You Need to Ask Your Home Inspector These 17 Questions

September 22, 2016 , In: Advice, Real Estate , With: 9 Comments
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You think you’ve found the home of your dreams. Excellent! The next step now is to make sure it’s not the home of your nightmares. A home inspector lets you know if there’s anything ugly hidden behind those beautiful walls. You’ll get the lowdown on the house’s condition so you can make an informed decision. This means you should come locked and loaded with question to ask your home inspector.

Don’t wait for the inspector’s report to show up, though. Go along on the walk-through. Sure, you’ll eventually get a copy of the results, but that’s not as enlightening as being on the scene and getting to pick the expert’s brain. So, from roof to basement, from inside to outside, here are 17 questions to ask your home inspector during the inspection:

1. How long do you think the roof will last?

The inspector can estimate the remaining lifespan of the roof. You might even get advice about how to squeeze out an extra year or two. Minor repairs now could put off an expensive roof replacement until you’ve had time to save for it.

2. What kind of insulation is in the attic? Is it enough? Is there proper ventilation?

If you live in an area that gets cold weather, your attic insulation might never be enough. Find out if it’s at least adequate. Insufficient insulation nudges your energy bill way up. To the point that you will not feel #blessed.

3. How do I operate the gas fireplace-thermostat-air conditioner?

If there’s an appliance you’re not familiar with, ask your home inspector how to handle it. Don’t be embarrassed. You won’t be the first homebuyer to wonder. Everyone knows you’re not the expert here.

4. Are there enough smoke alarms? Really, really enough?

Smoke detectors are super easy to install, and your inspector can make site suggestions, if necessary. Stop worrying!

Old Window Wood

5. What shape are the windows in?

Do they need replacement? Caulking? Again, think energy conservation here. Warmed or cooled air that escapes through your windows takes your money with it.

6. How does the siding look?

You’re not asking if the inspector likes the color. You want a heads up about cracking, distortion, buckling or improperly installed siding — though you may get a color comment tossed in for free.

7. What’s the drainage like outside the house?

You’ll learn where to plant flowers and if you have a water issue. Problems with gutter flow, downspout location or foundation integrity might be fixable, or they may be signs of impending doom.

8. Is the basement dry enough? If not, what can be done?

A wet basement can be a nuisance, but it can also be a sign of looming structural concerns. Your inspector can tell you if — and how much — you should panic.

9. How’s that electrical panel look? What about the wiring?

Electricity is magic. Ok, it’s actually a scientific phenomenon, but many homebuyers find it mysterious. Your inspector can tell you if there’s room to expand within the electric panel for that hot tub you want and whether or not the wiring is going to necessitate a visit from the fire department anytime soon.

Heater

10. How does the heating system work? How old is it?

Do you know your heat exchanger from your supply register? If not, your inspector can fill you in. At the very least, you should know whether you have a boiler or furnace. When — no, if — there’s a problem, you’ll be better prepared to handle it. Get the inspector’s opinion on how old and efficient the system is so you won’t be surprised when winter rolls around.

11. How old is the water heater, and how big is the tank?

Water heaters need replacing after about 15 years. How much life is left in yours? Ask you home inspector to make an educated guess.

12. And while we’re talking water, where’s the main shut-off? Gas and electricity, too. You know, just in case.

You may never need to apply this, but you need to know exactly where the shutoffs are so you can get to them fast.

13. Are there any structural problems? (Please, please, no)

This is the essential question. If the foundation is flawed, the house may come tumbling down at some point. Even if the problem is fixable, it’s going to be expensive. Vertical steel supports, horizontal anchors, displaced walls — do you really want to get involved in all that?

14. Are there any tests I should have done?

Sorry, you didn’t leave testing behind when you finished school, but you don’t have to study for these assessments. Depending on what the inspector finds, you might want a radon gas, drinking water or other important tests done. It may help to ask your home inspector how they would prioritize the importance of them.

15. Is it really bad? Or just kinda bad?

If the inspector finds a problem — any problem — it may seem overwhelming. But should it be? If you’re new to the homeowner game, you may not be certain if a plumbing issue is an easy fix or a deal breaker.

16. Does it need to be fixed soon? If so, what type of professional should I hire?

Certain problems require immediate attention. Faulty wiring that can lead to electrocution goes near the top of that list. No, wait, put it at the top. But sometimes it’s OK to postpone repairs for a while — even years — or actually, wait until something breaks.

If you trust your inspector, ask for referrals. You might get the name of a reliable roofer, plumber or another expert. You could also find out it’s actually a do-it-yourself job.

17. What’s that thing? I don’t understand X. What does that mean?

This might be the most important question of all: anything you don’t understand. You’re a homebuyer, not an inspector. That’s why you hired a professional. If you see something strange, ask what’s up. If the inspector gives an explanation that sounds like gobbledygook to you, ask for clarification. Additionally, if you see something alarming but the inspector is unfazed, ask why. Get the point? All together now: If you’re uncertain, ask.

A problematic inspection is one of the most common reasons a home sale falls through. Sure, you love the house now, but what about in one year? Five? Ten? A home inspection helps prevent potential heartbreak.

 

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You Need to Ask Your Home Inspector These 17 Questions
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You Need to Ask Your Home Inspector These 17 Questions
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Before signing on the dotted line to buy a home, you need to get it inspected. Here are 17 questions you should ask your home inspector.
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Your Wild Home
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Megan

Editor at Your Wild Home
Hey! I'm Megan. I am a dog-lover and enjoy exploring the outdoors. Your Wild Home covers a lot of topics, including (but not limited to) home improvement, home decor, construction, real estate, and sustainability. I enjoy writing in third-person and I am addicted to chocolate, coffee, and terrible puns. Learn more on my About Me page!

Latest posts by Megan (see all)

    • Christy Ufford
    • September 26, 2016
    Reply

    How do you answer the hydrostatic test question?

      • Megan
      • September 27, 2016
      Reply

      Hey, Christy! Thanks for asking. A prospective homeowner should get a hydrostatic test done if they suspect that there is a leak in a drain pipe under the home. Important mostly for homes that are older or where the foundation/ground might be compromised causing stress on the systems underneath the house. You can read more about hydrostatic testing here: http://www.vortextechnologiesinc.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2&limitstart=1

    • Reply

      Christy, What type of Hydrostatic Test?
      Supply, waste system or heating boiler?

  1. Reply

    Megan, Nice article, and good questions to ask. However, these questions are very basic-general questions and are the main body of a home inspection.
    I was really hoping for 17 questions to ask a Home Inspector before you hire them. We have a lot of unqualified Inspectors out there. The Inspection is only as good as the Inspector. Even if you’re in a State that has licensing, doesn’t signal a qualified inspector, just that he’s/she’s good at testing. Unfortunately, here in Michigan we have no licensing.

      • Megan
      • September 30, 2016
      Reply

      Hey, Jim! Thank you for jumping in to help answer Christy’s question. I am by no means a certified home inspector so your insight is really appreciated! The aim of this post was to address the home inspection process, not the hiring of the home inspector.
      That being said, I do accept guest posts on Your Wild Home. If you come up with 10-20 questions (600~800 words or so) that you think would be appropriate to ask a home inspector before hiring them, I would be happy to consider publishing the post (and attribute it to you). Send it over to meganbwild@gmail.com if you’re interested! 🙂

    • Becky
    • October 12, 2016
    Reply

    What questions should a home owner ask an inspector before hiring him/her?

      • Megan
      • October 12, 2016
      Reply

      Hey, Becky!

      Some good questions to ask would be:
      – How long have you been a home inspector? Full-time or part-time?
      – How many home inspections have you performed?
      – How long do you spend on-site for the inspection?
      – What type of report do you produce?
      – How and when will I receive a copy of the report?
      – Is there a written warranty on your service?
      – Does your contract limit your liability?
      – What type of insurance do you carry and what are the amounts of your coverage?
      – Do you have any complaints lodged against you?
      – What type of inspector training have you completed?
      – How often do you attend continuing education?
      – Are you a member of the American Society if Inspectors?

      I got the above list from Allen Baker of Inspection Specialists out in AZ! It’s definitely a good starting point 🙂

  2. Reply

    Hi Megan
    All good points except for #4. I check to make sure there are smoke detectors on all levels of the home but recommend changing all smoke detectors prior to occupancy. Smoke detectors have a expiry date and are cheap and easy to replace.

    Your list of questions in the comments to ask a home inspector prior to hiring are good as well.

    Cheers

      • Megan
      • April 14, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks for reading & your insight, Larry!

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