So now you’ve picked a house, and signed a contract to purchase that house. The hard part’s behind you. All that’s left is making sure the house is in good shape before you close. It’s time to get a home inspection. This is the fun part!
If you know of anyone that’s bought a house in the past, ask them who they used for the home inspection. Ask them if the home inspector went up in the attic, all around the outside of the house, looked in detail at all the windows, doors, roof, ventilation, and everywhere in the basement. Ask them for their opinion on how thourough of a job the inspector did, and how much time they spent there.
If you don’t find a good inspector that way, ask your real estate agent for a list of good, qualified candidates. Call each one of them and ask what makes them stand out from the rest of home inspectors. The goal here is to find someone that gives you the impression that they are an expert at inspecting homes.
The home inspector’s job is to make sure the underlying structure of the home is solid. The inside and outside of the home could be beautiful cosmetically, but there could be major problems hiding. Mold could be found in basements, attics, and walls, and you’d never know just from walking through the house. The foundation could be cracked and deteriorating, and you wouldn’t think to look for that. The electrical could be run improperly, and could cause a fire. Termites could be inside the wood on your house, and the untrained eye would never know. There’s a lot the home inspector should be looking for when walking through your house.
Keep all this information in mind when picking a home inspector. It’s difficult to find a good one that looks at everything they should. Just because they are certified doesn’t mean they are qualified (but make sure they are still certified). This is the one shot you have at picking someone to look over the place you’re going to be living for the forseeable future.
When interviewing each applicant (as that’s what they really should be at this point), make sure the inspector belongs to some professional inspection association, and regularly attends for updated information. I’d strongly recommend getting 3-5 different inspectors, and interviewing all of them. Don’t just use the inspector your real estate agent recommends; remember that they really want you to buy the house. Hopefully you found a trustworthy agent, but there are some out there that do not have your best interest in mind (as with any profession). If the home inspector won’t take the time to talk with you over the phone first, don’t use them. If they can’t take time for you now, they’ll probably either rush through the inspection, or simply not care enough to do a thorough job.
Wondering what to ask the inspector to make sure they know what they’re doing? Start by asking them what they do that most other inspectors don’t. Get them talking about their background. Ask how long they’ve been an inspector, and what they did prior to that (hint: anything involving them doing actual construction work is a plus).
Ask them if they carry “errors and omissions insurance.” Depending on where you live, it might even be required for their license. Ask them if they offer a guarantee of their work, and how long it lasts.
Ask the inspector if they put their findings in a narrative-style report. You don’t want them to simply check off a list of things really quick and move on to the next inspection.
And finally, make sure you can go when they do the inspection. The inspection should take 3-4 hours. If they say they’ll be done in 45 minutes, use somebody else. There’s a lot of items to look at when doing a home inspection. As they do the inspection, ask whatever questions you have, and try to learn as much from them as possible. They will most likely find issues you can do yourself after you purchase the home, so try to find out as much detail as possible.
Wondering if you should get a home inspection on a home that was just built? You definitely should. Builders can make mistakes, and all builders will take shortcuts to save money. You might have a furnace that’s designed to work with just the upstairs in your home, and not take the basement into consideration, for instance. Getting a home inspector helps find these issues before you close. You can either get them fixed as part of the purchase, or you’ll at least know about them when you close.
Once you perform all the steps listed in this series of posts, you can finally close on your house, and make that house your new home. You’ll have confidence knowing you bought the right house at a good price, and that it’ll be in good shape for years to come.