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Buying a Home? This Could Be the Most Important Step in the Process

By Maurie Backman - Dec 28, 2020 at 8:00AM

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This is one aspect of buying a home you can't skimp on.

Man inspects skylights in a home.

Image source: Getty Images.

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When you buy a home, there's always the potential for hidden expenses to pop up. Some of those expenses may catch you by surprise, but others, less so. For example, a roof with clear damage is likely to spring leaks in the near term, and that's something that shouldn't come as a shock.

But not every problem with a home is as obvious as rows of dangling roof shingles. Sometimes, property issues require a lot more digging to uncover. And that's where your home inspection comes in.

It's standard practice to go through a home inspection in the course of buying property. In fact, it's common to put language into a purchase agreement stating that your closing is contingent upon the home in question either passing its inspection or the seller making any necessary fixes uncovered in the inspection. 

Alarmingly, though, a growing number of buyers are waiving their home inspections given the state of the housing market. With mortgage rates low and housing inventory limited, it's become very difficult to find an affordable home. Some buyers, in an effort to give themselves an edge, are either skipping the home inspection or telling sellers the results of their inspection won't impact the sale. But that's a huge mistake you're apt to regret. 

Why your home inspection is so important

A home inspection could reveal problems with a property you never would have imagined existed. For example, an inspector could determine that a home is improperly wired and therefore at risk of fire. That's the sort of thing you'd want to know about before moving in. Similarly, your home inspection could uncover mold damage that makes living in the home hazardous to your health. 

In other words, a home inspection won't just reveal problems that could cost you money; it could find issues that make the home you're looking to buy an actual danger to you and your family. And that's why you should not, under any circumstances, agree to waive a home inspection.

In fact, it's a good idea to attend your home inspection so you can ask questions throughout the process. Don't worry about getting in your inspector's way -- they're used to having buyers around. 

If your inspector identifies issues with the home you're looking to buy, you'll want to assess their severity. To that end, be prepared to ask your inspector:

  • How costly will it be to fix this issue?
  • How long will it take to remedy this issue?
  • Is the home livable while the issue is being worked on?
  • What other issues could arise down the line as a result of the problem you've flagged?

Remember, most homes don't pass inspections without incident. Unless the home is really brand-new and in meticulous shape, an inspector is likely to find at least a few minor things wrong with it, though not necessarily deal-breakers. But don't make the mistake of buying a home without understanding the problems it comes with. The last thing you want to do is lock in an affordable mortgage only to have those savings wiped out by a whopper of a repair.

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