How to Have a Great Home Inspection

There are lots of things in life you can skip ­– the sprinkles on your frozen yogurt, the free coffee in the hotel lobby, and even an occasional car wash. One thing you should never skip is a good home inspection. Even the most beautiful houses in expensive areas can harbor undetected problems that require pricey repairs. Unless you get a thorough home inspection, you’ll never know before you buy.

While your real estate agent is likely to suggest a licensed and experienced home inspector, that doesn’t mean you have to go with that person. Do your own homework, and make the best choice for your situation. When it’s time for you to have a home inspection, follow these tips for an extra smooth experience.

This plumbing leak was discovered under a crawlspace
This plumbing leak was discovered under a crawl space during a recent home inspection. The culprit, a leaky shower pan, will be replaced and all damage repaired before the sale of the home.

Ask what’s included in the report, and view an example report.

Look for an inspector who offers a detailed written report with accompanying images submitted to you within a day after the inspection. The report should describe major components of the home and explain any observed problems. Don’t settle for a checklist handed to you at the end of your inspection.

Find out which areas of the home are excluded from the inspection.

You want an inspector who is physically able to venture into the attic, walk on the roof and crawl under the crawl space, but every inspector has some exclusions. Some inspectors may not inspect exterior buildings or sprinkler systems. Appliances that aren’t built-in may also be excluded, including refrigerators, washers and dryers. In general, home inspectors don’t test for environmental hazards like lead, radon, asbestos and fungus.

Seek out experience.

It’s important to select an experienced inspector, but it’s particularly important if you’re buying an older home, fixer upper or a foreclosure. Also, inspectors with a background in building may be able to spot problems other inspectors can overlook.

Look for professional certifications and affiliations.

Find a home inspector who is a member of a nationally recognized organization that holds its members to ethical and procedural standards. One example is the National Association of Home Inspectors.

This image, taken during a recent home inspection, shows missing insulation above the master bedroom. Sellers may not always replace missing insulation, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
This image, taken during a recent home inspection, shows missing insulation above the master bedroom. Sellers may not always replace missing insulation, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Pick an accessible inspector.

If you request repairs, it’s possible you may have some follow-up questions for the inspector. A good home inspector will be available for you. Before hiring an inspector, talk on the phone. If it’s impossible to get in touch, consider moving on.

Ask how long the inspection will take.

A home inspection can take up to three hours or longer. Don’t go with an inspector who promises to be done in less than two hours.

Ask how much the inspection will cost.

While it’s good to know the price before the inspection is done, don’t allow yourself to be seduced by a cheap price. A good inspector is worth the money you spend.

Book your home inspector as soon as you have a real estate contract.

If you read your contact closely, you may see that you have a certain number of days after you sign your contract to get your home inspection. That’s one reason to act quickly. Another reason is that good home inspectors tend to book up at least a week or two in advance, especially during busy home-buying times like the spring.

Consider outside conditions.

Sometimes rain, snow or even cool weather can keep your inspector from completing portions of the inspection. If this is the case, obtain further testing when outside conditions permit. For example, if the outside temperature is under 65 degrees Fahrenheit, it will be impossible for your inspector to activate and test the air conditioner unit. If you have a home inspection on a cool spring day, arrange for further testing when the temperature increases, or consider asking the sellers to have the air conditioner cleaned and inspected as part of the requested repairs.

A home inspector noted dirty coil fins on an exterior  A/C condenser unit. The unit will be cleaned and further inspected prior to the sale of the home.
A home inspector noted dirty coil fins on an exterior A/C condenser unit. The unit will be cleaned and further inspected prior to the sale of the home.

Don’t give home tours during your inspection.

It’s tempting to invite your best friend over to see your chosen house, but remember that your home inspection is part of a business transaction. It’s best if you’re attuned to the project at hand. If you invite family members or friends over to hang out during the inspection, you’ll be distracted. And worse, you’ll annoy your real estate agent!

Go to your home inspection!

You’re paying for it, and you’ll better understand any problems if you’re there to meet with the home inspector. While you probably won’t receive the full home inspection report until about 24 hours after the inspection, your home inspector can alert you to big problems right away.

Yes, it sounds a little complicated and time-consuming, but hiring a good home inspector can save you lots of money. Plus, you’ll learn much more about your home before you move in!

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