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Home Inspection & Appraisal

Home inspections and appraisals play key, but separate, roles in the home-buying and -selling process.

An inspection is primarily intended to protect the prospective buyer from purchasing a home with structural defects and other major problems. The appraisal is meant to protect the lender from paying more than the house is worth. A home inspection is highly recommended, though not required in both the offer to purchase or most closing processes.

Home Inspection

Buyers should base purchase offers on the assumption that the home is in good shape. Some home flaws are easy to discern, such as the state of carpeting or paint on walls. Other major issues, such as electrical wiring, plumbing systems and foundation stability require up-close physical inspection by a knowledgeable person to determine soundness. When inspections reveal items needing repair, buyers ask sellers to either repair the flaws or to credit them money back so that they can do the fixes themselves.

The purpose of a home inspection is to visually examine the physical condition and systems of a house, from the roof to the foundation. A licensed home inspector can identify the need for minor or major repairs, as well as any need for maintenance. Once the inspection is complete, you will know more about the house, which will solidify your decision in purchasing the property.

The fee for a home inspection can vary depending on a number of factors including the size of the house, and possible optional services such as septic, well, or radon testing. Do not let cost be a factor in your selection of a home inspector or the tests they will perform. The sense of security and knowledge gained from an inspection is well worth it.

Home inspections will vary depending on the type of property you are purchasing. A large historic home, for example, will require a more specialized inspection than a small condominium. Here are some basic elements that a home inspector will check. You can also use this list to help you evaluate properties you might purchase.

Exterior

The inspector should look at sidewalks, driveways, steps, windows, and doors. A home’s siding, trim, and surface drainage also are part of an exterior inspection.

  • Doors and windows
  • Siding (brick, stone, stucco, vinyl, wood, etc.)
  • Driveways/sidewalks
  • Attached porches, decks, and balconies

Roofing

Take note of the roof’s age, conditions of flashing, roof draining systems (pooling water), buckled shingles, loose gutters and downspouts, skylight, and chimneys.

Interior

An inspection of the inside of the home can reveal plumbing leaks, insect damage, rot, construction defects, and other issues. An inspector should take a close look at:

  • Walls, ceilings and floors
  • Steps, stairways, and railings
  • Countertops and cabinets
  • Garage doors and garage door systems

Plumbing

Examine the water supply and drainage systems, water heating equipment, and fuel storage systems. Drainage pumps and sump pumps also fall under this category. Poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots, or corrosion may indicate problems.

Electrical

Safe electrical wiring is essential. Look for the condition of service entrance wires, service panels, breakers and fuses, and disconnects. Also take note of the number of outlets in each room.

Heating

The home’s heating system, vent system, flues, and chimneys should be inspected. Look for age of water heater, whether the size is adequate for the house, speed of recovery, and energy rating.

Air Conditioning

Your inspector should describe your home cooling system, its energy source, and inspect the central and through-wall cooling equipment. Consider the age and energy rating of the system.Interiors:

Ventilation/Insulation

To prevent energy loss, check for adequate insulation and ventilation in the attic and in unfinished areas such as crawlspaces. Also look for proper, secured insulation in walls. Insulation should be appropriate for the climate.

Home Appraisal

Each property is unique, and a professional appraiser relies on his or her general expertise and specific research to arrive at an opinion of value.

Appraisers weigh the location of the home, its proximity to desirable schools and other public facilities, the size of the lot, the size and condition of the home itself and recent sales prices of comparable properties, among other factors.

A qualified appraiser who has training, experience and insight into the marketplace prepares the home appraisal report. It demonstrates approximate fair market value based on recent sales in your neighborhood and is required to purchase or refinance your new home or property. A property appraisal like this is generally required by a lender before loan approval to ensure that the mortgage loan amount is not more than the value of the property.