8 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Home Inspector

It’s important to get a home inspection when buying a house. There are many hidden issues that can emerge after you buy a property that are expensive to correct. Spending a few hundred dollars to have a professional home inspection beforehand is a good way to avoid costly surprises with your new property — but only if you get a reliable home inspector who will carefully check out your house and identify these issues.

This year, I discovered that an inadequate home inspection cost me over $10,000. My roof started leaking, causing damage inside. When a roofing contractor checked it out, he had me come up on a ladder and showed me that there were three layers of shingles on most of the roof. The new shingles on the top layer were covering up all kinds of problems underneath. The roofer was surprised that my home inspector didn’t let me know about the poor condition of the roof. It turns out that my home inspector never even went up on the roof during his inspection. The inspection report had a photo of the roof taken from the ground, but it looked okay since it had new shingles on top. (See also: Thinking of Skipping the Home Inspection? Here’s What It Will Cost You)

Had I known that the roof was failing, I could have negotiated a new roof as part of the purchase agreement, or I could have replaced the roof before it started leaking and saved myself a lot of stress. I could have avoided getting an inadequate home inspection by asking the right questions.

Here are some questions to ask before hiring a home inspector for your future home.

1. Who is recommending this home inspector?

Be wary of home inspectors who are recommended by your banker or by your real estate agent. These parties are motivated to have a home inspection that goes smoothly and results in a deal that closes so that they get paid. They will tend to recommend “easy” home inspectors that are not as likely to point out issues that could derail the sale.

2. What are your qualifications to be a home inspector?

Good qualifications for a home inspector would include experience working in the home construction or home repair industry and training to become a home inspector. But there are online courses that almost anyone can take and become a home inspector. I would be more comfortable hiring a home inspector who has background that goes beyond basic home inspection training.

3. How much experience do you have as a home inspector?

You can learn a lot by asking home inspector candidates how many homes they’ve inspected. A high number indicates that they’re focused on home inspections and have likely learned from experience. A low number indicates that they’re a newly minted home inspector, or that home inspections are just a side job and not their main focus.

4. What is included (and not included) in the inspection?

Your home inspection may not include everything you’re expecting, so it’s worth reviewing what’s actually included. Home inspections may not include coverage for pests or hazardous materials such as lead and asbestos, radon, or mold. Inspection of structures not attached to the house such as yard sheds or other buildings and swimming pools may not be included.

Based on my recent experience, it’s also worth asking if the inspector checks all parts of the roof for roofing issues. (See also: 5 Homebuying Questions You’re Embarrassed to Ask)

5. Could you provide a sample home inspection report?

Some home inspection reports I’ve received over the years have a lot of “boilerplate” text and checklists that are not very informative. These reports rely heavily on automatically generated text about things that might be issues in general, but are not actually comments from the home inspector about the property. Reports that have a lot of photos from the inspection and comments from the home inspector with specific recommendations are the most valuable. Some inspection reports even have rough estimates for how much it would cost to resolve issues. Compare some sample reports and pick one that has information that’ll be useful to you.

6. How much does a home inspection cost?

The buyer of a house normally pays for the home inspection, which typically runs in the range of a few hundred dollars. Compared to the price of a house, the cost of a home inspection is small, but you don’t want to be surprised by a much bigger-than-expected home inspection bill.

7. When would you be able to complete the home inspection?

If you have signed a purchase agreement for a property, there may be a date by which the home inspection must be completed and accepted by the buyer. You need to get the home inspection report in time to use it to negotiate repairs from the seller, or even to be able to walk away from the deal if there are major issues. Find out if the home inspector you’re dealing with has a huge backlog of work that would prevent him or her from meeting your schedule.

8. Can you walk through the house with me?

Walking through the property with the home inspector at the end of the inspection may be the most valuable part of the home inspection. This is an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about any issues that were discovered, and about the house in general. While you have access to the space, you can also take measurements and plan for where your big items will go when you move in.

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