Home inspections can protect both buyers and sellers by providing insights into potential problems and areas of concern.

NEW YORK – The process of buying a home involves a number of variables that present at various times throughout buyers’ search for a home.

For instance, real estate professionals typically advise buyers to receive a mortgage preapproval prior to beginning their search for a new home. Once such preliminary measures have been taken care of, buyers can then search for a home and ultimately make an offer.

One of the more critical steps buyers can take when making an offer is insisting that the offer is contingent upon a home inspection. Home inspections offer a measure of protection that can save buyers from investing in properties that may look nice to the naked eye but feature a host of costly problems beneath the surface. Individuals new to homebuying may not know what to expect of the inspection process.

In such instances, the following rundown can shed light on home inspections:

Recognize inspection may be mandatory. Though it’s not always the case, home inspections may be required by mortgage lenders. Lenders want to ensure borrowers can repay their loans, which might prove difficult if a home is in need of considerable repairs. That’s why home inspections tend to be mandated by lenders, even if they’re paid for by buyers. Estimates from HomeAdvisor indicate home inspections cost between $279 and $400 on average, but that cost is well worth the peace of mind of knowing you won’t unknowingly be buying a money pit.

You choose your own inspector. Buyers will choose their own home inspector, so it can pay dividends to start asking people you trust for recommendations even before you begin searching for a new home. Realtors® also may recommend inspectors they’ve worked with in the past. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors® (nachi.org) also can help buyers find a home inspector.

You can, and should, attend a home inspection. It’s wise for buyers to attend a home inspection. Doing so allows them to see potential issues firsthand. Some seasoned home inspectors even prefer clients to attend an inspection so they can point out issues as they go through the house and answer questions directly rather than later on over the phone or via text or email. Though inspectors typically will answer questions offsite, it’s easier for both buyer and inspector to discuss issues in person on the day of the inspection. And for buyers, this can be a great way to become more informed about the home inspection process.

Expect to spend a good deal of time at the inspection, and not necessarily with the sellers present. The National Association of Realtors® indicates inspections can take as long as three hours, so this won’t be an in-and-out excursion. Buyers don’t want to rush the process, so block out ample time on your schedule to attend the inspection. In addition, sellers typically are not home during an inspection, though it can happen. Buyers who don’t want sellers present can request that they are not on the premises while the inspection takes place. There may not be anything to compel sellers to be offsite, but it can’t hurt to ask.

Home inspections are a vital component of the homebuying process. It’s imperative that buyers take inspections seriously so they can feel confident they are not investing in a flawed property.

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