You’ve been working with your agent for months and you’ve finally found the house of your dreams.  The offer was accepted, and the loan application has been made.  Congratulations!  What’s next?  Closing?  Not yet.

One of the most important steps to take when buying a home is the home inspection, and while nearly all of my clients do them (that might have something to do with the fact that I tell them “you will do a home inspection”), sometimes buyers forego them.  I’d encourage you not to, however, as it’s really an excellent opportunity a few hours looking “under the surface” at the real condition of the house you’re buying.

Of course, as a new home buyer you might not have a home inspector on speed dial.  It’s okay – I do (true story).  In fact, I have several that I use on a regular basis because they do such a good job for a clients.  When you go under contract, we’re going to send you a list of inspectors that we like to use, and who we think would be a good fit for your new home; all are licensed by either the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) or the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), and in some cases they’re licensed by both.  While I can’t say “use this inspector”, I can tell you the ones I’d suggest using, and from there would encourage you to contact them and ask them three very important pre-home inspection questions:

  1. What will the inspection cover, and when would I receive your report? – in a home inspection, we’re looking to see that systems in the house are in safe and working order, that the roof is free of leaks, and that the house is structurally sound.  It is not an indictment of the fuchsia wallpaper or the shag carpeting (could it be argued that those are unsafe from an aesthetic perspective?) … once the inspection is completed, you’ll likely receive the full report within 24 hours, and quite often right there on-site.
  2. Can I see a copy of a report you would prepare after an inspection? – because of the sheer thoroughness of a good home inspection, a quality home inspection report will be at minimum 15 pages, and frequently is twice that size.  It should clearly detail the systems inspected, and their condition at the time of the inspection.  Pictures are important, as well.
  3. How do you stay current on industry standards? – the building industry is changing all the time, with new practices and standards being included on a regular basis.  While a home inspection isn’t designed to bring a house up to code, a good inspector should know how to merge the value of their inspection with the accepted building practices in place when the house being inspected was built.  They should also be able to provide a consistent, documented history of continuing education in the inspection field.

Notice I didn’t include “how much does it cost?”. While counting dollars and cents is important in the real estate transaction, the home inspection is not an area to cut corners.  Typically an inspection will range from $275-500, but factor this cost into your budget – it’s worth every penny.

The questions aren’t done there, though.  Attend your inspection.  Ask questions – lots of them.  I wouldn’t recommend an inspector who didn’t want to be asked questions, and I guarantee you’ll learn a ton.  And if you don’t know what to ask, here’s a list of things to get you started:

  1. Where is the main water shut off valve to the house?
  2. What’s the typical life span of a roof like what’s on this particular home?  Is there any special maintenance that needs to be done to it?
  3. If there’s access to the attic, what does the attic look like?  Is this usable space, i.e. a place to store unused boxes and things?
  4. Is the electrical panel full, or is there room to expand?
  5. How is the drainage around the house?

Attend the inspection. Ask questions, and most importantly, listen.  A home inspector who says “I don’t know” isn’t a bad inspector – in fact, they’re doing you a favor by not jumping to conclusions and making inaccurate statements.  Take part in the process, and you’ll be that much closer to buying the right home for your future.