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American Homeowners Association



Inspect Before You Buy

STOP, before you sign that home sales contract, are you sure you're not buying a lemon? Although buying an existing or "used" home isn't quite on the level of buying a used car; it does require the same level of inspection, more than simply kicking the tires. You really can't afford NOT to get a professional home inspection, before you go to final closing. Without one, nothing stands between you and possible problems that could cost you thousands of dollars to repair.

It's easy to get carried away by homes that in the parlance of real estate agents, "really show well." In all the excitement of the Corian countertops and multiple, massaging showerheads, it's easy to overlook unseen conditions. What you see is not entirely what you get, it's only the skin of the home, the vital systems such as plumbing, heating, structural, and electrical are not as obvious but just as important, perhaps more so.

Ignore these systems and you run the risk of a cracked foundation or leaky basement, deteriorating plumbing, inefficient and uncomfortable cooling system or other defects and repair problems that could come back to haunt you. Don't wait till the joy of moving day to find out your dream home isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's much harder to seek redress from the seller after you've signed the dotted line than during the pre-sale courtship when everything's still on the table. Ideally, prior to the sale, your seller will be able to fix these problems for you, or at least agree to adjust the purchase price to reflect the cost. Once you've moved in, however, and the deal is done, you'll have to show that the conditions were known and not disclosed to you, and then hire a lawyer to prove it.

It's far better to pay about $300 on a professional home inspection than to gamble on unseen defects and hidden repair costs. Make sure that the contract includes a protective clause that makes the final sale contingent on a home inspection. A qualified inspector will uncover any conditions that might cause you to reconsider the purchase.

When you make a contract offer, arrange for the inspection and arrange your schedule to attend and see the condition of the home firsthand. A home inspection takes about two to three hours. The findings should be presented to you in a final report. Read it carefully. Make sure it includes a clear, objective evaluation of the home, including immediate defects and any potential problems. Get your inspector to answer any questions about the report well before closing time.

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