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A Home Inspection vs A Home Appraisal

"Can you inspect my home to reduce my taxes? Do you do that sort of thing?" My friend asked me this the other day. So here is more information for any home buyer, seller, owner, or just folks interested in the subject.

Often the terms home inspection, home appraisal, and property inspection are all used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing! Specifically, the first two require special licenses with the Washington State Department of Licensing. The last one...well there is nothing official about it. So do you know the differences?

Home Inspection – A full, visual evaluation of the components and systems of a home at the time of the inspection. A report follows, describing the materials used, their condition, and any deficiencies found. The buyer/seller of a home decides on a State Licensed Home Inspector to hire, for an outside and unbiased professional opinion. Before the inspection, there must be a Pre-Inspection Agreement to be signed by the client so everyone is aware of what the inspection covers and may not include.

Inspectors are not part of the real estate deal (we get paid whether the deal is completed or not). One of my client's decided not to buy a home recently. I told him I respected his important decision. He responded saying how good that was to hear. I was the only person so far who said something like that to him. Wow! I'm glad my job lets me tell the truth and help people, rather than trying to persuade them for my own ends.

Home Appraisal – Often required by a lender to measure the dollar value of a home and property. If the appraiser values the home above or below the offer amount, it will affect the deal, and the mortgage contract. Appraisers must be State Licensed. They must be independent of the transaction and multiple appraisals may be deemed necessary by a bank. They often do a walk-through of a home with a real estate agent present.

Property Inspection – A term sometimes reserved for evaluations after a loan default or foreclosure. These “inspections” might just be check-ups to confirm an unoccupied property isn’t being vandalized. They vary greatly and depend on lender contracts.

So to answer my friend's question, no. I can't reduce your tax bill. Well, maybe not directly. I can always perform a home inspection, and then you can use my report of your home however you choose. Maybe as proof for someone else--like an assessor or a lawyer, or a CPA--that your taxes should be lower? But I'm afraid your tax bill is outside my professional jurisdiction.

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