Buying a home isn’t a cheap undertaking. Escrow money, down payment, closing costs and a bunch of other surprises can leave you wondering where you can cut corners. So it’s no surprise that some homebuyers decide they can get by without a home inspection, particularly on a new home.
That’s a mistake. You should always, always get an inspection before you buy a home. Most mortgage lenders are going to require one anyway – they want to know their investment isn’t a crumbling rat trap. But even on a new home, it’s a very good idea to get an inspector. You’re about to make the most expensive purchase of your life. Don’t you want to know what shape it’s in?
Consider this – there are potentially more than 3,000 different components in a home, and that’s before you count stuff like nails and sealant. Pipes and vents, wood and brick, crawlspaces, attics, basements and cabinets – any of these could have a hidden flaw that you definitely do not want to discover after your name is on the title. Even if you have a warranty, it’s smart to know about the flaws before you make yourself the owner. After all, wouldn’t you rather have it fixed before you move in?
With a new home, you know a city inspector has recently been out to examine the property. The home can’t be sold without the inspector’s sign-off, so the home has to be up to code or the builder has to fix it. You might believe that the code inspection is as good as a third-party inspection, but you would be wrong.
For starters, city codes are a minimum. They’re there to make sure the home doesn’t collapse in the first thirty days. They are not there to make sure that your 25-year shingles weren’t replaced with 15-year, or your insulation swapped with pink fuzzy blankets (although those would not pass code, so maybe a bad example). Your home inspector is going to be looking for anything that might affect your quality of life, including minor things that the city inspector might not be on the lookout for since they aren’t on his list of items to check out.
With an inspection, you’re going to pay your inspector to take his or her sweet time, checking over every detail, crawling around the attic and testing all the outlets. Your inspector is going to be far more thorough, and is a lot more likely to catch problems you might encounter far down the road.
Code inspectors are also just there to check for code violations, not manufacturer recommendations. Your furnace might be installed six inches off the ground – but the manufacturer may have specified a whole foot. Your home inspector will be better equipped to catch those shortcomings.
An average home inspection is going to set you back $300 to $600. That’s just the basics, though – if your inspector is checking for radon leaks or mold, that’s going to be more, and if they provide a warranty against wood-eating bugs, that’s going to cost you, too (though it’s worth paying). It’s a good idea to plan ahead and have some money set aside.
The size of the home will determine the base cost of your inspection. Of course, if you’re considering an Emerald Home, you will probably need a larger inspection, and if you’re looking into an Express Home, you can count on saving a little. D.R. Horton homes tend to be a little more spacious, so your inspection may be on the higher side, but it will be worth it when you know the condition of the biggest investment you’re likely to make.
A few additional areas that may need consideration include:
- Radon testing. Radon can cause cancer. It might be worth the extra $100-$200 to make sure you’re not going to be surrounded by it while you sleep. And since radon can come right out of the ground, there’s no sure way to know for sure whether it’s there – except testing.
- Asbestos. If you’re buying a new home, you really don’t need to check for asbestos. But if your home was built before 1989, you might find asbestos inside, so you may want to check for it. This is very pricey, unfortunately – it could cost from $400 to $800 for all the lab tests.
- Mold. Here’s a dirty secret – just about every home has mold somewhere. It’s almost impossible not to, especially if you live anywhere with normal levels of humidity. The good news is that it’s rarely bad for you. I mean, if it could kill you, we all would have died in college when we left pizza in the fridge for six weeks. Some types are pretty hazardous, though, especially if you’re allergic. Mold testing can run you about $800, but is not especially necessary in a new home. An old home in a flood plain, though, should probably be checked.
- Lead. Lead paint and pipes were in use all the way up to 1978. Now, yes, that was a while ago, and obviously a new home won’t have lead in it. But if you are looking at an older home, you may need to check to see if the paint or the pipes use lead. You can cover lead paint with a new coat, but you will likely have to replace lead pipes. Checking for lead in your home will set you back about $300, if it turns out it’s necessary.
- Sewer scope. Once again, this is not something you probably need to consider with a new home, but older homes may have had trees grow into the sewer lines. Really old homes might have completely cracked or broken pipes. Running a scope through the sewer lines could be from $85 to $300, but it might be worth it if your home is pretty old.
When you set about finding your inspector, it’s a good idea to screen them a little. A good first step is to ask your realtor for suggestions, but it can’t hurt to do a little homework. Ask the inspector how long they’ve been inspecting homes, and how many they’ve done. Check certifications and qualifications. Extra points if your inspector used to build homes (that’s not especially common, but it’s a heck of a bonus).
When you do schedule the inspection, make sure you’re there the whole time. Follow the inspector around so that when they see something, they can show you right there. It’s one thing to have the inspector tell you that there’s a loose pipe in the crawlspace; it’s another to see it wiggle. Being onsite during the inspection can help you see how bad (or how not-very-bad) your potential home’s issues really are.
Finally, read the report. Yes, that seems obvious. I mean, you paid a pile of cash for it, so it would be kind of ridiculous to ignore the findings, but it can be intimidating to try and read through the whole thing. You might be tempted to just throw in the towel and ask for a summation – but make sure you understand everything, because it could seriously affect your decision. A good inspector will go over the whole report to make sure you understand it. They will tell you which parts are serious problems and which are essentially cosmetic foibles.
Summing It Up
This was a longer post, and there’s quite a bit of information here. The main takeaway, though, is that you should always get an inspection. Even if it’s a new home. Even if it’s been confirmed to be up to code. Inspections on older homes are more expensive, but the inspection is a poor place to save money. Get your inspection, pay attention, and get the information you need to make a responsible decisions.