What Should I Ask The Home Inspector?
When most buyers think about questions to ask a home inspector, it’s usually about things before they hire them.
- How much do you charge?
- What exactly do you look for?
- How long will the inspection last?
While these kind of questions prior to picking a home inspector are essential, I’m going to be educating you on what to ask the inspector after they’re done with the inspection.
The home inspection is often an intense experience for home buyers. You know its coming. You know it’s necessary. But you don’t know what the inspection is going to find—and you definitely don’t know if what the inspector finds is going to make it difficult or impossible to buy the home you have your heart set on.
No wonder home buyers (and sellers) are always so stressed out when it’s time for the home inspection.
Fortunately, in most situations, you are going to find that the home inspection is just one more moderate challenge on your way to getting the home of your dreams.
The report is almost certainly going to contain information that you don’t want to hear. However, most of the things found by home inspectors are manageable and can be dealt with appropriately with a cool head and some basic negotiation skills.
In one way you are quite lucky—you have access to the internet and articles like this one, where you can find valuable, helpful information on what you can do to navigate the home buying process.
Read on to discover some important questions you can ask the home inspector after he or she has completed your home inspection. With these questions, you can clarify a lot of the confusion that tends to accompany home inspections.
Ideally, you will gain insight into the home that you would not have had otherwise, the intel you can use to make an informed decision before you make a final choice about whether to buy the home or not.
Make Sure You Ask Questions!
Before we get to the specific questions you can ask the inspector, it is worth pointing out that you need to ask questions. You may not need to ask every one of the following questions, but you do need to talk to the inspector and find the answers to things you’re unsure about.
Asking questions of the inspector is especially important when you don’t understand something that was said. What you may discover is that what the inspector told you at the inspection is somewhat different than what you see on the report.
In fact, after selling real estate for the past thirty-two years in the Metrowest Massachusetts area, I can tell you this happens quite frequently. Almost always what you hear in person sounds a lot less threatening than what you see in the report.
Home inspections reports often make it seem as if you are buying the lemon nobody wants. Take a deep breath and relax. You are probably dealing with a home that has the typical problems that most properties do.
Unfortunately, some inspectors will cover their ass to the extreme in home inspection reports. More than likely the house isn’t going to collapse around you.
I’ve written about the disconnect between what the home inspector says in person vs what he puts in the report. It shouldn’t happen but does.
The bottom line is you have a right to learn as much as you can about the home before handing over a check. The home inspector should be happy to help you with as much information as you need (as long as the questions you ask are ones that he/she is qualified to answer).
If you look at the inspection report and feel like you understand it all, look again. The best time to pick the brain of the inspector is right now after the inspection has been completed before you give the seller your money.
If you really can’t come up with any questions, run the report by your Realtor and get some feedback from him or her. You will be glad that you took advantage of the inspector’s first-hand knowledge of the home later—whether you buy it or walk away from it.
Questions Every Buyer Should Ask the Home Inspector After the Inspection
1. Can you explain this to me?
Unless you are a home inspector yourself, chances are there will be some parts of the inspection report that you do not fully understand. It is normal to need some clarification when you get the report, even if you were there for the inspection and already asked a lot of questions (which hopefully you were because there is no better way to understand the state of a home than walking through it with a qualified home inspector).
The report could take a day or two to arrive, and the inspector may explain things differently than he or she did in person.
When you get the report, review it and write down any questions you have or points of clarification that you need. Then give the inspector a call and ask for help with your questions.
2. How big a problem is this?
Part of what makes home inspection reports so unnerving to home buyers is the level of detail they contain. Home inspection reports can be up to 50-100 pages long, depending on the number of issues with the home.
The report will probably contain numerous pictures and detailed notes from the inspector. It can all be overwhelming and leave you feeling like the home is a complete wreck.
Try not to let the amount of information in the report get to you. With most homes, there are only a few issues that are considered significant problems—things that need to be addressed sooner rather than later, or things that might make a sale fall through.
It may be hard to decipher which items are of grave concern and which are less worrisome. That is why you should talk to the inspector and get clarification.
Keep in mind that the inspector is not qualified to tell you whether the seller should be responsible for fixing something. He or she can only tell you if a problem is severe enough to make you pause before you decide to purchase the property.
Your agent is the best qualified to help you decide how to handle serious problems with the home and to help you determine if a home is right for you. Understanding how to negotiate after a house inspection is important for both the buyer and seller.
Keep in mind the purpose of doing a home inspection is not to create a punch list you hand to the seller to make the home perfect. Buyers need to understand the house inspection is to find out if there are serious structural or mechanical issues.
Here are some tips on what not to ask the seller to fix after the inspection is complete.
3. Do I need an expert to look at this problem?
A home inspector is a generalist. He or she knows how to spot issues and potential problems, but is unlikely to be seriously trained in all areas of home repair. However, the home inspector should be able to tell you if it would be a good idea to have an expert come in and examine an issue.
For instance, electricians are qualified to diagnose electrical problems and give estimates on the cost of electrical repairs.
You definitely want to call in experts if the inspector advises you to do so. Your real estate agent will use the repair estimates to negotiate with the seller, whether you decide to seek to have the seller take care of repairs before purchase or to get concessions from the seller for the cost of future repairs.
4. Is this problem normal?
If you get an outstanding inspector, they will take the time to explain if a problem is something you really should worry about or is a common issue. Unfortunately, many home inspectors don’t take the time to do this.
If you have never bought a home before what comes out of the inspector’s mouth can sometimes be terrifying. In fact, it is one of the reasons I recommend real estate agents attend home inspections. Not only is it part of an agent job, but they can also be there to be a sounding board between the client and inspector.
For example, when the inspector says “I found two double tapped wires in the electrical panel and it’s is a safety hazard.” You can often then see the fear in the buyers face. A real estate agent can then say something to the inspector like “how often do you see this?”
The answer, of course, is that it happens quite frequently. While it is something that should be addressed, it’s not the end of the world.
These kinds of situations take place throughout a home inspection. Many issues will be presented while you are there. Some inspectors are great communicators. Frankly, others are piss poor.
There are also inspectors that will intentionally scare the shit out of a buyer, so they don’t buy the home. In every business, there are good and bad people. In the home inspection industry, a lousy inspector will want you to back out of the sale so that they get you to hire them for an inspection on another home. Sad but true.
The seller is left with putting the house back on the market. You potentially could be missing out on a great house.
5. Can you advise me on things I should fix when I move into the home?
There may be some home repairs that should be taken care of pretty quickly after you move in. Problems like leaking pipes are not ones you should ignore.
Waiting for too long to get these repairs might put you in a bad position in the future—causing damage to your property and increasing the cost or inconvenience of getting the repairs.
Your home inspector should be able to point you towards the repairs that would be best done when you arrive at your home. Take note of what he or she says and do your best to address the problems promptly.
That way you can enjoy your new home without needing to stress about issues that you know need to be fixed but are avoiding.
It also always makes sense to repair things that will bring the highest return on investment when it comes time to sell.
Common home inspection problems that should be addressed before moving in:
- Mold – mold is something that should always be dealt with right away, especially if you have any kind of health problems.
- Lead paint – when you have children under the age of six years old living in a house it should be removed. In fact, lead paint removal is a federal law.
- Radon – radon is a health hazard when you are exposed to it over a long period of time. You should always have radon remediated to safer levels when they are found to be high.
- Any serious structural or mechanical defect.
- Any kind of safety hazard that could cause physical harm to you, your family or guests.
Other Home Inspection Resources Worth Reading
With a home inspection being one of the most significant hurdles in a real estate transaction, it is important for both buyers and sellers to be highly educated on the process. Here are some additional home inspection resources worth checking out.
Preparing for a home inspection – see what sellers can do to prepare for a home inspection. There are lots of little things that can and should be addressed before an inspection takes place.
Problems a home inspector may not find – keep in mind a home inspector is only in the home for a few hours. There are home inspection issues that are hard to detect for such a short visit.
Top home inspection problems – here are some of the most common home inspection issues that should not be taken lightly.
Additional Helpful Home Buying Resources
- What to know about buying a house sight unseen via John Cunningham.
- Picking an ASHI certified inspector is wise.
- What to do after buying a home via Luke Skar.
- Only hire licensed and insured contractors via Conor MacEvilly.
Use these additional resources to make great decisions when you are purchasing a house.
About the Author: The above Real Estate information on questions to ask the home inspector after the inspection is completed was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 31+ Years.
Are you thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!
I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.