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Should You Get a Home Inspection?

If you’re like most New York buyers, you’ve been focused on finding a place that's the right size, in the right neighborhood, and has the right price tag.

Now that you’ve found a property that ticks those boxes, it’s time to ask: “Do I need a home inspection?”

Don't bury your head in the sand

A home inspection could uncover problems inside the walls and under the floors, whether the plumbing and electrical systems are up to code, whether the appliance has been properly installed and much more.

However, many NYC buyers choose to ignore these types of potential physical deficiencies because:

  1. They’re so exhausted by the property search that they believe nothing – not even faulty wiring or a leaky roof – could convince them to get out of sale.
  2. They don’t understand or are intimated by talk of mechanical systems.
  3. They assume their building or association is responsible for most problems.
  4. They’re tapped out financially and can’t fathom spending more money on an inspection.
  5. All of the above.

The truth is, hoping for the best will only take you so far. If you really want to protect yourself from an unpleasant surprise related to the physical conditions of a major investment, you should enlist the services of a professional home inspector.

“Anything that can go wrong in a house, can go wrong in a condo or co-op,” says Matthew Wynne, president of the New York State Association of Home Inspectors and owner of Long Island-based Aberdeen Building Consulting.

“I’ve done apartment inspections where I’ve found water leaks from neighboring apartments, gas leaks from the laundry or stove. Even if the building association is responsible for fixing the building’s plumbing, that doesn’t mean they’re going to pay to repair your big-screen TV that got damaged by that leaky pipe.”

Problems can arise in new buildings, too

No property is risk-free. Problems can turn up in new buildings as well as old, and in $300,000 studios as well as in penthouses with eight-figure price tags. Still, says Wynne, there are certain situations that definitely warrant a professional home inspection.

“An inspection is especially important if you’re buying in a smaller building,” he says, explaining that examination of the apartment reaches far beyond the unit’s walls. “I always try to look at the common elements like the roof, boiler and basement. If it’s a five- or 10-unit building and it needs a new roof or a new elevator, the co-op owners are going to be assessed for that. Divide a $100,000 repair bill among 10 units and you’re talking about serious cash.”

Thinking of purchasing a place in a new development? It’s another time when you’d be smart to spend a little extra for an inspection, says Wynne.

“Just because the plumbing is new doesn’t mean it’s done right,” he says. “I see water leakage in new buildings all the time – sometimes windows don’t get installed right or roofs don’t get sealed up tight. The worst wiring I’ve ever seen in an electrical panel – I mean it was absolutely melted in there – was in a new building. Especially if you’re dealing with a first-time developer, you ought to have the place inspected.”

Who pays a home inspector?

The buyer bears the cost of a home inspection, with fees beginning at around $500 for a one-bedroom apartment. If you choose to have one, the inspection must be completed before a contract is signed.

You can find an inspector by visiting the websites of the American Society of Home Inspectors or the New York State Association of Home Inspectors, or asking for referrals from friends. Be sure than any inspector you work with is registered with the New York Department of State Division of Licensing Services.

“An inspection is a pretty small investment when you think of all the costs associated with your home purchase,” says Wynne. “You may decide to go through with your purchase even after your inspector tells you about problems with your new apartment, but at least you can enter into the sale knowing what it’s going to cost to make repairs. It’s all about peace of mind.”

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