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If you're currently in the process of buying a home, you know that’s an exciting and busy time, with a lot of moving pieces to manage before you actually sit down to close on your new home.

One of the most important steps in the homebuying journey is the pre-purchase home inspection. By understanding the inspection process — including why it's so important to have one completed before finalizing a home purchase — you'll be better prepared to make a smart homebuying decision, and you may even get a better deal before you close.

Inspections Aren't Required (But You Should Probably Get One)

In a competitive homebuying market, some buyers waive their right to a home inspection. This can make an offer more attractive because the seller is able to close on the home “as is” and won't have to continue to negotiate with a buyer pending the results of an inspection.

But while skipping an inspection is great for sellers, it's often risky for buyers. Inspections can uncover current and potential problems that you, as the buyer, didn't know existed. Skipping the inspection means accepting a lot of uncertainty about the true condition and safety of the home.

A home inspection ensures that you're fully aware of what you're getting into should you purchase the property. Plus, it may allow you to negotiate a better deal.

What to Expect From a Home Inspection

A home inspection is a review of a property's interior and exterior that's performed by a trained expert. It usually takes two to three hours to complete and generally costs a few hundred dollars. The cost of an inspection is the responsibility of you as the buyer, but the upside is that the inspector works for you rather than the seller and should have your best interest in mind.

You'll want to have an inspection done within one to two weeks after the seller accepts your offer. However, It's a good idea to research inspection companies before you even make an offer so that you know who to call should the seller accept it.

On inspection day, the inspector will review the house's plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems, as well as the general construction and structure of the home. You can also expect them to review entryways and windows, the roof, as well as individual rooms. Inspectors will also examine smaller elements of homes, including appliances, vents, gutters, and walkways, according to realtor.com.

When they're done, the inspector should provide you with a detailed report of their findings, including any current or potential issues. Don't be surprised to see problems listed on the report, most homes are not perfect.

How to Prepare for Your Home Inspection

Before your pre-purchase home inspection, ask the seller directly if there are known issues with the house. Pass along any information they provide to your inspector. You should also ask the seller to make sure you and the inspector will have access to every part of the house, including attics, crawl spaces, basements, and rooftops.

It's also smart to make a list of your deal-breakers before the inspection. If you're emotionally attached to a home you want, it can be hard to think clearly if the inspector comes back and tells you there are major issues with the house. If you know your deal-breakers ahead of time, you can make a more rational decision once it's time to decide if you'll move forward with the purchase or not.

You should also plan to be on the property with the inspector during the inspection. While you may not climb up onto the roof, you can accompany the inspector through most other areas of the home. Be sure to ask questions and take notes.

What to Do After an Inspection

Inspections aren't pass-fail, and uncovering an issue doesn't necessarily mean you can't or shouldn't move forward with the home purchase. If you're happy with the inspection results (or maybe you're looking to buy a fixer-upper), you can simply move forward with the buying process.

More commonly than not, though, buyers will ask sellers to make minor repairs or otherwise compensate for issues that the inspection revealed — either by dropping the price of the home or by paying closing costs.

You also have the option to withdraw your offer if you're not comfortable with what the inspection revealed. You may lose the earnest money (deposit) that you submitted with your offer, but that's a small price to pay compared with the huge amount of money you could lose if you were to purchase a home with severe problems in need of repair.

Inspections can help make the home purchase a better deal for you, while also providing you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing you bought your home fully aware of its condition.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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