In order to get the most value out of your home inspection, it’s best to begin preparing before the big day—so do your research, make a plan, and start inspection day on the right foot with these tips.
Before your home inspection
Tip 1: Check the inspector’s credentials
Since there is no universal standard for home inspector licensing throughout the United States, each state has different requirements—and some states don’t require home inspectors to be licensed or certified at all.
Before confirming with a home inspector, be sure to check your state’s requirements for licensing and professional designations. Then, when interviewing a potential inspector, be sure to verify that they meet the standards outlined by your state.
HomeGauge has a handy Find a Home Inspector tool to help you find home inspectors in your area.
You can also ask your potential inspector if they’re a member of a professional organization like the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). It’s a good idea to check your state organizations’ websites as well, since many of them also have an inspector database listing local members’ details, including their certifications, experience, and specializations.
Tip 2: Plan to take your time
On the day of the inspection, you won’t want to have any distractions or to feel rushed. Depending on the size of the home, your inspection could take several hours—so be sure to allow enough time in your schedule to attend at least the end of the inspection.
You also won’t want to worry about little ones following you into places they shouldn’t be going. If possible, make a plan for someone to watch your children and pets elsewhere; but if you need to bring your children along, try to bring another adult to help keep them safely occupied so you can focus your full attention on the inspection itself.
Tip 3: Wear the right clothes
Your inspector will be heading into cramped, dark, and dirty places—so it’s a good idea to wear clothing that doesn’t stop you from following along to get a good look at something, if needed.
This isn’t the time to dress to impress; plan to wear clothes that are conducive to exploring the property. Don’t forget to wear comfortable and sturdy shoes. And it’s a good idea to bring outerwear that’s appropriate for the weather, since you may be accompanying your inspector outside for a portion of the inspection.
The day of the inspection
Once your inspector arrives, it’s time to get in the zone. Don’t be a dawdler on the periphery who spends the whole time scrolling through your phone—get involved, ask questions, and stay present during the inspection.
Tip 4: Be politely involved—and don’t be afraid to ask questions
Some home buyers reason that they’ll just be able to look at the report afterwards, so why bother even attending the inspection in the first place—let alone be engaged in the inspection process?
While it’s true that you’ll receive a thorough inspection report after the fact, it can be extremely helpful to attend the end of the inspection. Witnessing issues firsthand, asking questions, and hearing the inspector’s opinion from their own mouth can help you get a more thorough understanding of a problem.
Pay attention as the inspector explores the property, and let them be your guide for how involved they’d like you to be.
While you don’t want to get underfoot or distract the inspector from doing their job, it’s still important to be as involved as you can. Many inspectors welcome their clients to tag along as they walk through the home, or often before the inspection comes to a close.
The inspector isn’t going to tell you whether you should follow through on the home purchase (that’s not their job). Many inspectors will do a bit of explaining as they find things, though, so listen for red-flag phrases like “major problem” or “significant damage.” But by paying attention to what they find and how they talk about it, you can get a sense of whether an issue is actually something to worry over.
While your instinct might be to try staying out of the inspector’s way, they’re probably used to getting questions from clients. Don’t be shy! This could be your future home, after all. If you’re curious about what the inspector is doing or why they’re doing it, go ahead and ask.
Tip 5: Ask for referrals for specialists who can inspect any issues more closely
Often inspectors find issues that need a second opinion from a specialist. Perhaps they’ll discover a crack in the foundation, but a structural engineer may be needed to assess the severity of the issue.
Or maybe the inspector spots faulty or mixed-up wiring that an electrician will need to take a look at. Or, perhaps they suspect the home has pipe blockages that a plumber should analyze to get to the source of the problem.
Issues like these often need additional evaluation from a specialist. If your inspector suggests getting a second opinion, ask them if they have any recommendations in the area.
Your inspector may also find things that are in need of repair. If a particular repair isn’t added to the seller’s list of responsibilities prior to closing, you may need recommendations for a qualified specialist who can do the repair for you.
Since inspectors in most states should not be doing repairs on the same houses they inspect for at least a year after the inspection, you’ll need to find other construction experts who can help you fix specific issues. Your inspector likely has a vast network in the community, so they may be able to point you towards experienced and reliable specialists who can handle the job.
After your home inspection
The opportunities to get the absolute most value out of your home inspection don’t end after it’s over! Make sure to read the resulting inspection report thoroughly, carefully evaluate your inspector’s findings, and use your new knowledge to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible on your new home.
Tip 6: Review the inspection report thoroughly
The inspector will often send you a home inspection report of their findings within a day or two, sometimes even on the same day as the inspection. We recommend reviewing an entire interactive report, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, start with the “General Summary” (or “Primary Recommendations”) section.
That summary section should include a list of the problems the inspector uncovered. Be sure to check for any glaring health and safety issues with the property, such as:
- Problems with the foundation
- Major roofing issues
- Electrical problems
- Plumbing issues
- HVAC or major appliance defects
Use these high-priority issues as a starting point for repair requests or other negotiations with the seller.
If you’ve chosen an inspector that uses HomeGauge software, you and your agent will be able to use the Create Request List™ (CRL™) feature to create a repair amendment directly from the inspection report. That way, you and your agent will be able to confer, add items to your request list, and send it directly to the seller in a few clicks.
Tip 7: Bring the findings to the negotiation table
If the home inspection reveals problems, you have several options as the buyer. You can choose to:
- Accept the house ‘as-is’ and do nothing
- Request a discount on the home’s sales price
- Ask for a credit on your closing costs
- Ask the seller to do repairs before the sale is finalized
And if your purchase agreement included an inspection contingency, you can choose to back out of the sale entirely.
Your choice will likely depend on the severity of the issues that the inspector found and what type of market you’re in. For example, if you’re in an extreme buyer’s market, you may have more leverage than usual to ask the seller to be responsible for repairs.
However, most buyers aren’t in this situation. In most cases, a good rule of thumb is to focus on issues that are safety and health concerns—or ones that will be very expensive repairs. Don’t demand that everything be fixed, or you risk aggravating the seller and putting them on the defensive.
Instead, ask the seller to fix the most important issues and leave the rest for later. You’ll be able to make the minor or less time-sensitive repairs yourself once you take possession of the home.
Takeaway: Get the most out of your inspection by getting involved in the process
As a home buyer, your time is precious—and there are countless moving-related tasks taking up your mental space. While it’s tempting to let the home inspection slide as a mere formality, the reality is simple: a home inspection is one of the most important steps between signing the purchase agreement and closing on the home.
Without a quality home inspection, you won’t know whether there are any unknown (and expensive) issues with your potential future home. That’s why it’s imperative that you hire a quality, experienced home inspector—then come to the appointment prepared, stay involved in the process, and use the results to inform your pre-closing decisions.