Buying a house is probably the biggest purchase that most people will ever make. Given what’s at stake, you want to be sure you’re not buying a lemon. If you’re buying an existing home, a home inspection can save you from getting a house that needs costly repairs from either owner’s neglect or old age.
Even if you’re looking at new construction, however, you should hire an inspector to make sure everything was done correctly during the construction process. Don’t rely on the codes inspectors, as they’re often in a hurry and might miss something important. Paying for a home inspection is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Finding a home inspector you can trust
I’m a big fan of calling around for recommendations as it’s hard to gauge a home inspector from an ad in the phone book or online. You can start by asking your realtor for recommendations and/or comments on home inspectors. Also check with any friends that have bought a house and find out how they liked their inspector.
I’m primarily interested in how thorough the inspector is and whether or not they’ll take the time to explain the results to me. If your friends are open, you might also consider asking them about the price. While you’re not necessarily looking at the lowest price, you don’t want to overpay for your home inspection and break your budget.
Home inspection prices vary according to region and building size. I’ve found that estimated costs in my area are typically $300-$450.
After you have a list of names, go ahead and call the inspectors. While making small talk, ask questions concerning the inspection and their qualifications. Any qualified professional will expect these types of questions and won’t be offended.
If you’re looking for solid questions to ask the potential home inspector, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has a nice resource. I found the questions helpful when calling.
- What does your inspection cover and how much does it cost?
- Are you specifically experienced in residential inspection?
- Do you maintain membership in a professional home inspector association?
Some states, such as North Carolina, have a license for home inspectors, but others don’t. If your state doesn’t have a license requirement, ask the home inspector if they’re a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors. Verify by check with the association yourself. It pays to be diligent.
Be there during the inspection
It’s always a good idea to be present during the inspection. That way the inspector can not only review the results, but they can also point out any particularly problematic areas. Just don’t get in the inspector’s way.
What does a typical home inspection include?
The standard home inspector’s report will cover the condition of the home’s heating system; central air conditioning system (temperature permitting); interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement and structural components.
Make the most of your time by taking notes and paying attention during the inspection. When you receive your report from the inspector, review anything that you don’t understand. You may not have the technical expertise, so take advantage of the fact that you’re paying them to help you.
Have you been through a home inspection?
If you’ve had a home inspected, how did it go? Was the inspector helpful? Did the inspector help you avoid a costly repair? Do you have any tips to share?