A home inspection is an important part of buying and selling a home. In fact, it can make or break a sale. That’s why the questions you ask your home inspector are so important.
First, a quick explanation about home inspections vs. home appraisals…
It’s easy to confuse home inspections with home appraisals. The processes are similar.
- A home inspector looks at the condition of a home and its systems, from electrical and plumbing to heating and ventilation, foundation, and more. He or she points out any areas of major concern. These are repairs that can be negotiated before the home is sold. Otherwise, the home inspection report is a “to do” list for the future homeowner.
- A home appraiser’s job is to estimate the value of the home. He or she looks at the condition of the house and notes any upgrades. The appraiser compares the home to similar ones in the area. Then, they establish a value and share it with the lender. That way the loan amount does not exceed the value of the home.
Most lenders require home inspections for loan approval. If you’re buying a home, the home inspection helps you know exactly what you’re getting. If you’re selling a home, you may consider doing a pre-listing home inspection. That can flag any major issues that could cause buyers to withdraw their offer.
Here’s what to ask your home inspector before and during the inspection.
What are your credentials?
Maybe your realtor referred you to a home inspector. Maybe you found him or her through Google, a Facebook neighbors’ group, or old-fashioned word of mouth. Either way, you want to make sure your home inspector has the right training and experience.
- How long have you been doing this?
- Do you belong to a state or national association?
- Do you participate in any continuing education?
- Are you bonded and insured? (If anything happens to the property during an inspection, the bond will protect the homeowner.)
- May I get references from satisfied clients?
- May I get a copy of your inspector’s license and insurance?
What are the payment details?
Home inspection is a service that is paid for by the person requesting the inspection. It could be the prospective homebuyer, or it could be the seller who wants to make sure everything is in order before placing the home on the market. Home inspection costs vary, depending on the region, size, and age of the house.
- What will the home inspection cost?
- When do you need payment? (Most inspectors will need payment immediately after the inspection.)
- What type of payment do you prefer?
What does the report look like?
You want to know what you’re purchasing ahead of time, and an easy way to do that is to see a sample inspection report. You’ll be able to see your inspector’s reporting style, whether there are pictures, etc.
- Can I see a sample report?
- Do you provide digital photos?
- How long after the inspection do you provide the report?
- How do you send it?
What does the inspection cover?
A home inspection should comply with standard practice and meet all requirements in your state. If you live in a condo, your inspector does not have to inspect the common spaces, roof, or exterior walls. For single family homes and townhomes, you can expect the full home to be reviewed. However, this may not include radon or mold, so double check if you need additional inspections for those hazards.
- Do you walk the roof? (It’s better if your inspector does. Some just use binoculars to eyeball any roof damage.)
- Do you do sewer line or septic tank inspections?
- Do you test for radon or mold?
- Do you test for lead (for homes built before 1978)?
- Do you test for carbon monoxide or check the smoke detectors?
- What does the inspection not cover?
May I attend?
You should be allowed to attend your home inspection, and it’s a good idea. (It’s also a red flag if your inspector says you are not allowed. Consider getting another inspector.) It takes about 2-3 hours for a typical single family home inspection, so be sure to allocate enough time. Come prepared with a list of questions. This is a great learning experience about your new home.
- Where is the main water shutoff?
- Where is the main electrical breaker?
- What is the age of the home’s systems? The roof?
- What is the routine maintenance needed for each of the home’s systems?
- What kind of pipes does the home’s plumbing system have (e.g. copper, CPVC water piping or polybutylene)? Polybutylene is defective water piping that is no longer being made.
- Are there any ungrounded outlets? These can become a fire hazard or short-circuit your appliances.
- Is the home well insulated? This will impact your energy bill.
- Does the home appear to be a flip (and therefore lower quality materials used in the renovation)?
Pro Tip: Verify that all permits have been pulled by the city or county for any renovations to the home. Failure to do so can tip you off that there were corners cut.
What should I do about the problems identified?
If you’re the buyer, you can use the problems as a negotiating point with the seller. If the problems are too costly, or living conditions are unsafe, you could walk away from the sale. While some states and associations forbid an inspector from performing repairs, you can ask your home inspector for guidance.
- Can you recommend a professional for this repair?
- What would you fix first if this were your home?
- Will you answer questions after the inspection?
- Do you perform re-inspections of a home to make sure everything is fixed? Not all inspectors do this due to liability issues.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com