No matter how perfect a home may seem from your visits and walkthroughs, it’s important to account for future repair costs or other issues that may affect a home’s affordability. A professional home inspector can give you information that is hard to see with inexperienced eyes: potential plumbing issues, an assessment of heating and cooling systems, the state of the foundation and structure, and more. Keep in mind, a professional home inspector should not be confused with a home appraiser (the person establishing the home’s value).

While a home inspection is not required for homebuyers, it is strongly recommended. A home inspection may take a few hours and cost several hundred dollars (though estimates vary widely), but it is a small price to pay now compared to potential issues that may cost much more down the line.

Many homebuyers find an inspector through their realtor, while other homebuyers opt to hire an inspector who is independent from the homebuying process. You may search online for a home inspector or request recommendations from friends or family. Either way, your home inspector should be affiliated with either the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors, both of which have searchable online directories. New York State home inspectors should also meet criteria outlined by the New York Department of State, unless they are exempt individuals, like architects or engineers acting within the scope of their profession. Do not be afraid to ask a potential inspector about their certifications.

A basic inspection should cover the home’s existing appliances, plumbing, foundation, roof, attic, electrical system, HVAC system, fireplaces, and other parts of the interior and exterior. Inspections for termites, asbestos, and radon may or may not be included in the cost of your inspection. If you’re looking for those services, ask potential inspectors about their offerings, as well as any additional costs.

For condos and co-ops, inspections may look a little different than they do for single-family homes. It’s highly recommended that you get an inspection if you’re looking to buy an apartment in a small building (e.g., fewer than 10 units where owners would be on the hook for major repair costs); if the apartment is in a new development built by a lesser-known developer; or if there’s a condition that could cause a hard-to-detect problem, such as a top-floor apartment unit that is more prone to leaks. Some inspections may or may not cover the common areas of the apartment, such as the roof, boiler room, or the building’s electrical system.

While you don’t have to attend the inspection, doing so can be a good idea. Having the inspector point out which parts of the house may need future repairs can be helpful for when the time comes to make those repairs.

A few business days after the inspection, you should receive a written report on the inspector’s findings. Once you have read through this report, you, your realtor, and your lawyer can go back to the seller to negotiate. This negotiation generally takes one of four paths:

  1. The seller agrees to make necessary repairs.
  2. Both parties negotiate a lower selling price for a home sold “as is.”
  3. The seller agrees to pay for some repairs, and may also lower the price.
  4. The damage to the home is so costly that purchasing the home no longer makes financial sense.

At this point, the buyer can walk away from the purchase or the conditions agreed upon by the two parties can be added to the final contract and the sale can proceed.