After your offer to buy a home enters into contract, the process of near-endless check writing begins. There are many necessary costs, such as realtor and lawyer fees, and the total of these expenses may have you looking for ways to save money elsewhere. You may be tempted to skip the home inspection and its $200 to $500 invoice, but there are 10 good reasons why you should get one.

TUTORIAL: Buying A Home: Find A Home

1. It Provides an "Out"
A quality home inspection can reveal critical information about the condition of a home and its systems. This makes the buyer aware of what costs, repairs and maintenance the home may require immediately, and over time. If a buyer isn't comfortable with the findings of the home inspection, it usually presents one last opportunity to back out of the offer to buy. (This step is important when purchasing a property because it may save you thousands. For more, see Do You Need A Home Inspection?)

2. Safety
A home inspection can detect safety issues like radon, carbon monoxide, and mold, which all homes should be tested for. Make sure that your home-buying contract states that should such hazards be detected, you have the option to cancel the offer to buy.

3. Reveal Illegal Additions or Installations
A home inspection can reveal whether rooms, altered garages or basements were completed without a proper permit, or did not follow code, according to Chantay Bridges of Clear Choice Realty & Associates. "If a house has illegal room additions that are un-permitted, it affects the insurance, taxes, usability and most of all the overall value. In essence, a buyer is purchasing something that legally does not exist," she explains. Even new homes with systems that were not installed to code will become the new homeowners' financial "problem" to fix (and finance). (The home for sale/purchase must pass inspection. For more, see Housing Deals That Fall Through.)

4. Protection
Home inspections are even more critical if you are buying an "as-is" foreclosed property or short sale. Dwellings that have been boarded often develop hazardous mold problems, which are costly to remedy and pose health concerns. Greg Haskett, VP of shared services at HomeTeam Inspection Service says it's common for home inspectors to find that copper plumbing lines and outdoor compressors have been removed from foreclosed properties by people trying to sell copper to recyclers for money. (For more, see Should You Buy A House At Auction?)

5. Negotiating Tool
Realtor Jennifer De Vivo of Orlando-based De Vivo Realty says the home inspection report presents an opportunity to ask for repairs and/or request a price reduction or credit from the seller. Work with your realtor to understand what requests can and should be made to negotiate a better deal.

6. Forecast Future Costs
A home inspector can approximate the installation age of major systems in the home like plumbing, heating and cooling, and critical equipment like water heaters. They can diagnose the current condition of the structure itself, and tell you how long finishes have been in the home. All components in the home have a "shelf-life." Understanding when they require replacement can help you make important budgeting decisions, and it wll determine what type of home insurance coverage or warranties you should consider. (For more, see New Home Repair Troubleshooting.)

7. Determine "Deal-Breakers"
De Vivo suggests that home inspections can help buyers identify how much additional money or effort they are willing and able to spend to take the home to a condition that is personally acceptable. If you are unwilling to repair issues like faulty gutters, cracked walls or ceilings, perhaps you are not ready to end your home buying search.

8. Learn to Protect Your Investment
The home inspector is a valuable educational resource. He or she can suggest specific tips on how to maintain the home, and ultimately save you thousands of dollars in the long term, according to De Vivo.

9. Reveal the Big Picture
Haskett advises that people use the home inspection to understand the nuances of what may be the biggest purchase they ever make. "People fall in love with a piece of property based on the color of the walls, the location of the home, or something else; they are completely blind to the issues that can make that dream home a nightmare," he says. (For more, see Purchasing A Short-Sale Property.)

10. Insurance
Some insurance companies will not insure a home if certain conditions are found, or without the presence of certifications like Wind Mitigation and four-point inspections, according to Haskett. "Qualified home inspectors can do these things at the same time as their other services and save the home buyer time and money in the long run."

TUTORIAL: Buying A Home: Get Properly Insured

The Bottom Line
It is your responsibility to understand as many details as you can about the property you may soon call home. Home inspections reveal the inner workings of the property, allowing you to be informed of all the perks and pitfalls the honme has to offer. (For more, see 10 Tips For Getting A Fair Price On A Home.)

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