Between the paperwork and the house hunting – on top of your “day job” – buying a home can be a stressful time. Add to this the concern that you’re not buying something with any hidden problems.
And while a home inspector can’t help you with the financial paperwork, they can give you peace of mind that your huge financial investment won’t cost you even more than you’d bargained for.
Here’s how to make sure you get the best results possible from your home inspector’s report.
When hiring a home inspector, ask them:
- ◆ what they check
- ◆ what they don’t check
- ◆ what the inspection costs, and
- ◆ how long they’ve been in business.
You should also find out how long the process will take and whether you can tag along.
If you’ve found a good home inspector, not only will they not mind if you come along, they’ll also do what they can to make sure you get the most you can from the report.
1. What do you check?
Following are some of the most common and important things a home inspector will look for.
Generally, a home inspector will start at the property’s outer perimeter, inspecting the grounds before moving towards inspecting the house.
While inspecting a home’s grounds, an inspector will look to identify current water issues and issues that might occur in the future. For example, there might be puddles, and the grading may be wrong. Sometimes, a home’s downspouts may fail to function properly.
The home inspector will also pay attention to the trees, shrubs, grass, etc. of the property. Trees, especially, can be a big risk to a homeowner, potentially causing extensive damage to the home, depending on their location and condition.
However, for a more detailed analysis of the grounds, you’d want to contact an arborist or professional landscaper.
The inspector will take some time looking at the outside of the home, checking pathways, sheds, railings, retaining walls, etc. so it will take them some time to wrap up the exterior before moving inside the home.
The foundation of a home is the most important factor of a home’s livability, therefore the home inspector will focus much of their attention on it.
No matter how beautiful the inside of the home may be, a shaky foundation is not something that can be ignored.
Specifically, home inspectors will look for:
- ◆ Physical signs of structural issues (e.g. cracks, bits of concrete missing)
- ◆ Straight sides
- ◆ Square door frames and windows
A foundation inspection is important for any home inspection, but as you might suspect, it’s especially important if the home is older.
Besides the foundation, the roof is obviously a very important element of a home’s livability. The home inspector will examine the roof for defects both outside, and inside, if possible.
Specifically, they’ll look for damaged or missing shingles, fascia and flashing as well as damaged or rotting underlayment.
Roofing issues can lead to leaking ceilings and many other issues, such as damage to drywall and flooring. Crawlspace leaks are a significant concern because they often lead to mold growth and other unpleasant elements.
Other elements the home inspector will look for include chimney defects, skylight issues and loose gutters. Because the roof is so important, the inspector should take their time examining this location of the home.
While outside, the home inspector will examine the siding closely, looking for defects such as cracks, missing pieces or rotting timbers behind the siding. They’ll also look for signs of termite damage and note any active infestation they see.
2. What’s not included in the home inspection?
There’s a lot that the inspector will examine, but the inspection won’t be invasive. For example, they won’t knock down walls to see how well the home is insulated or run the dishwasher to make sure it works.
Anything they see during their inspection that looks like it might be an issue, they will flag so that the homeowner (or home buyer) will be aware of it and can address it.
For example, if they spot termite damage, a pest control expert can be called to assess the situation.
3. How much does it cost?
The price of a home inspection will vary, depending on location, market and size of home, but historically it can range from around $300 to $600 dollars.
Expect to pay in advance, and if you find an inspector who is charging significantly less than their competitors, be wary, as this could mean they lack the experience or are running a scam.
Sometimes, inspectors might charge an hourly rate instead of a flat fee, so be sure to ask when you discuss their rate. Also, if they need special equipment for lab testing, they may charge more on top of their base rate.
4. How long have you been inspecting homes?
Often, new home inspectors may have experience in a trade such as plumbing or carpentry. This gives them an advantage when they’re first starting out, so don’t automatically assume that because an inspector is new that they’re incapable of doing the job.
That said, if possible, look for an inspector who has a few years under their belt, as their familiarity with the process can help them spot a potential problem that a new inspector might miss.
5. Can I tag along on the home inspection?
A good home inspector will be pleased to take you along with them. If they completely reject taking you along, it’s best to find another inspector.
By having you along, the home inspector can show you in real time what they’re looking at and explain what is a problem (and what’s normal wear and tear).
They’ll also be able to answer any questions you have and clarify anything they discover during their inspection.
6. How long does it typically take to inspect a home?
Most often, a home inspection will be done during the week because this is when most people are away from home.
Make sure that if you’re coming along for the inspection that you allow for plenty of time for the process.
A thorough home inspection can take as little as a few hours to as long as a few days, depending on the size and features of the home.
For example, a small two-bedroom home will take much less time than a large, historic home.
7. Do you have sample reports?
If you can see a sample report, you’ll clearly understand the kind of information you can expect from the home inspector.
When you compare this sample report to the one the home inspector gives you, you’ll be more confident that the home you’re considering buying doesn’t have that many things wrong with it.
If you’ve reviewed a sample report before you go with the home inspector, you’ll be able to better understand what they’re looking for.
A good home inspector will make every effort to ensure that you understand the report and that they answer all of your questions or concerns.