Mary Ellen Podmolik
June 7, 2013
You qualified for a mortgage, searched for a home, found a good one, made an offer and it was accepted.
Next up, the home inspection.
Those two to three hours spent with an inspector — and yes, you should definitely attend the inspection — can provide an invaluable education about the home, how it works, and whether there are enough issues with the property to walk away from it or renegotiate the purchase price with the seller.
Scheduling a home inspection can be difficult this time of year, and securing an appointment with a first choice isn't always possible. Like other sectors of real estate, there was considerable fallout in the profession during the lean years. There are about 1,400 licensed inspectors in Illinois. The housing market is hot, which is keeping the inspectors who outlasted the downturn busier than they've been in years.
Most real estate agents have relationships with home inspectors. Some buyers use those referrals, others prefer to find their own inspector by asking friends or searching online. Regardless, it's important to vet an inspector before hiring one.
When he speaks in seminars to first-time homebuyers, Jeff Merritt of Homestead Inspections advises consumers to start researching home inspectors even before they find a property so there is no frantic scramble to find one after they sign a purchase contract.
Since 2003, Illinois home inspectors have had to be licensed by the state and must complete 12 hours of continuing education before their licenses are renewed every two years. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation handles licensing, and consumers can go online to see if a particular inspector is licensed and whether they have been disciplined, at idfpr.com/licenselookup/licenselookup.asp. Many inspectors also list their license number on their website.
Inspectors also can be members of professional associations, like the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors Inc., which have their own education standards.
When picking an inspector, make sure to ask about fees. Some inspectors charge a flat rate, while others base their price on the square footage or number of bedrooms and the age of the home. Also ask for additional references.
On the day of the inspection, bring a pen and notebook, take notes about how things work and don't be afraid to ask questions. Furnace filters, gas shut-off valves and sump pumps are foreign territory to renters turned homebuyers.
If homebuyers want to speed the process a bit and not divert the inspector's attention, inspectors suggest that consumers jot down any questions and ask them at the end of an inspection.
Home inspectors expect questions and generally welcome them because they believe their job is to help a buyer make an educated decision about a home purchase.
"For first-time homebuyers, I always allow an extra 30 to 40 minutes for a home inspection," Merritt said. "It's that deer-in-the-headlights thing. They're totally oblivious to the mechanical and the roof systems."
Feel free to ask how much something will cost to fix. Some inspectors are comfortable giving a range. Others shy away from that because of the numerous variables involved, like the materials used and labor costs.
Home inspectors remind customers that an inspection is a visual examination of a home, so it's limited, and things can go wrong after a purchase.
In his orientation with homeowners, Gregory Pomp, of Just Right Inspection Service, tells customers he won't find everything in three hours.
"Everything is in a constant state of deterioration," he explained. "This is a point-in-time inspection. I'm giving you a snapshot."
Generally, a home inspector cannot disclose information found during a home inspection without the buyer's approval. However, if the inspector finds something dangerous, he is required to disclose that finding to the seller and the potential purchaser, according to Sue Hofer, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
Program extension. The Treasury Department has extended until Dec. 31, 2015, the deadlines for its mortgage assistance initiatives, Home Affordable Modification Program, Home Affordable Refinance Program and the Streamlined Modification Initiative. The programs were expected to end in December.
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