One of the most important steps in the home buying process is the inspection. As if the major purchase of a home wasn’t intimidating enough, you’re also responsible for verifying the condition of the property through a home inspection. Thankfully, if you know what to expect and how to navigate the process, you can help your transaction proceed as smoothly as possible while avoiding any unpleasant surprises after you purchase your home. Here’s an overview of a typical home inspection and the roles and responsibilities involved.

The buyer (you)

Your job is to learn as much about the home as you can and do your research before the inspection.

Prior to the inspection, review the seller’s property disclosures or building department documentation you have obtained. The seller’s agent may have brought up some known issues as well. Make a list of any questions or concerns you have about the property.

Set aside a few hours on the day based on how much you plan to inspect. Find out from your real estate agent which inspections are common in your market. Inspections typically go smoothly, but they can sometimes uncover issues that lead to difficult negotiations.

The buyer’s agent

Your agent should accompany you through the inspection.

Experienced agents have attended many inspections and are very familiar with the process. They should know what to look for and what is and isn’t important. Some minor cosmetic issues probably aren’t worth raising an eyebrow over, but structural or utility problems can be a big deal.

The listing agent

The listing agent may or may not attend the inspection depending on your market and the specific situation. A proactive listing agent is likely to attend to represent the seller, supply their knowledge of the property and address any issues that may appear.

For the seller and their agent, the inspection is one of their last steps before a sale, so they’ll be eager to see the process proceed smoothly.

The home inspector

You, the buyer, will hire the home inspector, who should be licensed by the state. You will sign an agreement with the inspector and be in charge of paying them. Buyers are typically referred to an inspector by their real estate agent.

The inspector’s job is to inspect the property, its systems and the general state of the home. They may be able to offer advice on the cost and feasibility of any necessary repairs, but this is secondary to their primary job of evaluating the property’s soundness.

A good inspector is honest and impartial, neither glossing over legitimate issues nor exaggerating inconsequential items. The inspector is not a party to the transaction, and they shouldn’t get into the specifics of the deal.

The inspector will examine the property inside and out, take notes and provide you with a detailed report as well as advice on future maintenance.

Walk with the inspector as they perform their inspection. If you’re comfortable, go with them to view the roof, crawlspace and other out-of-the-way areas of the home. You’ll get the best understanding of the home’s condition by seeing it yourself as the inspector points out and explains areas of note. This is your best opportunity to familiarize yourself with the property and ask questions while the inspector is present.

The amateur

It’s usually a bad idea to rely on less-qualified individuals for advice during your inspection.

Although it may be tempting to bring along a friend or family member who is a handyman or contractor, they may cause more harm than good. If they’re not a licensed inspector and not fully impartial, they may raise unnecessary red flags that could trip up the deal.

Even riskier is to forgo a home inspector all together in favor of an unlicensed individual. If they miss a major issue when looking over the property, their oversight could result in a major expense for you after you purchase the home.

After the inspection

Once the inspection is complete, you and your agent will likely discuss the immediate results and plan your next steps.

Hopefully, the inspection went well, and you’re that much closer to moving into your new home.

However, if substantial issues were found, some negotiation may be required to proceed with the deal. Though uncommon, if the inspection results were particularly bad, you may need to walk away from the purchase altogether.

Regardless of the results, it’s always best to go in knowing what to expect so you can make the most of your inspection and act in your best interest based on the results.