Get A Home Inspection
The importance of getting your potential home inspected cannot be overstated. So we’ll make it simple: there is never a good reason to skip this step. Even if it’s a new construction, or the seller just had it inspected before putting it on the market, you must get it inspected yourself. Period.
What they don’t do
Building code compliance
An inspector won’t tell you whether the sun room the seller installed last year actually meets the building code criteria of that county or state.
Presence or absence of toxic agents
Your home might have a series of potentially toxic chemicals or agents, like asbestos, radon, mold, mildew, lead, or rodents, any of which can lead to very serious health issues. Inspecting for these kinds of issues is often above and beyond the “standard” inspection routine, so you need to specifically ask if your inspector will be investigating those issues, and if not, you’ll need to investigate them yourself. That could include asking the seller whether they’ve ever put a home radon-testing kit in the basement, for instance, or checked the paint for presence of lead. If they haven’t, you may wish to discuss sharing the costs of those additional tests, especially if there is any reason to suspect any of the above could be an issue.
Any areas they cannot physically reach
Home inspectors can only inspect the parts of a home they can access. So while they may report a potential foundation problem, for instance, you will then need to hire a foundation engineer to really get under your home to confirm it. They can’t visually get into most areas where one might find termite damage, either, so if there’s any reason to suspect termites you’ll need to hire a specialist to find those, too.
The health of plants or trees
If you’re buying a home in particular because you’ve fallen in love with the yard or garden, you’ll need to take a careful look yourself to see whether the vegetation is healthy, free from disease, or even alive. Many trees slowly rot away from the inside for years before suddenly falling over, and most inspectors won’t be able to assess whether that might be the case.
3 Steps to finding an inspector
Ask your agent
This is one area that your agent can only partially help with, because in some states it is considered a conflict of interest for a real estate agent to recommend an inspector. In theory, a less scrupulous agent might recommend inspectors they know are good at “making a deal happen” (in other words, those that don’t necessarily inspect too carefully and therefore rarely find anything that might disrupt or postpone a sale).
Search on your own
The easiest way to find them is by doing a local search online.
Inspect your inspector
In other words, when you have two or three potential options, give them a call and ask a couple questions. Good ones include:
1. Can I see a sample inspection report?
Good inspectors include photos and very detailed, long-form narrative (not just checklists) as part of their work.
2. Do you offer a guarantee?
If the inspector misses something important (like a broken furnace), some will offer a “guarantee period” (say, 30 – 60 days) during which time they would pay for the cost of the repair themselves.
3. How many homes in this area have you inspected, and have you noticed any patterns?
Ideally you’d want to use an inspector who has done at least 250 inspections, which is the minimum required to qualify for some professional associations. Assuming they have, ask whether they’ve noticed any patterns worth knowing about. Houses in an area often suffer from similar issues. A good inspector will be especially alert to issues that may be unique to your neighborhood.