Last Updated on January 31, 2023 by Luke Feldbrugge
There are a lot of steps to buying a house, and while they are all important, some are just more valuable than others. Writing an earnest money
check, for example, is necessary, but it doesn’t do much for you as a buyer. A home inspection, on the other hand, can be extremely valuable, potentially helping you save money when you negotiate the home price or keeping you from buying a total lemon.
Getting the keys to your new home is a monumental moment after a long waiting period. The inspection report can give you up-to-date information relating to the nature and location of any defects (if there are any). However, to get the most value out of your home inspection, you need to ask the right questions.
Before the Inspection Begins
When vetting a potential home inspector, there are a few key questions that can reveal whether you’re getting a seasoned expert or an inexperienced novice. To find a true pro who will bring value to your home inspection, ask these questions:
1. What will you be checking and what will you not be checking?
A home inspector who knows what they’re doing should give you a long list of things, including the foundation, roof, windows, doors and anything else they can investigate with a visual inspection. This shows they will be thorough and are less likely to miss something that could help you negotiate the home price
So, if a home inspector over-promises and says they are willing to remove drywall, they either don’t know the law or are just saying anything to try to get your business.
2. How long does a home inspection take?
Typically, a home inspection lasts two to three hours, but the actual answer here will depend on the age and size of the home. A two-bedroom new build will take a lot less time than a Victorian mansion. So, you want to get a ballpark figure and just be on the lookout for any extreme estimates. Anything that seems way too long or too short is a red flag.
3. Can I join you during the inspection?
If the home inspector says anything but “Yes,” turn and run in the opposite direction. Any respectable inspector will be more than happy to have you tag along, and this is where you will get a ton of value out of the process. They will be able to explain how the home systems (like HVAC or plumbing) work, and be able to identify any potential problem areas to be aware of down the road. You’ll gain intimate firsthand knowledge of the home you’re thinking about buying and be better positioned to negotiate the home price as a result.
During the Home Inspection
Having already made sure you are cleared to tag along, here are the top questions to ask during a home inspection:
1. Can you please tell me more about that?
If you don’t understand some of the terminology the inspector is using, or don’t understand how home systems work in general, ask the inspector to clarify. There are no dumb questions when it comes to making the largest investment of your life, and home inspectors are accustomed to explaining things to clients. This is your best chance to get expert insights on your home, so speak up and make sure you understand the information they’re giving you.
2. Is that a major or minor problem?
It’s the inspector’s job to point out everything they think is of note in a property. But that doesn’t mean every item they put into their report will cost you thousands of dollars. If they note that the windows are sticky, for example, the answer may just be a can of WD-40 that costs less than $5. On the other hand, something like a crack in the foundation that looks small could be a sign of a major issue. To get the most value out of the inspection, make sure you understand in detail what the inspector is seeing
and what they would recommend you do to address it.
3. What should I be most concerned about with this property?
Although they will have pointed things out along the way, ask the home inspector to give you a quick recap of the top issues they see with the property. This will give you a bullet point list of things to either get a second opinion from a specialist (like an electrician or plumber), or to raise with the seller during negotiation. The inspector will not be able to recommend you buy or don’t buy the house. They can only give you their report. It’s then up to you to decide if any of the issues they identified are a deal breaker.
After the Home Inspection is Complete
Once the inspection is complete and the inspector has filled out their report, don’t let the day end without asking these questions first:
1. When will I get my report?
Generally, it takes one to two days for the inspector to compile and send their full report, but it can take up to four days depending on the nature of the report and what’s included. This will be important to know because it can affect your timeline for negotiating and ultimately completing the purchase of the home.
2. Do I need to hire a specialist for a follow-up inspection?
If the home inspector noticed water spots on the ceiling or evidence of old electrical work, they could recommend you hire a specialist to come and take a second look. A specialist will also be able to provide a better estimate of what it would take to make any necessary repairs, and you can then use that information when negotiating the home price.
3. What should I do the day I move in?
If you’re still feeling confident about the home at the end of the inspection, get the inspector’s opinion on the most pressing needs. These could be little things like changing window locks or reconnecting a downspout. But asking this question will give you an actionable to-do list to start making the most of your new home on day one – and prevent little problems from becoming big issues.