It is important to know your prospective home is structurally sound and all systems are performing properly. Asking the right questions may assist you in choosing a home inspector who will perform an accurate and comprehensive inspection. In the end, it is much cheaper to pay for a professional home inspection versus the potential of needing the home rewired due to electrical problems, for example.
Here are four key questions to ask a home inspector to ensure peace of mind before signing a contract:
1. What will you be inspecting?
A home inspector's job is to take an all-encompassing look at a property, from roof to foundation, flagging issues that may violate local building codes or present a hazard to occupants. Specific requirements for a complete inspection may vary according to state requirements or the American Society of Home Inspectors list of requirements.
Always ask the home inspector exactly what they will be looking for, along with what things they will not be looking for. At a minimum, the inspector should be looking at these items:
- Exterior elements - roof and gutters, doors and windows, siding and wood trim, porch and deck
- Structural elements - foundation and other supporting structures
- Electrical system - circuit breakers, fuses, lights
- Plumbing system - sinks, toilets, pipes
- Heating and cooling system
2. Are there any significant problems with the property?
While you will receive a detailed inspection report, at a later date, following the walk-through, it doesn't hurt to get clarity and an opinion from the inspector concerning what he or she has found. Often an inspector is more than willing to immediately tell you about any big issues regarding the home. With this information, you may decide to hire an HVAC service, roofer, plumber or electrician to look closer at any issues which have been flagged.
3. How long have you been inspecting homes?
There's no substitute for experience, and this saying holds especially true for home inspectors. Not only should you ask how long the person has been inspecting homes, but you should also verify the following:
- What certifications does the inspector have?
- Are they fully licensed to operate within your state?
- How much will they charge for an inspection?
Partner with a home inspector who is experienced with local conditions, including climate. The life expectancy of many building components can change due to intense sun exposure or regular, heavy rain events. An inspector that has been operating in the same area for many years will have the knowledge and experience to inspect your home for possible location specific issues.
4. What will you NOT be inspecting?
Finally, you should have a clear understanding of what things will not be checked during the home inspection process. You should make yourself aware of common issues you may need to keep an eye out for in case an inspection does not flag them. These can include:
- possible mold and mildew growth
- hidden termite infestations
- chimney soot and creosote buildup
- swimming pool cracks and dents
When choosing a home inspector, it is best to get references from your family, friends, real estate agent or lender. Most industry professionals will recommend a complete home inspection of any property you’re looking to purchase. While the home inspection process is just one step on your journey to homeownership, it is an important aspect you should prepare yourself for.