Q: Should I, as a buyer, get a home inspection?
Q: Are there situations where buyers, by their own choice, have opted to forego an official home inspection and as a result saved tens of thousands of dollars?
A: YES! However, I would need to qualify this response by explaining how they went about this. There is a creative way to get the benefit of a home inspection and still save mucho dinero on the purchase price. Using this technique gives some buyers the best of both worlds. This is situation-specific, so please contact me to get more information on how to accomplish it.
Q: Does the selection of a home inspector play an important role in the validity of the inspections results, or do most inspectors perform the same investigations and come up with the same results?
A: The choice of a home inspector is important, especially if you are from outside of this area, and you choose a home inspector out of the phone book or without a personal recommendation. Many buyers are surprised to learn that home inspectors in Virginia have no significant license or experience requirements. It is possible that you could hire a home inspector who has few qualifications, little education, or no experience, yet has decided to be a home inspector.
A new friend called me in tears. She and her husband had relocated to Roanoke from Northern Virginia last year and made the mistake of not using a buyers agent. When they placed an offer on a large home, they worked directly with the listing agent, and chose a home inspector out of the phone book. The inspector gave the home a virtually clean bill of health, and they made the purchase.
After months of suffering with wiring, plumbing and apparent structural problems, they called me for advice. The first thing they needed was an experienced, professional home inspector to undertake a thorough re-inspection. What this new inspector found horrified them. It appears that the house had been cobbled together in the builder-owners spare time and had sat vacant and incomplete for more than 12 years in the process. Much of the home had apparently never been inspected (it was out in the country, deep in the woods!) and the wiring, plumbing, extensive decks, and much more needs a total overhaul. The cost of the repairs necessary just to get the home to a serviceable level will likely be $50,000 to $60,000.
There were many obvious things that were not built to code, which could have been a tip-off that there was something very wrong. Though no home inspector is perfect, if this couple had worked with a professional who represented their best interests it is probable that their current suffering would have been avoided.
Lesson: Get personal recommendations and then obtain a home inspection from a professional, experienced home inspector.
PostScript: Few people are aware that there may be a way to file a claim through the title insurance company for some limited types of pre-existing damages. I helped my friends recover $25,000 of the damages that they suffered in the incident described above. Few home owners have any idea that this option is available to them, but it can mean tens of thousands of dollars in recovered funds when unfortunate events occur. Talk to your closing attorney to see if this type of coverage is available through a premier title policy.
Q: Do I need a radon inspection for the home I am buying?
A: As in many places across the United States, some homes in this area have radon in the basement. While there does not seem to be more radon here than anywhere else, I strongly recommend that you conduct a radon test as part of the home-buying process. The good news is that the fix for radon is always about the same and the cost is not that great. Typically, an agent can write up an offer that will compel the seller to pay for the cost of radon remediation prior to closing.
One note: There may be ways for a home seller to tamper with certain radon measurement devices. A smart home inspector with good equipment can detect this and frustrate their plans. Be sure to ask your inspector if he knows how to guard against this situation.