A home inspection is one of the most important steps in the home-buying process. As a buyer, this is your opportunity to get a full picture of the condition of the home before you make your final commitment. If your inspector identifies any issues with the home, you’ll have the chance to re-negotiate the price, ask the seller to make necessary repairs or, if necessary, walk away from the deal.
While a home inspector should cover all the bases, asking the right questions before, during and after the inspection can help you make sure you get the most out of it.
Not quite sure what to ask? Start with these nine questions.
Before hiring an inspector, it's important to understand their qualifications, the services they provide and what you can expect during the process. These four simple questions will help you gather the information you need.
1. What Is Covered in the Home Inspection?
Start by making sure the inspection and report will meet all applicable state requirements. Ask for a sample inspection report so you’ll know exactly what is covered.
Comparing reports from multiple inspectors will allow you to see how much detail each one provides. While some may simply check boxes and add generic comments, others may provide detailed descriptions, maintenance suggestions, photos and videos. The more thorough the report, the better prepared you'll be to take necessary action.
2. What Don’t You Check?
Ask the inspector if there’s anything they don’t check. For example, many do not specifically look for asbestos, mold, water contamination or termite damage. If you're concerned about these issues, make sure to mention this to the inspector.
Also keep in mind that while a basic home inspection typically includes your pool, chimney and fireplace, in some situations, you may need to hire an expert to take a deep dive. For example, you may need a fireplace inspector to check for creosote and soot build-up, a swimming pool inspector to look for cracks or dents, or a structural engineer to check the land's structural integrity.
3. How Much Experience Do You Have?
Your inspection is only as good as the inspector who provides it. Since this is your one chance to find out about the home before you buy, it’s important to choose the best person for the job. When comparing inspectors, ask how long they have been providing inspections and how many they've performed. Also, confirm that they have the proper licensing and insurance and ask if they have any professional certifications. You may also want to check the inspector’s reviews and recommendations.
4. Will I Be Able to Attend the Inspection?
Your inspector should always allow you to attend the inspection. It’s far more valuable to see them evaluate the home and ask questions in real time rather than simply reading a report. If an inspector asks you not to be present during the inspection, this is a major red flag.
Key Questions to Ask During Your Inspection
Asking pointed questions during the inspection can help you better understand the condition of the home so you can make an informed decision about whether you want to purchase it. While many other questions may come up during the inspection process, these five will help you get started.
1. Can You Clarify What That Means?During the inspection, the inspector should point out anything that may need repairs or isn’t as it should be. If you’re not sure you understand an issue they've noted, don’t hesitate to ask for a more detailed explanation. Follow-up questions such as “How much will this cost to repair?” can provide you with the clarity you need.
2. Is This a Major or Minor Issue?It’s easy to start feeling a sense of panic as the inspector points out things that are wrong with the home. However, you may be surprised to learn that many of the issues are quite common and not typically deal-breakers. Asking the inspector whether the issues they find are major or minor can help you decide whether you need to address them with the seller.
3. How Well Is the Home Insulated?A home’s insulation can significantly impact your heating and cooling costs. Ask the inspector how well the home is insulated, what type of insulation it has, and whether any areas aren't properly insulated.
4. Where Are the Shutoff Valves?Sometimes, the shutoff valves in a home are difficult to find, and you don’t want to be stuck searching for them during an emergency. As your inspector takes you through the home, ask them to show you the location of the water shutoff valve and other important switches such as the electric and furnace power.
5. What Are Your Primary Concerns?When the inspection is complete, ask the inspector whether they have any major concerns about the home. This will help you quickly understand what issues are most important so you can start creating a plan of action. In some cases, you may need to call in another professional such as an HVAC expert, roofer, electrician or engineer to take a deeper dive into the problem and provide a bid for the repair.