Home Inspections and Appraisals

A home inspection is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a home, from roof to foundation. A home inspection is the equivalent of physical examination from your doctor. When problems or symptoms of problems are found, the inspector may recommend further evaluation or remedies.

Hidden home defects you can observe.

  1. Water leaks. Look for stains on ceilings and near the baseboards, especially in basements or attics.
  2. Shifting foundations. Look for large cracks along the home’s foundation, cracks in walls, and doors and windows that do not close properly.
  3. Drainage. Look for standing water, either around the foundation of the home or in the yard.
  4. Termites. Look for weakened or grooved wood, especially near ground level.
  5. Worn roofs. Look for broken or missing copings and buckled shingles as well as water spots on ceilings.
  6. Inadequate wiring. Look for antiquated fuse boxes, extension cords (indicating insufficient outlets), and outlets without a place to plug in the grounding prong.
  7. Plumbing problems. Very low water pressure, banging in pipes.

Questions to ask a home inspector

  1. What are your qualifications? Are you a member of the American Association of Home Inspectors?
  2. Do you have a current Mississippi license? Home inspectors are required to be licensed in Mississippi.
  3. How many inspections of properties such as this do you do each year?
  4. Do you have a list of past clients I may contact?
  5. Do you carry professional errors and omission insurance? May I have a copy of the policy?
  6. Do you provide any guarantees of your work?
  7. What specifically will the inspection cover?
  8. What type of report will I receive after the inspection?
  9. How long will the inspection take? How long will it take to receive the report?
  10. How much will the inspection cost?

Portions adapted from Real Estate Checklists and Systems and used with permission.

Appraised value

What is a home worth? That is a basic question that a lender will ask when considering a loan for a potential mortgage borrower and it plays a fundamental role in the mortgage process. Determining the value of a home to be financed limits a lender’s risk associated with a loan because the property will provide a means of recovery for the lender should the borrower default on the loan.

A residential real estate appraisal is generally required for all mortgage transactions to assist in limiting risks. It is a supportable estimate of property value, drawing conclusions from data obtained from the market and the subject property. In addition, the mortgage company hires the appraiser, a licensed individual who conducts the appraisal, rather than the buyer or the seller, in order to provide a clear and objective statement of a property’s value.

Though qualifications vary, a minimum standard must be met by all approved appraisers to include additional education and training, state licensing or certification and approval by the lender to conduct appraisals. An appraisal is not a home inspection and it does not guarantee that a home is without flaws.

What does a home inspection include?

A standard home inspection summarizes findings from a visual inspection of the condition of the home’s heating system, central air conditioning system, interior plumbing and electrical systems; roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; foundation, basement and the visible structures of the home.

Why do I need a home inspection?

A home inspection summarizes the condition of property, points out the need for major repairs and identifies areas that may need attention in the near future. Buyers and sellers depend on an accurate home inspection to maximize their knowledge of the property in order to make intelligent decisions before executing an agreement for sale or purchase.

A home inspection points out the positive aspects of a home, as well as the maintenance that will be necessary to keep it in good shape. After an inspection, both parties have a much clearer understanding of the value and needs of the property.

For homeowners, an inspection may be used to identify problems in the making and to learn about preventive measures, which might avoid costly future repairs. If you are planning to sell your home, an inspection prior to placing your home on the market provides a better understanding of conditions which may be discovered by the buyer’s inspector, and provides you an opportunity to make repairs that will make your home more desirable to potential buyers.

How much will it cost?

Inspection fees for a typical single family home vary by geography, size and features of the property, and age of the home. Additionally, services such as septic inspections and radon testing may be warranted depending upon the individual property. Prices vary. It is a good idea to check prices in your area as you consider a professional home inspection.

Do not let the cost deter you from having a home inspection or selecting an inspector with whom you are comfortable – knowledge gained from an inspection is well worth the time and expense. The inspector’s qualifications, including experience, training and professional affiliations, should be the most important considerations in your selection.

Can I do it myself?

Even the most experienced homeowner lacks the knowledge and expertise of a professional home inspector. A professional home inspector has the experience, depth of knowledge and training to make an unbiased and informed report of the condition of a property. An inspector understands how the home’s systems and components are intended to function together, as well as how and why they fail. An inspector knows what to look for and is uniquely suited to interpret what findings reveal about the condition of the property.

Can a house fail a home inspection?

No. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of your home. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value, or a municipal inspection, which verifies compliance to local codes and standards. A home inspector will not pass or fail a house. A home inspection describes the physical condition of a property.

How do I find a home inspector?

Word of mouth, the experiences and referrals from friends and your REALTOR® are ways to find a home inspector. Someone who has used a home inspection service and is satisfied with the level of customer service and professionalism of that service will likely recommend a qualified professional.

In addition, names can be found on the website of the Home Inspector Board at www.mrec.state.ms.us or in the local Yellow Pages directory where many advertise under Building Inspection Service or Home Inspection Service. Real estate professionals are generally familiar with the services in your area and can provide a list of qualified professionals.

Professional inspectors subscribe to a professional Code of Ethics, which prohibits members from engaging in conflict of interest activities, which may compromise their objectivity. This is the assurance to the consumer that the inspector will not, for example, use the inspection to solicit or refer repair work.

When do I call in the home inspector?

Before you sign the purchase agreement, make your purchase obligation contingent upon the findings of a licensed home inspection. This should specify the terms to which both the buyer and seller are obligated. Home inspectors are aware of the time constraints involved in purchase agreements and most are available to conduct the required inspection within a few days.

Do I need to be present for the home inspection?

While it is not required for you to be present, it is recommended that you join the inspector for the visit. This allows you to observe the inspector, ask questions as you learn about the condition of the home, how its systems work and how to maintain them. After you have seen the property with the inspector, you will find the written report easier to read.

What if the report reveals problems?

No house is perfect. When the inspector identifies problems, it does not indicate you should not buy the house. The inspector’s findings serve to educate you in advance of the purchase about the condition of the property. A seller may adjust the purchase price or contract terms if major problems are discovered during an inspection. If your budget is tight, or if you do not want to be involved in future repair work, this information will be extremely valuable.

If the house is in good condition do I need an inspection?

Yes. An inspection allows you to complete your home purchase with confidence about the condition of the property and all its equipment and systems. From the inspection, you will have learned things about your new home and will want to keep the information for future reference.

Portions of this article reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the National Association of REALTORS®. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.