Getting a home inspection should be part of the home-buying process. Typically, the prospective buyer pays a professional home inspector to visit the property and take an in-depth look at the home’s roof, foundation, and internal systems. Prospective buyers are invited to participate in a home inspection, but they don’t always know what questions to ask.

PCSgrades went to the experts to learn what military families need to know about home inspections. We interviewed  David and Dana Winans of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Winans located in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area. They have owned the company for 37 years and have experience serving military families buying homes.

First, Dana observes that military families using the VA loan need to understand the difference between a VA appraisal and a property inspection. Both require someone to visit the house, but the VA appraiser does not do an inspection on the home. She explains, “the appraiser only determines the home’s value for the loan. The inspector (which you have to hire) will determine the home’s condition. The appraiser does not have to identify defects.”

What does the home inspector do?

So what kind of defects can a potential homeowner learn about during the home inspection? David says, “you can learn a lot about the house, about the electrical systems, how to use the heat and air. Usually, the inspector is a generalist, not a specialist. But they can identify any potential problems to fix in the future.”

The home inspector’s job is to inspect and report any inconsistencies in the major systems of the home. This should include the roof, foundation, HVAC, and electrical systems. David explains, “These can be safety concerns and life-saving changes that are necessary. Close to 5,000 people die yearly in electrical fires at home.”

The inspection can also identify problems like insect infestation, termites, or rot. In Texas and some other states, a WDI (Wood Destroying Insect) report is part of the inspection. Other problems could include having trees too close to the house or too much soil around the foundation.

During a home inspection, you should expect the home inspector to spend several hours at the house. They will bring a flashlight and ladder to reach all areas of the house. They will take pictures and document as they go. David says, “some inspectors will use a drone or binoculars to go on the roof, but you really want them to get on the roof physically and inspect around chimneys.” Many inspectors are willing to answer questions and explain your home’s systems to you.

Who pays for a home inspection?

According to the Winans, it is up to the potential buyer to request and pay for the inspection. “It costs between $400-$600 in our area, and there can be add-ons for termite and additional types of inspections. Right now, it’s a seller’s market, so the sellers aren’t handling much. But this cost can be negotiated into the final sales contract, so in the end it could pay for itself as you request that money back.”

When should you get a home inspection?

The Winans emphasized that every home should be inspected before purchase, even a new construction. “Builders can cut corners too, so you need to have warranties in place and be aware of any problems.”

Most states have an inspection period or auction period where the buyer can get out of the contract for any reason. If there is a major issue found during the inspection, then you will not be penalized for getting out of the contract. That’s when you can come back and negotiate either for improvements or for additional money for repairs. Dana says it is essential to schedule the inspection during that time, since it overlaps with the loan approval process:

“The property must be in acceptable condition to get the loan, so a VA loan appraiser needs to know the results of the home inspection process. They would want to know what repairs will be required by the lender when they make the appraisal. They may delay approving a loan until a foundation or wood rot have been addressed.” 

With an older home, don’t expect the inspection results to let you negotiate repairs to transform it into a new home. David explains, “sometimes there have been building code changes. Things may not be up to code, but they do need to be safe. You don’t need to make an old house new, but you need to know that the old systems are still performing as inspected.”

What questions should you ask during the home inspection?

The inspection is an excellent opportunity to learn about the inner workings of your home, but it is essential to prepare for it. The Winans recommend getting the seller’s disclosure ahead of time, so that problem areas are identified and the inspector can spend extra time in those areas.  Here are some additional questions to ask your home inspector:

  • What are the greatest concerns from the homeowner’s disclosure?
  • Are there any red flags that point to future concerns or big issues?
  • What is the expected life of the roof: 10 years or next year?
  • Are there any concerns about the foundation?
  • Ask if the inspector is certified to inspect the HVAC and other systems, or if they recommend a professional. (Try to find an inspector with a huge range of experience.)
  • Are there underground systems going to the house? Which ones is the buyer responsible for, know what you are responsible for, which ones require maintenance,
  • Are there things they can’t inspect or that require additional experts: mold, lead paint, water, septic tanks, well water, etc.
  • Are there additional local requirements like Radon or termite tests?

What if you can’t be present during the home inspection?

Every year, military families choose to buy a home online, sometimes without visiting the property in person. If you aren’t able to be present for your home inspection, ask your real estate agent to attend for you. The Winans suggest, “You are relying on the agent’s experience to choose a good inspector that they can refer to you for explaining things, especially if you can’t be there. Ask your agent to either video conference you in, or go through the pages of the report with you. Ask them to act like a parent, asking questions on your behalf as if you were their son or daughter. If the agent brings additional lights and has the phone battery charged, they can record portions of the process.”

When your prepare to buy a home and prepare for the home inspection, try to be present if you can, or have a real estate agent you can trust be there in your place. PCSgrades can help connect you to a military-friendly real estate agent who can help you find your next home!