Home Inspection How-To

An official home inspection is one of the most important things you’ll do when buying a home. It may seem like just another item to cross off your list, but it can have save you a lot of money and heartache.

A home inspector is a professional who evaluates the integrity of a home you plan to purchase. He or she is there to determine if there are any problems with the major systems (heating, cooling, plumbing, etc.), structural integrity (foundation, walls, etc.) and other aspects of the home. While there may be serious discoveries (toxic mold, for example) during the inspection, others may be fairly easy to resolve (like a new roof).
They won’t tell if you should—or shouldn’t—buy the home, but the inspector will provide information that can help you make an informed decision or cancel a purchase agreement. Even if you choose to move forward buying a home with problems, you may be able to negotiate a discounted purchase price or require the sellers to fix the issues.
Begin looking for a home inspector as soon as you start house-hunting or begin construction. You’ll want to have someone lined up as soon as you find that “perfect” house! Although inspectors are usually happy to provide references, they’re going to only share names of people who are happy with them.
If you’re building a home or buying new construction, it may seem as if an inspection is unnecessary. However, problems can crop up during the building process. It’s much better to discover them now, rather than after you’ve moved in and the builder has moved on.
In addition to asking friends and neighbors for referrals, you can also find a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) on their website. You’ll want to look at an inspector’s credentials and certifications, as well as find out if this a side gig or their full-time job.
A career inspector will typically have more availability and provide a faster turn-around. In addition, someone who evaluates homes full-time has more experience, which gives them greater insight into potential problems.
You should also verify that they’re bonded and insured. Otherwise, if they get hurt during the inspection, you could potentially be responsible for their injuries.
Ask for a copy of a recent inspection report for a home that’s similar to yours (whether that’s a house, condo or other type of property). If you’re considering buying a home in a historic preservation district, you may need an inspector who has specialized expertise.
In addition to the requested report, get a detailed list of what their inspection will cover and find out how they handle major problems. They may charge more if a big issue requires extra investigation.
Some inspectors are also general contractors and can handle any needed repairs. While this seems like a good thing because it would be efficient, it can diminish the integrity of the inspection. A general contractor/inspector could potentially drum up business by exaggerating problems and solving them at your expense.
Plan to accompany the inspector during his or her walk-through. Although their official report will be required for the lender or for any purchase negotiations, shadowing the inspector provides two benefits.
First, it helps you confirm that the entire inspection was done, rather than just a superficial look at the property. Second, it is a tremendous opportunity for you to get homeowner education from a pro. Not only will you learn what things to look for, you may also gain insight into how to resolve various issues.
Consider a home inspection to be an investment in your future, not just another expense. No one wants to be surprised with costly home repairs­—and it’s especially maddening if you find out that the issues already existed when you bought the property.
- By Stephanie Clark , Jun 23, 2018