What to Inspect When You're Inspecting

Want to know a critical but often overlooked element of the home-buying process? The home inspection. Typically, you schedule the inspection after picking out your dream house and signing a contract to purchase.

The inspection can determine if you’re considering a sound investment or a risky one, and it can give you peace of mind before signing the multitude of closing documents. How? If the inspection alerts you to problems that will need repairs, you can negotiate price reductions to account for them or back out of the purchase completely if problems are too extensive.

With so much riding on a home inspection, be sure that you’re asking the inspector the right questions to ensure the process is thorough and reliable.

Following are some facets you should inspect about the inspector and the inspection:

About the inspector

When making such a large investment as a house purchase, you want to know that the inspector will conduct an accurate evaluation. Be sure to ask:

  • May I see your license? This is a good place to start, of course, but some states don’t require licenses. Inspectors in those states could be architects, building contractors or structural engineers. In that case, ask about the inspector’s qualifications and experience. References are good, too.
  • How much education, training and experience do you have? Many states require continuing education courses for home inspectors every couple of years. So the more experience and education an inspector has, the more comfortable you’ll feel entrusting him or her with the inspection of your future home.
  • How long will the inspection take? An average home inspection for a single-family home lasts between two and three hours. Obviously, larger homes will take more time. If the inspector estimates that he/she will be finished in a much shorter time span, you might not get a thorough examination.
  • Do you specialize in residential inspection? Inspecting a home is very different from examining a commercial building or construction site.
  • Will your inspection align with the recognized standards? and What type of inspection report will you provide? It’s important to ensure that the inspection and inspection report will meet the state requirements and align with basic procedural standards. It’s equally as important to be sure that you will understand the report when you receive it. All inspectors have different reporting styles, so ask to view a few samples first.
  • Will I be able to attend the inspection? If the answer is no, it’s time to jump ship and find a new inspector.

About the home

Home inspections can be a learning experience for homeowners. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned veteran, every home is unique and could face different challenges. So on your inspection, ask about the home and tips on how to keep everything up to snuff, such as:

  • Are there issues with the roof or the siding? and How can I prolong the life of my roof? Though most home inspectors are non-invasive and only look at the surfaces of walls, floors and roofs, they can alert you to visible problems and give you basic tips for how to make the structure of your home last as long as possible.
  • How’s the drainage around the exterior of the house? This is especially helpful if you’ve decided on a house with a basement. You can find out if your home is at risk for flooding and ask for tips on how to help prevent that type of situation. If the drainage is bad, you may want to consider adding flood insurance to your homeowners policy.
  • Are there potential fire hazards that would make getting home insurance difficult? If you’ve chosen an older home, it could have aluminum wiring that could be a huge fire hazard. If that’s the case, you may need to replace the wiring in order to find reasonably priced homeowners insurance. That could call for an adjustment in your offer price.

To cover all of your bases, you also should ask about things such as the condition of the sewer system. Bringing up these issues can alert you to immediate repairs or replacements that need to be made and those that may come a few years down the road. If the repairs are too much for your budget, you may need to keep shopping for a home. Remember, however, that the inspector is not a psychic.

In closing, be sure you’re asking the home inspector to clarify anything you don’t understand. It’s important to truly understand the findings of the inspection.

Shannon Ireland writes for HomeInsurance.com, an online resource for homeowners and drivers across the country. Offering comparative automobile and home insurance quotes, consumers rely on HomeInsurance.com for the most competitive rates from the top-rated insurance carriers in the country. The HomeInsurance.com blog provides fresh tips and advice on a range of financial topics to help homeowners and homebuyers make educated decisions about their insurance purchases.

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