Buying and selling a home is a detailed process. For the seller, the process involves hiring the right real estate agent, completing market research, and keeping the house clean, neat, and organized. Buyers are tasked to find that perfect house, in a safe neighborhood, at the right price. Both parties have common questions to ask a home inspector before, during, and after inspection.
A certified home inspector is tasked to determine any residential property’s integrity, safety, and overall condition. While it’s not required in all States, most are licensed in the state where they practice and have a strong understanding of general construction practices — ranging from plumbing, framing, electrical, structural, roofing, appearance of asbestos, radon, mold, and more.
Their expertise and honest inspection of a residential property are needed to protect the financial integrity of the home sale for both the buyer and seller.
So — what questions should you ask during a home inspection? Are there questions for home inspections unique for buyers or the seller’s point of view? Finally, are there must ask questions during a home inspection that you should prepare ahead of time? These are a few questions we’ll answer in the content below.
Why You Should Prepare the Right Questions for Home Inspectors
There are several reasons a potential home seller or buyer would hire a home inspector. For the seller, a professional home inspection provides transparency to any potential buyer. Although a seller might take care of their properties and stay on top of routine service, there may be underlying issues that a trained home inspector can find. Some of these hidden problems may include:
- Pest Infestation: Termites, mice, and other pests often dwell behind walls, in your home’s attic, basement, or specific materials.
- Mold in floors, walls, roofing, or foundation.
- Unknown plumbing or septic issues.
- Electrical wiring that is frayed or showing signs of aging.
Knowing these issues before listing your property for sale permits you the time to make repairs — so you can receive maximum value for the home.
A home inspection report provides potential buyers with an independent review of the overall condition of any property they intend on purchasing. It will tell them if there are future expenses they need to factor into their budgets — such as replacing roofing, painting the exterior, or completing plumbing or electrical work.
Due to these specific reasons for hiring an inspector, it’s critical to prepare home inspection questions relative to the inspection’s purpose. One item that needs to be clarified is that a home inspection is the same for either a seller or buyer. It’s a 100 percent independent evaluation — to ensure that any party or their needs do not influence it.
What to Ask a Home Inspector Before the Inspection — 7 Good Questions
The first item on your punch list of questions is gathering facts about the home inspection process. This is especially helpful if you’ve never scheduled a home inspection or want to clarify commonly asked questions. While some of these seven questions below might be elementary, clarifying the facts is a good idea.
1. Do you do repairs or just home inspections?
At the core of inspection lies the need to get an unbiased opinion of the property you’re looking to buy. Your home inspector has the task of checking the house’s condition, from the structure to the wiring, plumbing, and the state of the appliances, if any.
If a home inspector were to provide both inspection and repair services, they might have conflicting interests — giving you advice from a repair standpoint too. But home inspectors are incredibly ethical people — who take great pride in their transparency. So — don’t be afraid to ask the question — if nothing else, to clarify their tasks and capabilities.
2. Are you insured?
This question is self-explanatory. A home inspector should have two types of insurance: Errors & Omissions and General Liability. The E & O policy is intended to protect the inspector in case of negligence or mistakes in reporting the condition of items on the property. General Liability insurance protects the business from being sued by a homeowner for damages that occur while inspecting the property.
While these two policies mainly aim to protect the home inspector, they can also protect you from being sued if they injure themselves on your property. You should also ask them about their certifications and licensing.
3. Do you have any references?
If you’re working with a specific lender, insurance company, or real estate agent, you likely will be assigned a home inspector who provides services for those larger companies. If this is the case, you likely won’t have any say in hiring the inspector. However, if you’re going to retain the services of a home inspector, you should verify your credentials.
What former clients have to say holds merit as it speaks to the home inspector’s ability to complete a thorough inspection. You should work with a home inspector who has successfully served a realtor or clients with similar homes near the property you are selling or buying.
4. What does home inspection include?
Home inspections should be as thorough as possible. However, to compare inspectors, you need to know what the inspection includes. A general home inspection — to verify the condition of a property for a transaction will include all major systems and areas of construction, including:
- The property’s exterior, such as driveways, walkways, and fencing.
- Property foundation, walls, and structure.
- Electrical Panel and System, Plumbing, and Framing.
- The condition of major appliances and home systems (such as heating and AC).
The critical item to clarify with this question is to ensure that the inspection you’re requesting — fits the requirements of lenders, insurance companies, and others.
5. Will you send me a copy of a detailed inspection report?
The home inspection report is critical during negotiation with the seller. Your inspector should be able to prepare and send you detailed reports after completing the inspection. Their report should be detailed oriented and technically accurate. The language and clarity of technical information in a home inspection report will make it easier for all parties to comprehend.
The report can include color photos that will help demonstrate problem areas to construction contractors or repair specialists who may be hired to resolve issues before selling or buying a property. This is important information for a first-time buyer to review prior to deciding on a home purchase.
6. Do you specialize in a specific type of property?
When buying a particular type of property like new construction, or a historic home, you want to ensure that your inspector understands special considerations for the type of property you’re after. New homes may have different framing and materials that demand a more critical eye, while old homes might have issues that recently constructed properties don’t have.
While not all properties require specific expertise, when you’re buying a particular type of a home, ensure your inspector understands what to look for to give you an accurate account of the state of the property.
7. What are your charges?
The general concept of a home inspection is to gather a professional opinion about the property’s overall condition. The experience required to complete this task promptly and efficiently is extensive. As such, you will pay a premium for their expertise.
You might save a few hundred dollars to hire the cheapest home inspector but pay a hefty price if the inspection wasn’t thorough or you couldn’t understand the report. According to the national average home inspection cost, you should expect to pay between $300 and $450 from a reputable inspection company. However, when a larger company is involved, the price can eclipse $500.
5 Crucial Questions to Ask During a Home Inspection
You need to be present during the home inspection to get a real-time evaluation of the state of the property. The questions you should ask during the home inspection process revolve around the following:
- Home maintenance
- Age of various systems
- Overall home quality
- How to operate the home
- Main water shutoff location
- Master GFCI outlet location
Here are some of the important questions you should ask:
1. What is the Condition of the Roof?
One of the most important things to ask during a home inspection is the roof’s condition and age. You should know of any defects like missing shingles, missing flashing, or curling shingles. While you should ask the home seller about the roof’s age, your home inspector should give you an estimate. The roof’s age helps determine how soon it may need replacement or repair.
The question helps you know the roof condition of the home. You’ll also know if the roof has signs of past water leaks. A professional home inspector can estimate the age and life expectancy of the roof. The life span for a standard 3-tab shingle roof is 15 years, and that of architectural shingle roofing is around 25 years. If the home inspector can’t provide you with these details, that should raise a red flag and inspire you to seek a second opinion.
2. What is the Condition of the Insulation in The Attic?
Attic inspection is among the last areas a home inspector checks – but it’s also one of the most important. While home insulation technology has come a long way in recent years, older homes may start to experience issues with the integrity of the insulation itself. Your home inspector should tell if the attic has degraded, damaged, or missing insulation because fixing it can be a costly project.
3. What’s the condition of the HVAC System?
There are three types of HVAC systems in homes located in the United States – all-in-one HVAC systems (such as a heat pump system), a dedicated air conditioning system (or swamp cooler), and a dedicated heating unit. Among significant home appliances, these systems are the most expensive to purchase, repair, and maintain over their lifespan.
4. What is the Condition of Windows
There is a pattern with the questions we recommend asking during the home inspection. Each item above is among the most expensive to repair or replace. Such is the case with the windows of a home. Considering that a window replacement project could cost you over $10,000, your home inspector should be clear on the condition of the windows, the seals, and the sill.
5. Did you notice any structural problems?
Structural problems are the biggest and require further evaluation by structural engineers. Your inspector should help you identify structural problems such as:
- Oddly sloping floors
- Bulging or bowing foundation
- Cracks in foundation
- Improperly cut joists
The question is essential as it will provide you with a quick evaluation of significant issues. If there are structural problems with a home, it’s a good idea to have a secondary inspection completed by a structural engineer. If they discover an issue with the electrical panel or other components of this system, it might be beneficial to consult with an electrician.
What to Ask Home Inspectors After the Inspection? 3 Question Ideas
You’ve gone through the inspection with the home inspector, and at this point, you have a rough idea of the house’s state, but that’s not all. Take a moment to ask the home inspector questions regarding the report or any that you may have forgotten or asked.
1. Can you clarify part of the report for me?
Some parts of the inspection report are challenging to comprehend. Even if you were present during the inspection, it’s normal to need clarification after receiving the report. The question allows your home inspector to expound on any part of the inspection report you didn’t understand.
An expert home inspector should break down any industry jargon and explain the details to you most simply and efficiently for you to understand. The home buying process is complicated — so having a clear understanding of their report will make things easier.
2. How big an issue is this?
The inspection report can be up to 50-100 pages, making it difficult to establish which issues are of grave concern and which ones you should worry less about. You should ask your inspector for clarification. The question reveals major issues your home inspector has highlighted and helps you determine if the home is right for you. Your inspector should tell you if an issue is severe enough to make you consider pausing before deciding to buy the property.
3. Should I hire an expert to fix this problem?
Home inspectors are generalists and know how to spot potential problems and issues. Your home inspector should be able to advise when to contact an expert for an issue within the home. The question helps you separate minor issues from those that require experts.
What to Do if You Get Wrong Answers to Your Home Inspection Questions
No home is perfect, so the report will uncover what you should address. If the inspection report comes back with serious issues, like water damage caused by a damaged water heater for example, you can decide whether to proceed with the purchase.
When you get a problematic report, here are some tips you can consider:
1. Request the seller to incur repair costs
Determine problems you’re comfortable fixing and the ones you want your seller to repair. Consult your agent as they have a good idea of what the seller will take depending on the market condition.
2. Pay for the repairs
When the home you’re eyeing is in a competitive market, and the seller is unlikely to incur the repair bill — or you’re getting a great deal — you can prioritize repairs that impact safety, health, and comfort.
3. Cost-share with the home seller
Sometimes your seller may be willing to incur part of the repair. Consider negotiating costs for major repairs.
4. Walk away
When the inspection report shows a severe home defect that makes you uncomfortable buying the property, you can cancel the contract when you’re still within the inspection period.
Final Points on Questions to Ask a Home Inspector
When preparing to buy a home, it can feel like love at first sight, but you should ask appropriate questions to get a good picture of the property’s condition. Asking your home inspector the right question helps you feel more confident, knowing exactly what you’re getting into with a home.
At HomeGauge, we work with professional home inspectors to ensure every home buyer gets the proper home evaluation to help them make an informed decision before buying a home. Our handy search tool will help you find a home inspector within your area. Contact us today for more information on a home inspection.
Frequently Asked Questions About Home Inspection
Is it okay to ask my home inspector a lot of questions?
Yes, absolutely. The more questions you ask, the better you’ll understand the structure’s condition and the property’s main systems, which may impact your purchasing decision.
What should I bring to a home inspection?
There isn’t a specific item you should bring to your home inspection, but to get the most out of the process, you should carry the following:
- A notebook and pen (an electronic device is acceptable) to jot down notes during the inspection process
- A camera to take photos of the problem areas
What are the most important questions to ask home inspectors when buying a condo?
When buying a condo, the most important questions to ask your home inspector is regarding the condition of:
- Flooring and ceiling
- Wall and window
- Plumbing system
- Kitchen and washroom areas
- The HVAC and electrical system
Is there anything I shouldn’t ask my home inspector?
Personal questions are unnecessary and an intrusion of privacy. It’s essential to be professional and stick to questions regarding the home. The inspector will direct you to a specialist to address questions they can’t handle.