Second to having your offer accepted, the inspection is probably the most stressful part of the home buying process. Whether it’s a brand new or century-old home, there’s no way to know the scope of possible problems until you peek behind the paint.
And remember, there’s no such thing as a perfect home. But the information you discover during an inspection may help you negotiate a lower price with the seller. It can prepare you to tackle issues once moved in or aid in your decision to walk away from the deal. Make sure you’re getting the most out of the inspection by asking these 10 questions.
Make sure you’ve hired the right person for the job and know what to expect.
1. What credentials do you have? More important than the cost of service and availability, you want to make sure your home inspector is qualified. Unfortunately, not all states require home inspectors to be licensed, so doing your own research is key. Ask about experience and professional organization affiliations. Two examples are the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors or American Society of Home Inspectors. Request a sample report and read online reviews from previous customers.
2. Can I shadow you during the inspection? Being present for the home inspection is a great opportunity to learn more about your home and ask questions. Typically, it will take two to four hours. It’s a major red flag if the home inspector denies your request to follow him or her during the inspection.
3. What does the home inspection cover? While thorough – covering heating and cooling systems to the foundation and insulation – there are some items that won’t be on the inspector’s checklist. It’s important to know what an inspector will and will not do. That way, you can call in the appropriate specialists if necessary.
4. Can you also run these tests? If you’re concerned about problems like radon, mold or lead paint, ask your inspector if they can examine those items too. Many will offer these optional services for an additional fee.
Now is the time to get all of your questions answered.
5. Can you explain this to me? As you and the inspector review the home – or when issued the final report – you may uncover unfamiliar technical jargon. If there’s something you don’t understand, follow-up with questions like “What does that mean? Can you explain that?”
6. Is this a major or minor issue? Home inspectors are required to note every problem they find throughout the house. This could mean even minor issues may sound more serious than they actually are. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarity on the severity of their findings.
7. How should I fix that? By asking this question, you’ll discover which problems you can fix yourself and which require a professional. Either way, your home inspector may have some easy DIY tips so you can run to the nearest hardware store and fix the problem yourself. Or they might offer up a list of recommended experts. They should never offer to do the repairs themselves, as that would be a conflict of interest.
8. Can you show me how to work that? Being present during the inspection is a golden opportunity to learn how to work some important features of a house. This can be paramount for first-time homebuyers who have likely never come across an HVAC unit or a circuit breaker. Home inspectors are used to explaining these basic systems, and they should be happy to do so.
Making sense of the final report.
9. Overall, what are your biggest concerns about the house? This will give you the inspector’s take on nice-to-repair items versus must-repair, and how quickly to address the problems. Home inspectors can’t advise you whether or not to purchase a home. But the information they provide may help you determine what’s worth negotiating with the sellers. Your realtor will be able to advise you on this as well.
10. I have a follow-up question. Can you answer this? The inspector will go through their findings with you in person. But once you receive the final printed version, you may have some additional questions. Be sure to get contact information should any inquiries arise.