Short answer – YES. Unless you’re buying the home to gut it and you’ll be addressing most of the fundamentals then anyway, you really need to know what you’re buying.
In my office we actually require that buyers sign an acknowledgement that we have recommended an inspection! It’s that important. If you choose not to, we want it in writing that you elected to do that against advice.
In MN, when you’ve managed to get an accepted purchase agreement and you’re ready to move forward with the transaction, the next stage is called the “inspection period”. It’s generally 10 days from the date that the agreement has been reached (although like everything else in real estate, this is negotiable!). In this time period you’ll have a home inspection at a minimum, and may have other inspections such as radon and sewer line as well.
What do home inspectors look for? Well, they look past the surfaces that enchant a lot of buyers. Their interest is – does it work? Is it safe? They don’t care if you have quartz counters and stainless appliances. Does the refrigerator cool to the right temperature? Do all of the burners on the stove work? They will test all of the fundamentals of the home – the furnace, water softener, outlets, water pressure and faucets, flush the toilets, check the insulation and the roof and gutters – soup to nuts.
I think this is often an overwhelming process for the buyer, especially if they have never bought a home before. You are paying them to point out every little “flaw” in a home so that you know exactly what you’re buying. You’ll end up with an enormous report that talks about everything from switch plate covers ($1 or $2 each) to potentially large problems with the foundation or roof. It can be hard to keep a sense of perspective. Not everyone is handy, but not every “problem” needs to be fixed by the seller, or even by you to live comfortably in the home.
Once you have this report, you have choices – you can ask the seller to make repairs, you can ask them to give a credit to reduce the cost of the home in order to compensate you for having to fix things, you can ask for nothing and accept the house as-is, or, if you’re agent has properly written the contract as being contingent on passing inspection, you can decide to walk away from the home and keep looking.
In addition to the normal inspection, you’ll want to consider other inspections such as a radon test and a sewer line inspection, and depending on where you’re buying, potentially an inspection of a septic tank or a well. The buyer generally pays for any inspections that they have performed as due diligence, and in almost all cases inspections are limited to non-invasive tests.
One thing I think is important to mention is that IF you decide to request repairs, you should think about what you want them to fix carefully. If it’s a small, easily correctable item that you can do yourself, you may want to leave that off the list. Focus primarily on items that relate to health and safety – what are things that will make you willing to walk away from the house? I’ve had buyers that get that 40 page list and think that the seller should fix it ALL. If it were a strong buyer’s market and sellers were waiting forever to sell their homes, this may get a little more traction, but in today’s market they know a more reasonable buyer is right around the corner and will ask for less.
If you have questions or comments I’d love to hear from you!