Should a home buyer have a home inspection?
Most of my clients ask me that very question, and I always answer it with a resounding yes! This is too big of a purchase not to. Think of it as a $400 insurance policy. Worst-case scenario if you find something that is a huge issue, you're able to get out and save yourself tens of thousands of dollars and weeks of hassle. On the upside, if the inspection goes well then for that same amount of money you proven to yourself that this is the right home to purchase.
It's important to note that a home inspection is different than an appraisal or a city inspection. These two are easily confused with the home inspection. Once you purchase your home and you have gotten through all of your contingencies, your loan officer will order the appraisal. It's the appraiser's job to come out and give that home you are purchasing a value. That is their only job. In some cases with an FHA the appraiser looks for certain things that may need to be corrected before the loan can go through. These are more concerns from a government standpoint like peeling paint, cracked windows and other things that the FHA considers to be hazardous. These appraisers are not inspectors, this is a very important point to make.
A truth in housing or time of sale inspection required by this specific city that the property is located in is not really a home inspection either. The city is looking to see if the home is compliant. I'm not saying that they won't find issues that need to be corrected but there are many that they will miss. They are looking for specific things that are important but don't necessarily catch all of the problems. I've always viewed it more as a form of legalized extortion. The city inspections really have no value.
By hiring a qualified home inspector, you truly have someone who is working in your best interest. Because they are not required to be licensed, choosing the right one is always a struggle. Make sure you interview several to find one that suits you. What you're looking for is someone who has a background in construction or structural engineering. An inspector who has been doing it for a number of years and has a good track record. Remember they're working for you so don't feel bad about asking questions of them. It has to go beyond how much do you charge? You need to know what their history is as well as the most common things they find when inspecting a home.
The other thing to keep in mind is a home inspection isn't just about finding problems with the home, it's also manual as to how your home functions. Even if you're a seasoned homeowner, you can have a hard time finding the shut off valves for the water and some of the other items in the home. I also advise against having uncle Jim come over and looked at the house. It's not that he can't do a good job but in less he's doing this job day in and day out, more than likely he's going to miss something. It's worth spending the money for that piece of mind