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Is a home inspection still important?

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In todayís red-hot housing market, some buyers are offering to skip the home inspection to make their offer more attractive. And with so much competition, some sellers are even asking buyers to do so.

With many buyers chasing after fewer homes, it might be tempting to skip this step to become the winning bid. But you could pay a big price for that oversight, and an inspection is usually worth the risk of losing of losing the house to avoid potential financial and structural nightmares after close.

A home inspector is valuable because of their impartiality. Since theyíre not selling you repairs and have no financial interest in the sale, they wonít have ulterior motives and can give you an honest evaluation of what youíre buying. If they identify issues and you still buy the property, the report will provide valuable insight into what problems you need to prioritize once you take possession. That inspection might identify a repair that, if dealt with right away, is relatively minor, but that could cost thousands if you wait to address it. You may also be able to negotiate payment responsibilities with the seller if the inspector finds a major concern.

Itís worth noting that, in most cases, a home inspection only covers visible components of the house. Unless mold is visible on a wall, for instance, your inspection will probably not catch it. (Some inspectors do offer mold detection equipment as an add-on service.)

When the job is done, you should receive a detailed written report about the property. Some inspectors can turn this around in a day and it should never take more than a week.

Here are the key areas you can expect to be covered in a home inspection:

- Structural components

- Exterior features such as siding, walkways and railings

- Roof system

- Electrical system, including service panels, breakers and fuses

- Plumbing systems, including pipes, drains and water heating equipment

- HVAC system, including equipment and venting

- Interior features such as walls, floors, windows, doors and stairs

- Fireplaces, including chimneys and vents

Most home inspections cost between $300 and $500 and take around three to five hours. If possible, try to be there for the inspection itself. Your inspector can point out important things about the house, even if they wonít be part of the final report. If thereís any part of the upkeep or issues you donít understand, an inspector can help clarify.

When hiring an inspector, make sure they hold any necessary licensing, certification and insurance. Errors and omission (E&O) insurance is vital for an inspector, as is general liability insurance. E&O coverage protects both you and the inspector in the event a major problem goes undetected and the inspector is found accountable for the oversight.

Most states and cities donít require trade licenses for inspectors. Ask if they have membership in a respected trade organization such as the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors or the American Society of Home Inspectors. This isnít required but is evidence they go the extra mile to keep up with continuing education.

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