Home sellers in many states are required to provide prospective buyers with a completed disclosure form prior to the formation of a contract. Although the disclosure form may contain information of use to you in deciding whether or not to purchase a particular home, or how much to offer, it is not intended to take the place of an independent, professional home inspector. If you do not undertake a home inspection before you submit an offer to purchase (and time and cost factors may suggest that you wait), you should insist on a reasonable inspection contingency period after acceptance of your offer (to allow for one or more professional inspections of the property.
Things to keep in mind:
Choosing your own independent home inspector, in advance, will enable you to act quickly during an often-brief contingency period.
You should obtain referrals for a qualified home inspector from friends or colleagues, or contact the American Society of Home Inspector (ASHI) for its members near you.
You may wish to have a general inspection, supplemented by specialized inspections -- for pests, fireplace, heating system or environmental concerns, for example -- as the situation warrants.
Do not forego hiring your own independent inspector because you are obtaining an FHA- or VA-insured loan which requires an inspection as part of the appraisal, or if the municipality requires an inspection as a condition of any sale.
You may not be able to require the seller to undertake repairs for matters discovered during the inspection (depending on the terms set forth in your offer to purchase), but you may be able to terminate a contract for a home with unsatisfactory conditions or you may be able to renegotiate a price that reflects the unanticipated problems.
- Even if your inspector intends to follow up with a written report, do not miss the opportunity to learn about the home by attending the inspection yourself. There, you'll be able to learn all about the home from the inside out.