What You Need to Know Before Buying a Home

Home inspector pointing to the ceilingBuying a home is one of the most important and exciting decisions. However, before you sign the contract and close the deal, you must ensure that the home you’re buying is in good condition and worth the price. That’s why you need a home inspection contingency.

A home inspection contingency is a clause in the purchase agreement that allows you to hire a professional home inspector to inspect the property and report any issues or defects that may affect the home’s value, safety, or functionality. Suppose the inspection reveals any problems that you’re not comfortable with. In that case, you can negotiate with the seller to fix them, ask for a price reduction, or walk away from the deal without losing your earnest money deposit.

A home inspection contingency is a crucial part of the home buying process, as it can protect you from buying a home with hidden problems that could cost you a lot of money and hassle in the future. In this article, we will explain how a home inspection contingency works, what a home inspector looks for, how to choose a home inspector, and how to deal with the inspection report.

What is a Home Inspection?

A home inspection is a visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a home, such as the roof, plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling, appliances, and more. A home inspection is performed by a qualified home inspector with the training, experience, and equipment to identify and report any issues or defects that may affect the home’s condition or performance.

A home inspection is not a pass-or-fail test but rather an objective assessment of the current state of the home. A home inspection does not guarantee that the home is perfect or that it will not have any problems in the future, but it can help you make an informed decision about whether to buy the home or not.

Why Do You Need a Home Inspection Contingency?

A home inspection contingency is a way to protect yourself from buying a home that has severe or costly problems that you may not be aware of. A home inspection contingency gives you the right to inspect the home by a professional home inspector within a certain period after signing the purchase agreement, usually between 7 and 14 days. If the inspection reveals any issues that you’re not satisfied with, you can either:

  • Ask the seller to fix the issues before closing or provide a credit or a price reduction to cover the repair costs.
  • Cancel the contract and get your earnest money deposit back as long as you follow the terms and procedures of the contingency clause.
  • Accept the home as it is and proceed with the closing if the issues are minor or acceptable.

A home inspection contingency can help you avoid buying a home with hidden problems that could affect your health, safety, or finances. It can also help you negotiate a better deal with the seller or walk away from the deal without losing your earnest money deposit.

What Does a Home Inspector Look For?

A home inspector looks for any issues or defects affecting the home’s structure, systems, or components. A home inspector typically follows a checklist that covers the following areas:

  • Roof: The inspector checks the roof’s condition, age, materials, flashing, vents, skylights, chimneys, and gutters. The inspector looks for any signs of leaks, water damage, rot, mold, or missing or damaged shingles.
  • Exterior: The inspector checks the exterior walls, siding, trim, doors, windows, foundation, grading, drainage, and landscaping. The inspector looks for cracks, damage, deterioration, or moisture intrusion.
  • Interior: The inspector checks the interior walls, ceilings, floors, doors, windows, stairs, fireplaces, and closets. The inspector looks for any signs of damage, wear, or defects that may affect the home’s appearance or functionality.
  • Plumbing: The inspector checks the system, including the water supply, pipes, faucets, fixtures, drains, water heater, and sump pump. The inspector looks for any signs of leaks, corrosion, low water pressure, or improper installation.
  • Electrical: The inspector checks the electrical system, including the service panel, wiring, outlets, switches, fixtures, and smoke detectors. The inspector looks for faulty, outdated, unsafe wiring or code violations.
  • Heating and cooling: The inspector checks the heating and cooling system, including the furnace, air conditioner, ducts, vents, filters, and thermostat. The inspector looks for any signs of damage, malfunction, or inefficiency.
  • Appliances: The inspector checks the major appliances, such as the stove, oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, washer, and dryer. The inspector looks for any damage, wear, or poor performance.
  • Attic: The inspector checks the attic, including the insulation, ventilation, framing, and roof structure. The inspector looks for any signs of leaks, water damage, mold, pests, or inadequate insulation.
  • Basement: The inspector checks the basement, including the walls, floor, ceiling, and support beams. The inspector looks for any signs of cracks, moisture, mold, or structural issues.
  • Garage: The inspector checks the garage, including the door, opener, floor, walls, ceiling, and electrical system. The inspector looks for any damage, wear, or safety hazards.

Depending on the type and age of the home, the inspector may also check for other issues, such as:

  • Termite or pest infestation
  • Radon gas
  • Asbestos
  • Lead paint
  • Mold
  • Septic system

Some of these issues may require a specialized inspection by a licensed or certified professional, such as a pest inspector, a radon tester, or an asbestos inspector. You may have to pay extra for these additional inspections, but they may be worth it if they reveal serious or consequential problems.

How to Choose a Home Inspector?

Choosing a home inspector is an essential step in the home-buying process, as the quality and accuracy of the inspection report will depend on the inspector’s skills, experience, and professionalism. It would be best if you looked for a home inspector who:

  • Has the proper credentials, such as a license, certification, or membership in a professional association, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI).
  • Has relevant experience, such as inspecting homes similar to the one you’re buying or having a background in construction, engineering, or architecture.
  • Has adequate equipment, such as a ladder, a flashlight, a moisture meter, a thermal imaging camera, or a radon detector.
  • Has the appropriate insurance, such as general liability and errors and omissions insurance, to protect you and the inspector in case of any damage or injury during the inspection.
  • Has a positive reputation, such as having good reviews, references, or testimonials from previous clients or real estate agents.

You can find a home inspector by asking for recommendations from your real estate agent, friends, family, or online sources, such as the ASHI or InterNACHI websites. You should also interview the inspector before hiring them and ask them questions such as:

  • How long have you been a home inspector?
  • What are your qualifications and credentials?
  • What type of inspection do you perform, and what does it cover?
  • How long will the inspection take, and how much will it cost?
  • How will you deliver the inspection report, and how soon will I receive it?
  • Can I attend the inspection and ask questions?
  • Do you offer any guarantees or warranties?

It would be best if you chose a home inspector who meets your expectations and needs and who can provide you with a thorough and detailed inspection report that will help you make an informed decision about buying the home.

How to Deal with the Inspection Report?

After the inspection is completed, the inspector will provide you with a written inspection report that summarizes the findings and recommendations. The inspection report will usually include the following:

  • A description of the home’s condition, features, and systems
  • A list of any issues or defects that were observed, along with their severity, location, and possible causes
  • A list of any repairs or improvements that are needed or suggested, along with their estimated costs and urgency
  • A list of any safety or health hazards that were detected, such as electrical, fire, or gas risks
  • A list of any items that were not inspected or that require further evaluation by a specialist, such as a pest inspector, a radon tester, or an asbestos inspector
  • A list of any maintenance tips or best practices that can help you keep the home in good shape
  • A list of any positive aspects or highlights of the home that were noted, such as energy efficiency, quality materials, or unique features

The inspection report will include photos, diagrams, or videos illustrating the issues or defects. The inspection report may also include a checklist or a rating system that helps you prioritize the issues or defects that need your attention.

The inspection report is a valuable tool that can help you understand the condition and value of the home you’re buying. However, the inspection report is not a guarantee or a warranty that the home is free of any problems or will not have any issues in the future. The inspection report is also not a substitute for a disclosure statement or a title search, which are other documents you should review before buying a home.


In conclusion, including a home inspection contingency in your real estate contract is a crucial step in protecting yourself as a buyer. It lets you thoroughly assess the property's condition and identify potential issues before finalizing the purchase.

A professional home inspection can provide valuable insights and help negotiate repairs or price reductions if necessary. By ensuring the home meets your standards and expectations, you can avoid costly surprises. So, don't skip this critical contingency – it could save you time, money, and stress in the long run.


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