How a home inspection can save you thousands

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | December 29, 2014

Purchasing a home is a major expense. Make sure your investment is sound by hiring a reputable home inspector before you sign those mortgage papers. Home inspectors look for a huge range of issues, including safety concerns, code violations, needed repairs, deterioration, past damage and more. A home inspector can even tell you how to save on energy bills and what to expect from maintenance. Just make sure to get the job done well before the closing, to give the sellers time to make repairs or provide room for you to negotiate a better deal.

Home inspectors typically charge between $300 and $500 for an inspection. It might seem like precious extra cash when you are about to make a huge purchase, but it's money that can save you thousands in the long run. Look for someone who has plenty of experience, provides a thorough written report on every aspect of the home and is very picky about even the tiniest issues. You can find a good home inspector through professional organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.

With all that in mind, here's just what a home inspector can save you:

Is the house safe?

One of the most important parts of a home inspection boils down to safety. Is there a carbon monoxide problem? How about radon or mold? Have pests compromised the integrity of the foundation or structure? Does the paint contain lead? Is there asbestos in the walls? These questions are all addressed during the inspection, and a good home inspector can tell you what to do about them.

Spot problems before they become yours

If your potential home has serious problems, a home inspection can provide good leverage to get the repairs you need before the closing. No matter how much you love a home, stay smart and make the purchase contingent on a good report from the home inspector. That report can be the difference between a move-in-ready home and one that requires thousands of dollars to make livable.

Make sure the house is up to code

In order to get proper insurance on your home, it has to meet certain local codes. A home inspector can tell you whether the home will clear those code requirements. A home that needs renovation in order to meet code might wind up costing you tens of thousands more than you intended to spend, and room additions created by the previous owners without the proper permits can cause legal nightmares for you.

Start a good service schedule

When was the last time the furnace was checked out? How about the central air unit? A home inspection can help you determine which home systems are working just fine, and what needs serious maintenance to bring it up to par. As any good homeowner knows, regular maintenance is the key to making sure all home systems run smoothly, thus saving on repair and replacement costs.

Get the heads-up on future costs

If the water heater is on its last legs, the toilet is ancient, the roof has only a few good years left or the basement has seen its share of water damage, the home inspection can make those things clear. This can help you plan for future issues, such as the need to replace that roof within the next year or so. These might not be deal-breakers, but they can help you negotiate a lower price.

Save on energy costs

A home inspector can spot things that you would probably miss, such as how much insulation is in the attic or walls. This can help you figure out where the trouble spots are and how much it will cost to remedy them. A good home inspector will explain your options for improving the windows, insulation, and other points of energy efficiency if you do choose to purchase the home.

Get protection for insurance issues

Some insurance companies require a home inspection to ensure certain problems are not present at the time of purchase. It's also helpful if you have a serious problem shortly after you move in -- the home inspection can help determine that it didn't happen before your purchase, and therefore, makes it clear that you really are covered for the loss. That strong paper trail can save you a great deal of money and hassle.

In addition to all the money your home inspection can help you save, it can also save your sanity. Spend the money now, and you'll have peace of mind once the home is yours.

Photo credit to Kevin Irby

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.