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A home purchase is likely the most valuable investment you’ll ever make. Thus, you don’t want to get it wrong.
While it isn’t mandatory to hire a home inspector, hiring one signifies that you don’t want anything to go wrong with your first property purchase.
However, it doesn’t just end at hiring home inspectors. You should also know how to extract relevant information from them to justify your investments.
If this is your goal, we’ve made it simpler. Here are some questions to ask a home inspector when buying a house to avoid future regrets.
Top Questions to Ask a Home Inspector
1- Are you licensed or certified?
Before shelling out cash for a home inspector to check out your building, you should enquire about the legitimacy of his claims.
Some states require licensing for inspectors, and your home inspector should have one of the required home inspection certificates.
To make sure you’re getting the bang for your buck, you should only hire home inspectors that have been certified by ASHI or NACHI.
These agencies are two of the best home inspection certification organizations, and they have thousands of certified inspectors across the United States.
Inspectors holding a Certified Master Inspectors (CMI) are some of the best in the world. Given that they must complete 1000 fee-based home inspections to get this certification, it’s no wonder why.
2- What’s the roof condition?
The roof is probably the most important part of a building, depending on who you ask. The home inspector’s report should contain good information on the roof if you know where to check.
Since most people don’t go through the report anyways, it’s crucial to ask the home inspector during or immediately after the inspection.
The home inspector should provide an estimate of the age of the roof. Most insurance companies won’t insure houses when the roof is over 35 years old, so you should note that.
Some home inspectors do walk the roof to detect problems that are otherwise impossible to notice. Even if they cost slightly higher, you should find one that walks the roof if you don’t fancy the idea of replacing the roof in no time.
As an alternative to walking the roof, some home inspectors only use binoculars from a distance. Note that some conditions make it technically unsafe to walk the roof.
3- Does the house have a defective drainage system?
You surely don’t want to move into a house with high flooding risk. A faulty drainage system makes frequent appearances on home inspectors’ reports and shouldn’t go unnoticed.
To ensure that this doesn’t go unnoticed, you should ask the inspector if the home has any drainage issues that need fixing.
If the drainage is irreparably bad, you may want to reconsider your purchase choice. The home inspector should estimate how much repairs would cost and if it’s a good idea at all.
4- Are the windows good?
Trying to replace faulty windows all over a house could be an expensive undertaking. Depending on the size of the house, you could be spending north of $10,000.
To avoid side costs like this after purchasing a house, you should ask the home inspector about the windows right off the bat.
In general, learn to walk away from homes with single-pane windows. Modern windows have two panes and are more insulating.
Also, keep an eye on Windows that don’t open or shut. You can also ask the home inspector to estimate the cost required to fix the windows. That should help you make a firm decision.
5- How much do you charge?
No other question listed here matters if you can’t even afford the home inspector’s charges.
It’s necessary to ask this question before the inspection, although the inspector should provide it without you having to ask. Most home inspectors will expect you to pay up once the service is complete.
A home inspection typically costs around the $250 to $500 range, although some premium home inspectors can charge up to $1,000 for an inspection service.
There is also the question of the accepted payment methods. Since there are options like card payment, writing a check, or paying in raw cash, you should ask the home inspector what they prefer.
6- Do you think the home is a flip?
Home flippers buy defaulted homes for a low price, do some basic fixes and try to sell them at a higher price.
While there is nothing bad about home flipping, quick fixes may hide the real problem. It’s not uncommon for homebuyers to purchase a flipped house, only to reveal lots of problems later.
Flipped homes usually lack the attention that one gives to a home purchased with the intent to reside. Since the goal is to sell at the highest price, most of the renovation is on cosmetics.
You should consider asking what the home inspector thinks of the property, even if it’s flipped. Some flipped houses surprisingly don’t show any sign of problems for a few years.
7- Is there anything I should do immediately I move in?
If you’re like the 200 million homebuyers who don’t read home inspector reports, you need to ask this question after the inspection process.
There are basic fixes you should make to a new house before or immediately after moving in. While these may not be significant faults, they could make you feel like you wasted money on a home inspector.
To avoid that, ensure you question the home inspector to list everything you need to do after moving in for a happy experience.
8- Is the heating and cooling system functional? How do I operate them?
One of the basic checks home inspectors make is turning on the HVAC. This check is to verify if it works and how well it works.
Some houses have faulty HVAC systems, so you should ask the inspector if the heating and cooling system for the home needs further checks and repair.
Try verifying from the home inspector that the ducts on the HVAC work perfectly. They control the quality of the air inside the home, making it comfortable to stay.
If you’ve never had an HVAC or don’t know how to use it, you should ask the home inspector to show you how to operate it. You can also ask for typical settings for the state you’re moving to, as weather conditions vary across states.
9- Would you buy the house if it were up to you?
A professional home inspector won’t help you make a buying decision. While this fact makes it look like this question is practically useless, it isn’t.
This question could help reveal the inspector’s honest stance on the state of the house. If the house has faults that you could be deal-breakers, you may get the home inspector to divulge it, even if you didn’t ask specifically.
Experienced home inspectors will let you understand that buying the house is your decision while giving you crucial information that could help you make an informed decision.
Always remember this: don’t expect a yes or no answer to this question.
10- Is there any termite damage?
Termites may be minutely small, but the damage they do is exponentially big. In the United States alone, the average worth of damage made by termites is worth billions of dollars.
Before having a home inspector check a house, you should ask the homeowners if there is a running termite contract and if the house undergoes annual termite checks.
If that isn’t the case, then you may need the home inspector to check for any termite damages. You should fix them if there are any and ensure that you get a termite contract afterward.
It’s important not to confuse termite control with pest control. Termite treatment is significantly more expensive and requires annual checks, as opposed to the once-in-90-days pest control treatment.
11- Has the home gone through significant renovation?
If you’re buying an old house that seems to have gone through some renovation over the years, you may want to verify the suspicion from the home inspector.
Home inspectors can usually tell if some renovation work has been done on the property. In addition, they should be able to say if it was done properly.
If many things have changed in the house, you should make further inquiries from the homeowner on who did them and when.
Judging from the collected information, you can decide whether to hire a professional to fix the faults or reconsider your buying decision.
12- Do I need to ‘bring the home up to code?’
The confusing nature of building codes makes it tricky for homebuyers. While you can continue to live in a house that isn’t up to the current building code, you must bring the house up to code if you want to renovate the home.
Since you’ll probably renovate the home after the purchase, you should worry if the house is up to code. A home that doesn’t meet the current building code standards will only cost more to renovate.
During the inspection exercise, it is crucial to enquire if the home meets the specified codes of the National Electrical Code (NEC), the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
The home doesn’t meet any or most of these codes doesn’t mean it’s not a good deal. It only gives you an opportunity for a more flexible negotiation, using the defect to support your arguments.
13- Is the plumbing system defective?
The plumbing is one of the aspects of the house that will keep you up at night if you ignore it.
If you’re not willing to shell out the $5000 or so required to replumb a house, you should ask many questions about the house’s plumbing systems.
If you’re buying an old apartment, you should ensure that it doesn’t use outdated plumbing solutions like polybutylene or galvanized pipes.
Today, most houses have CPVC water piping, but copper is even better. If the home is up to the UPC, you should have no issues with the plumbing.
14- Can you provide any references from past clients?
Before hiring a home inspector, you may want to be sure you’re getting the bang for your buck. The best way to ensure this is to hire someone with some experience.
No experience is as reassuring as experience with happy clients, so you can ask the home inspector for testimonials and reviews from past clients to justify your decision.
If you’re the type the reads the home inspector’s reports, you can also ask for a sample report to see if the inspector is someone you’ll like to hire.
Overall, it’s pretty hard to find a deficient home inspector, but hiring a bad one isn’t a pleasant way to lose money, as it can be very costly.
15- Can I be present during the inspection?
Most of the questions here only apply if you are available in person during the home inspection. Therefore, being present with the home inspector during the exercise is very crucial.
Being present during the inspection gives you a first-hand view of what you’re purchasing and lets you see and learn how to maintain the appliances in the home.
While you can always read the report presented after the inspection, it is more satisfying to come along during the exercise, asking questions when you’re confused.
If a home inspector doesn’t want you to be present during the inspection, he’s either joking or not an inspector.
The only person that can decide not to be at an inspection is you.
16- Are the smoke detectors in good order?
Home fires are getting increasingly common, and the need for proactive prevention and evacuation has never been so great.
After a round of home inspections, you should ask about the smoke detectors, both the functionalities and the quantity.
Typically, home inspectors may blow fake smoke into a smoke detector to set off the alarm to test if the device works.
Also, there should be multiple functional smoke detectors around the home to ensure maximum safety to the occupants at all times.
While it should be in the report, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
17- What home maintenance tips do you recommend?
When moving into a new home, you may need to use new appliances that you don’t use at home previously.
These appliances require specific maintenance instructions that you won’t know.
While you can use Google to find out the maintenance tips for these appliances, nothing compares to a hands-on tutorial by an expert.
Since you’ve paid the home inspector to check the house for you, it doesn’t harm to ask for help in learning how to maintain them to ensure that they remain in good working condition.
While walking around the house with your home inspector, you can ask for the uses of strange appliances, as well as the maintenance instructions.
18- Will I need to call in another expert?
A home inspector’s job is to check a property for possible faults and make recommendations. That makes it perfectly reasonable to ask your home inspector if you’ll need other professionals to come to check the house before moving in.
For instance, if the house has some plumbing problem, you may ask your home inspector to recommend a relevant plumber to fix it.
While you can pick up a random professional from a Google search, you are more likely to find better ones through a home inspector, as they work with them every day.
19- Do you provide pictures in your digital reports?
If you’d like to have your home inspection done while you’re away, you should request a picture of everything.
Since a picture is better than a thousand words, you should have your home inspector submit a digital report with more pictures than boring text. Plus, who reads textual reports anyways?
Ideally, home inspection reports should have scores, if not hundreds of pictures. Having some videos embedded in the report also breaks no rules.
And if a home inspector doesn’t provide digital reports, don’t hire them. Almost every qualified home inspector will agree to send the report over email.
Not everyone hires a home inspector to check out their potential home purchases. If you do, you should get the most out of your investment.
The best way to get the most out of the home inspection service is by reading through the report. If that seems stressful, there is a second-best way: questioning the home inspector in person.
While it seems easy to ask a couple of questions, it may not be as easy as you think. To simplify the process, here is a list of questions to ask a home inspector when buying your next house.
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