Buying your first home is super exciting, but it can also be a little nerve-wracking. Making serious financial decisions and dealing with unfamiliar lingo can be overwhelming, not to mention all of the considerations about what kind of shape the house is in when it becomes yours. It's enough to send you screaming back to your rental property.
Good home inspectors are great allies when it comes to making one of the most important purchasing decisions of your life. Most first-time homeowners don't have a clue how to kick the tires on a house. Is the foundation strong? Does the roof leak? Is the rear deck up to code? How on Earth do you know if the wiring needs attention? Thankfully, home inspectors can tell you all this and more. Here are a few tips on how to navigate your first home inspection.
Finding Your Inspector
The best way to find a good home inspector is to get a referral. Many times, the real estate agent or lending officer has someone to recommend, but don't feel pressured to use this person. Ask around to trusted friends and family who have recently worked with an inspector. It usually helps to ask people in the same general area as the home you're considering, too. If you can't get the inside scoop, do some Internet sleuthing to find the right match. Your state housing authority will typically have a list of certified inspectors on your area as well.
Once you've found a candidate, you need to ask some questions. First, find out how much the inspection will cost and exactly what it covers. If you need some payment options, ask about this up front as well. Scheduling can make the difference between getting a house and losing it, so sooner than later is a good rule of thumb. Make sure you're able to coordinate a time that won't leave your purchase in jeopardy. The inspection part is just half of the process, so ask how long it takes to get the report back. And before you pull the trigger, get some references and make sure the inspector is certified to work in the residential sector.
Know Your Deal-breakers
You should be there with the inspector while he or she works, but it's best to stay out of the way and save your questions until after the work is done. You'll get the broad strokes during the inspection, and a detailed report will follow. You should have a good idea going in how much you can afford in home repairs, so you aren't stuck in a tough spot when you find out the roof needs to be replaced. Set some parameters for the amount of money you're wiling to spend to fix the problem areas. Major repairs to wiring and plumbing are no fun and can get costly. The same goes for structural work. If you need a support beam installed or some minor bathroom plumbing replaced, it may be within your budget or even your DIY range. But if the entire house sags three feet downhill or if you have flooding problems in the basement, you might want to think twice before jumping into it.