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Building and Pest Inspection: 7 Expert Reasons to Get One When You Buy a Home

Cristina is a Florida-licensed Realtor. She specializes in residential sales and enjoys writing articles that help buyers and sellers.

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"Should I get a building and pest inspection?" It's a common question when buying a home, and the answer is almost always a resounding, "YES!"

What some call a building inspection, we most often refer to as a home inspection. Depending on your location, the home inspection company you choose may also perform a pest inspection as part of their services. A pest inspection, or wood-destroying organism (WDO) inspection, should be done in areas where termites and other wood-destroying pests are common, such as Florida.

In this article, we'll explore the world of home inspections - what do they include, how to hire a home inspector, and most important, why you should get a building and pest inspection when you're buying a home.

What is a home inspection?

A home inspection is an inspection of a property carried out by a person with the knowledge to complete a building inspection. Some states require licensing of home inspectors while others do not. You can check your state's guidelines here.

The United States is pretty evenly split between states which require licensing for home inspectors and those which don't.

The United States is pretty evenly split between states which require licensing for home inspectors and those which don't.

In Florida, home inspectors are required to receive 120 hours of training from an approved training provider, pass one of four exams, and complete 14 hours of continuing education every 2 years. However, in neighboring Georgia, home inspectors are not required to be licensed, and in another neighboring state, Alabama, home inspectors are required to get licensed but have no continuing education requirements.

Home inspectors generally belong to a regulating association such as InterNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors). Though home inspectors are required to be licensed in Florida, there is no requirement that a licensed home inspector inspect the home. As a buyer, you can choose to have a general contractor perform the building inspection.

Why is a home inspection important?

That's a great question, and it's important to understand everything that a home buyer will get out of a home inspection when paying for one. Though there is no legal requirement in many places to have an inspection done prior to buying a home, doing so can save you a lot of money and headaches in the long run. Let's look at seven reasons you should get a building and pest inspection.

To reveal any underlying issues

The main reason to get a home inspection, of course, is to make sure the home and property a buyer plans to purchase is in good condition. A home inspection may reveal issues that were not readily visible to the seller or buyer and have not been disclosed on one of the various disclosure forms. It can also reveal anything which might pose a problem in the near future.

Recommend additional inspections

A home inspector will note any additional inspections which may be needed. For instance, if the roof appears aged or has soft spots, the inspector might recommend a roof inspection by a licensed roofer. Or if the electric panel shows strange wiring or other issues, the inspector might recommend a licensed electrician give it a closer look to make sure there are not fire or electrocution hazards.

If the home inspection company does not automatically perform a pest inspection, the inspector might recommend a pest inspection only if he finds evidence of wood-destroying organisms. Other inspections that might be recommended include a pool inspection, plumbing inspection, or structural inspection.

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Determine the extent of necessary repairs

Having a building and pest inspection done is also a good way to determine how extensive repairs might be now or in the near future. The inspection report might say things such as:

  • "5 years of life left in the roof."
  • "The HVAC is functioning but is at the end of its useful life."
  • "Pipes are galvanized metal and should be replaced."
  • "Tree branches near roof could accelerate wood rot on fascia and wearing on shingles."

By knowing these things, a buyer put money in savings to pay for these big ticket repairs when the time comes. This kind of information on the inspection report also provides a general time frame of when to expect to pay for repairs in the future.

Become familiar with the home prior to purchase

The home buyer will be present at the inspection and will have an opportunity to walk through the home with the home inspector to discuss his or her findings. This is a good time to learn more about the home and become familiar with it. Ask questions of the home inspector. A good inspector will be willing to take the time to educate a buyer about the property. Questions to ask may include:

  • Where is...(AC handler/compressor/filter, electric panel, water shut off, etc)
  • What does ______ mean? (sticky window/door, small crack in ceiling, etc)
  • What do I do with this? (Boiler, window AC, radiator in an old home)
  • Are there any drainage issues?

An "out" on your contract

Disclosure: The information in this section is specific to Florida. Other states may vary in their contracts and laws regarding canceling contracts.

If the home needs a lot of repairs, the home inspection could provide an "out" for the buyer on the contract. Home buyers in Florida use one of two contracts - the as-is contract and the standard contract. Exploring the differences between the two is an entirely different topic, but for the purposes of this article, understand that the standard contract has a repair clause in it and the as-is contract does not. When using the as-is contract, a buyer may cancel the contract within the inspection period for any reason (or no reason).

A negotiation tool

Disclosure: The information in this section is specific to Florida.

If the home inspection reveals needed repairs and the buyer chooses not to cancel the contract, the items on the inspection report can be used in negotiations. When using the standard contract in Florida, this is the time to negotiate repairs based on the repair clause in the contract. If using the as-is contract, the seller does not have to make any repairs unless they are required for an FHA loan. Many sellers, however, will choose to honor minor repair requests and keep the purchase moving forward.

Negotiations usually take one of three forms:

  1. Seller and buyer negotiate which repairs will be done, and seller completes those repairs prior to closing.
  2. Seller and buyer negotiate concessions, or money back from the seller, for repairs. The repairs are then completed by the buyer after closing.
  3. Seller and buyer negotiate a lower sales price to take repair costs into account. No repairs are completed prior to closing.

Whether or not repairs (or their equivalent) are negotiated and how it's done might vary from state to state. Each situation will be different and depends on a variety of factors.

Get a discount on homeowners insurance

A building and pest inspection often also includes wind mitigation and 4-point inspections, especially in states where windstorm damage occurs frequently such as hurricane-prone states. Handing these to the insurance agent can reduce premiums on homeowners insurance.

  • A wind mitigation inspection checks the home's wind-resistant features, such as garage doors, windows, glass doors, roof shapes, roof deck attachments, and roof-to-wall connections.
  • A 4-point inspection looks at four major components of the home - HVAC, plumbing, electric, and roof. A 4-point inspection helps an insurance company determine risk.

The need for each of these inspections as well as credits or discounts offered by insurance companies will vary from state to state.

How to hire a home inspector

When hiring a home inspector to perform a building and pest inspection, there are a few things to look for:

  • Qualifications. Make sure the inspector is licensed.
  • Insurance. Find out about their liability insurance and E&O insurance. If the inspector misses something important that ends up costing a lot of money to repair, it's important to understand what recourse is available with the home inspection company to pay for those repairs or reimburse them.
  • Sample inspection report. Request a sample report to see how in-depth they are. In Florida it isn't unusual to receive more than 100 pages in an inspection report.
  • Reviews and recommendations. Grab recommendations from family, friends, and a Realtor. Then read that inspection company's reviews online. This is the best way to determine if that company will provide the level of care and service you expect.

What to expect at the home inspection

Home inspections in Florida take approximately three to four hours to complete and can take longer for a large property with a lot of buildings to inspect. The good news is, the buyer is not expected to be there for the entire inspection, and the seller should not be there at all. Home buyers should arrange to arrive at the inspection about one hour before it's finished. This will provide the inspector enough time to do his job and enough time to review his findings with the buyer.

In the three to four hours the inspector is at the home, he will examine the entire exterior of the home. His report will include photos of all areas inspected as well as any issues or potential issues. The inspector will get on the roof, check outside water faucets and electrical outlets, check the AC unit, and look around the home's foundation, among other things.

Inside the home, the inspector will crawl in the attic to check insulation levels as well as the roof trusses and attachments. She will check the HVAC's efficiency and cooling, GFCI outlets, windows, doors, faucets, all appliances, and water heater, among other things. Basically, if something can be seen and accessed, the inspector will check it. He will not, however, put holes in the wall, look inside pipes, or otherwise damage the home.

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When should a seller get a home inspection?

Sellers don't need to wait to have their home under contract with a buyer to get a home inspection. In fact, it's a great idea to have a "pre-list inspection" completed prior to putting the home on the market. A pre-list inspection will look at everything a buyer's home inspection will look at. Paying for one prior to marketing the home for sale gives a seller the chance to find and repair any potential issues. Having done so, the seller can be assured that he will not have to negotiate those repairs or lose a buyer due to repairs. And in some cases, a seller may even be able to raise their asking price!

Final Thoughts on Building and Pest Inspections

Home buyers often wonder if a home inspection is worth paying for when purchasing a home. These seven reasons show how important it is to get a home inspection, not only for peace of mind but also to help in negotiations, avoiding potentially expensive problems, and to save money in the long run. A building and pest inspection is one of the investments into a home purchase which will pay for itself many times over.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Cristina Vanthul