I set my inspection period for something like 18 days in case I wasn’t able to get all of them performed before I left.
This home has an in-ground pool, so I knew I wanted a pool inspection, too. Oh, and after I submitted the offer, the listing agent drops on me that the pool heater does not work and has not worked for at least five years.
Um, what? Why was this very known piece of information NOT included in the listing?!
The home itself is in very rough shape, and radon is very common in our neck of the woods, so I knew I wanted a full home inspection. I’ve done this before, I know what I’m looking for, and I STILL got an inspection, because I want a second TRAINED set of eyes on this property. (Actually, like a sixth or seventh pair of eyes. I brought three rehabbing friends with me to a showing, plus my husband.)
Related: 7 Essential Elements of Your Home Inspection (Beware of #7!)
There is an inspector in the area I invest that EVERY agent I know recommends, and I’ve used him before with satisfactory results. However, I just helped my friend Jake buy a house that had previously been under contract and fallen out due to inspection issues. (Jake also likes unattractive houses, and this one was no exception.)
The listing agent for Jake’s house very helpfully offered up the previous inspection report, which we absolutely took advantage of. This was THE MOST comprehensive, thorough inspection report my client had ever read—and I have to say I 100 percent agree with him.
I called this new inspector to inspect my property, and he came out and brought his fine-tooth comb with him.
Not only did his report share the things that were readily apparent: broken window in the master bedroom, smoke smell, outdated, etc., but his report also included safety issues I was not aware of. Specifically, the fence surrounding the pool was inadequate, built backward, and needed to be replaced ASAP in order to comply with the state-mandated fencing regulations for pools.
I’ve had homes with pools before. I didn’t realize the fence was backward—or that this would be the smallest of my problems.
The seller shared the name of the person who has taken care of his pool for the last couple of years. This guy came out and spent about an hour with us, and boy, did he spill the dirt! There is a leak in the pipe that runs between the filter basket and the pump. Currently, the filter basket is inoperable, having been circumvented during the pool opening this year.
This kind of repair is the WORST kind of repair—what I call “the unknown cost repair.” The pipe is underground, which means you can’t really see where the leak is—you have to dig until you find it. Part of the pipe is under cement, so if you have to break that up to find the leak, it gets really expensive really quickly. The pool guy said it would cost between $500 and $5,000, simply because they don’t know where it is.
But even more costly were the known issues with the pool—that broken pool heater and the re-plastering it needed five years ago. Not to mention the complete retiling and re-bricking I could already see it would need.
You’ve heard 10X thrown around on the site, the podcast, etc. My home inspections were a 40X! They literally saved me 40 times the value of what I paid them to inspect my house.
After we received the inspection reports, my husband and I sat down and talked about it. The amount of work we could SEE needed to be done paled in comparison to the work uncovered during the inspections. Did we even want to continue with this contract?
Related: What Investors Should Know About the Home Inspection Process
We decided we still liked the neighborhood and still liked the house. I sent a note to the listing agent that night, letting him know the inspections uncovered far more issues with the home than we were aware of, and unless we could negotiate a significant discount, we’d have to cancel the contract.
He asked what I meant by significant, and I replied with $42,000. I didn’t hold out much hope for this transaction to continue, as we are in a fairly hot real estate market, the house is located in a great neighborhood, and nothing has sold here for under $400,000 since 2017. They countered with $40,000 and I accepted as fast as I could.
So, $1,000 spent on home inspections yielded a $40,000 drop in price. I’d say that’s money WELL spent.
Protect yourself and your investment. Get a home inspection with a QUALIFIED home inspector.
Can I answer any other home inspection-related questions for you? Have you heard any horror stories from buyers who skipped getting a professional home inspection?
Share in the comment section below!
Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.