Buying a home involves many moving parts that can seem overwhelming if you do not know what to expect. There are quite a few steps between having an offer accepted and moving into your new dream home. This period is referred to as the escrow process. Escrow is important to understand because it solidifies the real estate transaction and directly impacts how soon you get the keys to your new home.
Once your offer has been accepted and you have opened up escrow, the next step in the closing process is to hire a home inspector to come out to the house and assess it for anything notable.
So, what can you expect from a home inspection? What types of inspections will be conducted on your future home? We will be covering all that and more below, so you are prepared to ask any questions regarding this important phase of the closing process.
What Is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is an examination of the condition and safety of a piece of real estate, often conducted when the home is being sold.
A qualified home inspector will assess the heating and cooling system, water and sewage systems, other plumbing, and electrical work, and look for any potential fire or safety hazards. In addition, the home inspector may check for evidence of insect, water, fire damage, or any other issue that can affect the property’s value.
What is the Difference Between an Appraisal and an Inspection?
The main difference between an appraisal and an inspection is that an appraisal deals with the value of a home, while an inspection deals with the condition of the home.
An appraisal is a walk-through and a general assessment of a home, analyzed with the help of nearby comparable sales. An appraiser will visually inspect the property and grounds, and then research similar homes in the area to compare them. An inspector will physically check the interior and exterior of the home and flag any structural, construction or mechanical concerns to you.
An inspection is a deeper analysis with regards to the condition of the specific home. A licensed home inspector will spend multiple hours doing a comprehensive review of the home’s condition, both visually and by testing functionality of major systems. After completing the inspection, they will provide recommendations to the buyer on items in the home that should be repaired or replaced before closing.
Home Inspections That Happen During Escrow
A home inspection usually takes place right after the seller accepts an offer from the buyer. After both parties sign the purchase agreement, the home goes into escrow. This process happens before or in the same timeframe as the home appraisal.
1. General Home Inspection
A general home inspection is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house, from the roof to the foundation. In other words, it is a standard inspection where a generalist reports on the home’s interior and exterior condition after performing basic tests and keeping an eye out for any signs of problems.
A general home inspection covers most of the home’s physical structure and systems, but only on a superficial level. There are certain instances where a visual examination will not be sufficient to detect a problem and may only detect signs of the existence of a deeper and more complex problem.
General home inspectors will not check inside walls, pipes or sewer lines, chimneys, under tiles, or behind electrical panels. They do not specifically check for termite damage, site contamination, mold or mildew, asbestos, or an array of other more specific and specialized problems.
Another important factor to consider is that general home inspections are not infallible. They will only report on the home’s current condition, and there is always the possibility of an unforeseen issue popping up after.
Below is a list of what home inspectors look at when performing a general home inspection:
- Exterior walls
- Chimneys and stoves
- Yard and landscaping
- Porch, decks, and patio
- Water drainage and disbursement
- Waste disposal
- And other details, such as water wells and septic systems, that may or not be applicable to your home
- Floors, interior walls, windows, doors, and ceilings
- Interior plumbing
- Electrical System
- Basements and crawl space
- Fire and other safety components
- Interior water drainage and disbursement
- Signs of asbestos, lead paint, and noxious gases
- And other details, depending on your home’s complexity
2. Pest Inspection
Most buyers ask the sellers to pay for this inspection. A buyer may still want to pay for the inspection if the homeowner will not. The termite company doing the inspection will look for evidence of termites and other wood-destroying pests and provide a report of their findings to the buyer, seller, and agents. This inspection should be done in the first week also.
When you hire our real estate pest control inspection team to assess your property, here is what we will look for:
- Wood rot or wood borers, both of which can put the structural integrity at risk
- Termite infestation, or signs of the start of an infestation
- Prior termite damage
- Other pest infestations
3. Mold Inspection
The presence of mold in a home is unsightly, but it could also be quite unhealthy. Mold spores trigger minor allergic reactions for some people and for those who suffer from asthma or other respiratory issues, symptoms can be more severe. A mold inspection will check for dampness in the building materials in your home, including the drywall, insulation, around window casings, bathroom cabinet, and others.
A professional mold inspection will likely start with an inspection of the space for visible signs of mold. An inspector may concentrate on one area of high moisture—such as a basement that has been flooded—or they might extend their search to the rest of the space.
Beyond a visual inspection, a mold inspection might also include:
- Moisture mapping, which helps determine if there are hidden leaks or other sources of moisture
- Air and surface sampling and testing
- Examining the HVAC ductwork for mold
4. Radon Inspection
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is formed by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It can cause lung cancer after prolonged exposure and can build to dangerous levels in homes.
This gas enters a building through openings where the structure meets the soil, such as cracks in foundation walls and in floor slabs, construction joints, gaps around service pipes, support posts, window wells, floor drains, sumps or cavities inside walls.
Radon testing and mitigation are not required during real estate transactions, but testing is highly recommended.
5. Foundation Inspection
Foundation issues can lead to major structural problems in a home that can be difficult to repair. So, when you are considering purchasing a home with foundation issues, it is vital to commission an inspection and report to understand the extent of any damage.
A professional inspection can help distinguish genuine foundation concerns from “false signs” such as nail pops, seam breaks, hairline cracks in concrete, cracks in floor grout or tiles, and normal brick expansion joints. These issues are more typically due to wear and tear, a home’s age, or poor craftsmanship and do not necessarily indicate foundation issues.
Home inspections are meant to keep homeowners safe and are a crucial part of the home buying and selling process. Setting yourself up for success can go a long way toward smoother negotiations and possibly a better final sale price.
Be sure to discuss the inspection strategy with your real estate agent as the market and its tolerance for inspections and repairs can vary greatly. Your real estate agent will oversee this entire escrow process, so do not be too concerned if you do not understand every detail. However, in any transaction where you are putting so much on the line financially, it is a good idea to have at least a basic idea of what is going on so you will not get taken advantage of—or inadvertently lose your home.