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Love Live DC: Buying in DC — Step 7: The Home Inspection

This column is written and sponsored by D.C. real estate agent and Edgewood resident Jessica Evans. Email her questions at  [email protected].

The next stop on the home buying journey is often a home inspection. Today I’ll be going over the ins and outs of inspections, the different types, who to hire and what to expect. Not everyone has a home inspection, but for most buyers, the information gained is very helpful.

Let’s start with what a home inspection is and what it isn’t. A home inspection is a visual inspection of the structure and components of a home to identify items that are not performing correctly or are unsafe. A home inspector will recommend further evaluation by a licensed professional if they suspect an issue that requires further diagnosis.  Home inspectors also can provide valuable preventative maintenance recommendations.

A home inspection is not a 100% examination of every inch of a home, and is limited to what is visible, accessible and testable. The overall objective of a home inspection isn’t to find every possible issue, it is to provide a buyer with an understanding of the condition of the home, identify issues that need to be corrected (and potentially negotiated) so that the buyer can proceed with their purchase with a level of comfort.

There are two times in a transaction when a buyer may decide to have a home inspection, one is before an offer is submitted (aka a pre-offer inspection) or more traditionally after an offer is accepted and a contract is ratified.

A pre-offer inspection is intended to provide a buyer with the information that they need to submit an offer without an inspection contingency. A home inspection contingency is a contract term and may include the right to negotiate repairs or credits, the right to terminate the contract or both.

In D.C., a home inspection contingency is a term of the contract and specifies how long the buyer has to have a home inspection completed and request in writing from the seller either repairs or credits, or notice voiding the contract. If a buyer does not submit anything in writing to the seller the contingency will expire at the deadline.

Who should you hire as your home inspector? This is an important decision but there is no one right answer. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of inspectors in the D.C. area. Most importantly, the inspector that you choose should be knowledgeable about the specific type of property you are purchasing. Both older homes, newly renovated homes and condos each come with their own set of challenges.

Buyers, if you trust your real estate agent (and you should or else you shouldn’t be working with them) you should consider their home inspector recommendations. Personally, I’d trust the recommendation of someone who has been through dozens of inspections with many different inspectors over a friend or family member who has had maybe 1 or 2 inspections, but that choice is yours.

A home inspection typically takes between 1-4 hours depending on the size and complexity of the home. If at all possible, I highly recommend attending your home inspection, think of it as a tutorial on how your home works. After the inspection, the home inspector will prepare a detailed report with the information that was reviewed and the findings of the inspection. If you are requesting credits or repairs from the seller, you will need to provide a copy of the report along with that request.

Interested in receiving my list of recommended home inspectors? Send me a message at [email protected].

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