Ask the Expert: A First-Time Buyer’s Guide to Home Inspections
How do home inspections work?
Is this your first time buying or selling a home? We sat down with Libby Satterfield—a second-generation realtor in the Columbia, SC area—for expert advice on home inspections.
As a realtor in a college town, Libby enjoys educating recent grads and newly married couples about the value of investing in a home. She works with a number of first-time buyers and takes pride in simplifying the home-buying process for her clients.
Let's dive into Libby's answers to our top home inspection questions.
How do realtors help first-time buyers with home inspections?
The first step is educating buyers about home inspections. I’d say about 50 percent of my first-time buyers aren’t aware that an inspection is part of the process. They’ll walk around a home and say, “we’ll have to fix that.” I assure them that an expert’s going to help assess the condition of the home.
Who does home inspections?
The home inspection is the buyer’s responsibility, and they can choose whoever they want. It’s pretty common that buyers don’t know inspectors and their reputations. Realtors are a great resource—we know who does quality inspections and we can refer a few to the buyer. Look for a realtor who can give you a few names, not just one recommendation.
When is the home inspection done?
After the contract is ratified, meaning everyone has agreed to the terms of the sale, the buyer has ten business days to get inspections done and submit a repair addendum. This ten-day period is called due diligence.
What type of inspections do you recommend for your buyers?
I always recommend that my buyers get a general inspection which is an overview of the home and examines structural ailments of the home. It typically takes two and a half hours and costs $250-350 in our area. If a general inspector identifies something wrong with electric, plumbing, roof, and so on, the inspector will often recommend further inspection by a specialist.
I also recommend an HVAC inspector, which typically runs $125 and takes about an hour. An inspector can tell you if there’s a leak, the coils are dirty, or if the unit hasn’t been properly serviced and maintained. With HVACs being high-cost and a bit finicky, knowing the condition of the HVAC is pretty critical for the negotiation process.
My final recommendation for South Carolina buyers is a termite inspection. It’s called a CL-100 inspection. And it doesn’t only cover termite damage. These inspectors can tell you if they see beetle issues, rotten wood on door casings, too much moisture in the crawl space, and of course whether the home has been treated for a termite bond.
Do you recommend that your buyers attend the inspection?
I always make it a priority to be at the inspections. If my buyer wants to be there, that’s great. When buyers attend, the inspector can explain any issues in person, which can be really helpful.
What happens after the home inspection?
I’ll review the inspection with the buyer and write a repair addendum to specify what must be repaired. If my buyer wants someone specific to address the repair, I’ll specify that in the addendum. You can also specify that repairs must be done within so many business days of closing. I typically recommend a few days just in case any last-minute issues need to be discussed or addressed.
Buyers can also have a reinspection done. I often go back with the same inspector—they know the issues and can easily determine if they’ve been addressed. Some inspectors will do this for free. Others may charge an additional $50-100. It’s another great check and balance for the home buyer.
What repairs do you advise your buyers to ask for?
I advise my buyers to ask for repairs that will save them money in the future. This tends to be addressing any issues with the HVAC, roof, and foundation. Let’s not get in the weeds and ask for light switches to be tightened and caulk on the molding.
The reality is that the seller isn’t required to fix anything. That said, most don’t sellers want the sale to fall through because then they have to put the house back on the market. It can start to look fishy if a home can’t get through due diligence.
Sellers have five days to consider the addendum, get repair quotes, and respond back. In most cases, this process moves pretty quickly because both parties are eager to move forward, but if the seller is caught off guard by big repair items, it can delay the process a bit.
What misconceptions do buyers have about inspections?
Many don’t know that it’s wise to get an inspection on new builds as well. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean nothing’s wrong with it. I always advise my buyers to get a third-party inspector on new homes. I’ve seen new build inspections come back with 15 items on the list—things like shingles missing, improper wiring, and outlets not working in a room.
Home inspections a great way to help you make an informed decision on your investment. With these insights and a realtor who's connected to trustworthy inspectors, you can be confident going into the home buying process.
Libby is a second-generation Realtor, born and raised in the Midlands of South Carolina. She has extensive knowledge of the Greater Columbia area previously living in Irmo, Chapin, and Lexington. An agent with NextHome Specialists, reach Libby to discuss buying or selling a home.