All About Home Inspections

What is an inspection? How can it be used as a buyer? What should a seller expect from an inspection?

The term “home inspection” often bolsters a negative connotation or “fear of discovering something catastrophic”. In most cases, this isn’t the case. A home inspection simply helps educate buyers of the condition of their home prior to closing, so they are well-aware of future projects and areas to monitor during their ownership. The primary goal of an inspection is education.

Before we jump into the home inspection, let’s talk about how an inspection is set up and agreed upon. It’s important to understand that a home inspection is a contingency a buyer may include in their offer to the seller. If a seller accepts that offer, they are agreeing to allow an inspector visit their home to conduct the inspection. Inspections or tests cannot be done with mutual consent by both parties, typically in writing in the offer to purchase or an addendum.

An inspection, in short, is an analysis of the home’s condition, geared toward educating the future owner (the buyer). It is conducted by a state-licensed inspector, who typically spends 3-5 hours observing the condition of a home, testing, photographing findings and formalizing the results in an inspection report. The report includes a high level overview of the major aspects of the home including: the plumbing system, electrical, foundation, roof, mechanicals, appliance function, windows, siding, and other items that may be overlooked by a buyer when first viewing a home.

Because most home inspectors are not specialized contractors, they may note a concern should be further evaluated by a contractor in that particular field.

For example, if they notice the foundation has some cracking, they may recommend a mason or foundation specialist to evaluate that further. That concern may be cosmetic or "normal shifting", or it may need prompt addressing in order to protect the integrity of the foundation and home structure.

Follow-up appointments after an inspection are not uncommon. If a specialists opinion is need to clarify a situation, that may help provide the buyer and seller peace-of-mind about a potential issue. 

As a buyer, it is common to meet the inspector at the home for the last 30 - 45 minute summary to review the inspection findings. After reviewing the results, the inspector formalizes the information into a report.

The seller will receive a copy of the inspection report as well, per how the offer to purchase is written in the State of Wisconsin, sellers will receive a copy of all inspections and test reports in a timely manner.

The older the home is, likely, the longer the inspection report will be. It’s also important to know that even if the house is new, the inspector is going to find some issues with the home. There is no such thing as a "perfect home". However, the good news for buyers and sellers is a home inspection is not "pass or fail".

As a buyer, it’s important to understand the inspector’s goal is to help educate you on the condition of the home, but not everything in the inspection report may require immediate remediation or is considered a defect. A defect is a safety hazard, code violation, or something that would shorten the life of the home. The term "defect" has been redefined over the years by the State of Wisconsin; however, leaning on your inspectors tactical knowledge and experience can be helpful to understand what issues are more pertinent than others.

When the inspection is complete, talk through your inspection report with your agent. They will help guide you in terms of what may be safety issues that need to be resolved now and what issues may be addressable upon your move-in.

As a seller, there are some steps you can take to prepare for a home inspection, covered in one of our recent podcasts, Preparing for a Home Inspection.

Once underway, try to be patient during the inspection period. It often takes a couple of days to hear how the inspection went. Buyers often take a few days to digest and think through the findings, talk about it with their agent and the send over a copy of the inspection results, that may be accompanied with an amendment requesting repairs or a closing credit. In some cases, the buyers are satisfied with the condition and taking care of repairs on their own. Be patient and try not to worry about the results. The results will be shared and more often than not the parties are able to work together to keep the transaction moving toward closing.

Overall, a home inspection can be a helpful tool for buyers and sellers to understand and learn about the condition of a home. The goal is education, and having the right perception of what a home inspection is can help alleviate the "stress" that comes with this step in the transaction.

For more resources on home inspections, check out our podcast on The Real - Wausau Real Estate Show. Our team has a few resources where Jeff Newman, Newman Home Inspections, sheds insight based on his experience as an inspector, with helpful insight for both buyers and sellers alike.

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