Before buying a new house, most people want to have their future home inspected, both for major structural problems and other issues, like an insect infestation or water damage. In fact, most people don’t just want a home inspection; they assume that an inspection will be performed, whether or not they ask for one. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Who Pays For A Home Inspection?

As a home buyer, it’s your responsibility to have an inspection performed before purchasing a property. The home’s seller does not owe you any duty in this regard; it’s up to you. In most cases, it’s also your responsibility to find a home inspector and pay for the inspection.

Repairs are another story.

Who Pays For Repairs Before A Home Is Sold?

When an inspection finds a problem, sellers will usually shell out the money needed to fix it, but that’s not always true. In the world of home buying, nearly everything is negotiable. Inspections and repairs are no different. Sellers are under no legal obligation to fix issues, even major structural deficiencies, that turn up during an inspection.

New Home For Sale

With that being said, most sellers agree to pay up for necessary repairs, or risk a buyer walking out on the deal. This is customary, but not legally-required, in most places. Really, it comes down to how much time and money the seller has, along with how motivated they are to make the sale.

If a seller refuses to fix the problem, home buyers have several options. Sometimes a lower purchase price can be negotiated. Or, if the problem is a deal-breaker, you may be able to just walk away. Of course, your options will also depend on whether or not you have already signed a contract and, if you have, what the contract’s terms are. That’s why it’s nice to have an inspection performed before you sign the contract, or have a clause put into the contract that makes the deal contingent on the results of an inspection.

What About An Appraisal?

If you’re not paying for the home in cash, your bank will have the building appraised before approving your mortgage. In practice, appraisals are sort of like inspections, but they have a very different function.

Home inspections are meant to protect you, the home buyer, from unexpected problems that could devalue the property. Appraisals, on the other hand, are intended to protect the lender, who obviously doesn’t want to pay more for the house than it’s actually worth. The point of an appraisal is to determine the true market value of a home, not necessarily determine whether or not it’s safe to live in (although, for obvious reasons, a run-down property will be both less safe and worth less money).

Banks usually won’t approve mortgages to purchase homes with termite infestations. Even though it’s not a legal requirement, it’s in a seller’s best interests to deal with termites quickly. Having a mortgage-killing infestation, after all, would undermine every deal, not just the one with the present buyer.

Appraisals Aren’t Enough

As a home buyer, you shouldn’t rely solely on the results of an appraisal, although you should ask your bank for a copy of it once it’s done. Appraisers don’t usually goes as “deep” into their examination as inspectors do. An appraisal focuses on the home’s apparent conditions, things that can be seen without digging around beneath the surface. Inspectors, though, normally test mechanical systems, along with major appliances, according to AngiesList.com.

Appraisals and inspections are similar on one important point: who customarily pays for them. Buyers usually pay for home inspections and the cost for an appraisal will almost always be included in the buyer’s closing costs. The fee for an appraisal is usually around a few hundred dollars. Inspections normally cost that much, too.

What’s Included In A Home Inspection?

In a typical inspection, your inspector will perform a thorough visual examination of the property, along with its main systems.

  • Structural features (including foundation and framing)
  • Roofing (including shingles, skylights and flashing)
  • Exterior features (from railings, driveways and porches to siding)
  • Interior features (including walls, ceilings, floors and windows)
  • Insulation and ventilation
  • Plumbing system (including pipes, drains, water heater and sump pumps)
  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Electrical system (including circuit breakers and fuses)

Home inspectors go from top to bottom, so their inspection reports should include notes on unfinished spaces, too, like an attic. Their efforts only go so far, however. Licensed inspectors are only required to check things that can they can see and access. They won’t be tearing into the walls, which means that difficult-to-find, but potentially-disastrous, problems like water damage could be missed.

Is Moisture Inspection Different?

Most of the time. While some home inspectors will perform minimal moisture tests, that service doesn’t usually come in your average inspection.

This is an extremely important point. Over the last few years, thousands of homeowners in Pennsylvania have learned that their homes, especially stucco-clad houses, are hiding severe levels of water damage. Moisture infiltration can be a serious structural problem, along with creating the perfect conditions for mold growth. It’s not a situation to take likely. In fact, many of these stucco homes have been found with significant water damage less than ten years after they were built. While a home inspector will likely spot obvious signs of water damage, and may even catch improperly-installed water filtration systems, they aren’t likely to notice hidden, but no less important, damage behind the walls.

If you’re currently considering a stucco home, we strongly suggest that you contact an experienced moisture inspector. This is something you’ll have to pay for, but it’s a lot cheaper than paying for remediation, which can easily climb into the six-figures.

A Home Inspector’s Legal Responsibility

In Pennsylvania and most states, home inspectors are licensed professionals. Many belong to professional associations, like the American Society of Home Inspectors, and are thus bound to standards of practice and ethical codes.

While these associations are simply non-profit trade groups, the standards they establish are extremely important. Pennsylvania actually has a Home Inspection Law that allows prospective home buyers to sue inspectors who fail to perform their duties as a “reasonably prudent home inspector would.” To define what a “reasonably prudent” home inspector would do, Pennsylvania’s courts turn to the standards of practice and ethics set out by national home inspector associations.