Here are guidelines for getting the biggest bang out of the bucks that you invest in a prepurchase property inspection:
- Always make your offer to purchase a house subject to your review and approval of the inspection reports. Doing so gives you the opportunity to either negotiate a credit or price reduction for corrective work that is discovered during the inspections or, if you wish, get out of the deal.
- Have your agent order a permit search on the property to find out whether electrical, plumbing, or other repairs have been performed. But always pay for your own inspection by an inspector of your own choosing.
- Read your property inspector's report carefully. If you don't see some defects listed in the report that your inspector specifically mentioned during the inspection, call the inspector to find out why. Don't be the least bit shy about calling your inspector to get a detailed explanation of anything you don't completely understand.
- To minimize the cost of corrective repairs, get bids on the job from several reputable, licensed contractors. Never try to save money by using unlicensed contractors to do the work without permits. Many states require that housesellers disclose to prospective purchasers the fact that work on the house was done without permits.
- Use your property inspector during the contractor bidding process. If the contractors have questions regarding items discussed in the inspection report, refer them to the report's author for clarification. For an additional fee, some property inspectors will help you evaluate bids you receive to do the corrective work.
- Prepurchase property inspections are intended to give you a factual basis for negotiating the correction of big-ticket defects -- not to nickel-and-dime sellers over credits for stained carpets and worn curtains. Let your offering price reflect the home's reduced value due to normal wear-and-tear cosmetic defects.
- If your agent or the seller offers to pay for a home warranty plan or home protection plan (that is, a service contract that covers some of your home's major systems and appliances), it wouldn't be gracious of you to turn down a freebie. Never accept such a plan in lieu of an inspection.