Buyer's Guide: What To Expect From a Home Inspection

You've finally found the perfect home. It has the right number of bedrooms, is in a great neighborhood, and has all the character you've been dreaming of. Your real estate agent can guide you though making an offer on this dream home... but often times you'll want to make that offer contingent on a home inspection. What information will that inspection provide? Here's a closer look.

A Home Inspector's Job

As a home buyer, you have the right to hire any home inspector you please. Since Rhode Island does not have specific licensing requirements for inspectors, make sure you hire someone with substantial training and experience. Your real estate agent can make a recommendation

A home inspector's job is to critically evaluate the physical structure of the home, its electrical system, plumbing, and HVAC equipment to identify any issues with damage or wear. They will look over the roof, walls, ceilings, foundation, windows, doors, attic, and more. You can expect the inspection to take several hours — perhaps half a day for a large home.

The Inspection Report

Contrary to popular belief, home inspections do not operate on a pass/fail system. Rather, your home inspector will give you a detailed report that describes each component of the home and any issues present. For example, they may report that the roof is in good condition, aside from a few loose shingles on the south corner. 

Some issues noted on the report may be minor, such as dripping faucets or worn tile. Others may be more serious, such as a cracked foundation or a heating system near the end of it's useful life. Some inspectors tailor their reports to your needs. For example, if you have children, they may include information about the child-safety of the home.

How to Act on the Inspection Results

Based on the inspection report, you can take three approaches. You can proceed with the offer and accept the property in it's present condition, walk away from the purchase, or renegotiate by requesting financial credits and/or repairs to be performed at the sellers expense. If the inspection identified a serious concern, such as a badly damaged roof, you may want to walk away or request a significant credit from the seller since repairs can be costly. However, if minor issues were identified, you could simply request a small financial credit from the seller, leaving money on the table for repairs. Your real estate agent can advise you on the best approach.

The moral of the story: never buy a home without a home inspection. At best, the inspection will save you from buying a money pit. At worst, it will reaffirm that you're making a smart purchase.