Purchasing a home is no small investment. And a few months after handling your closing costs is not the moment you want to incur a four- or five-figure surprise — like, say, learning that the roof of your recent purchase needs to be replaced.
This is where the importance of the home inspection comes in. It gives you an in-depth snapshot of the home’s current state and prepares you with information about what repairs and maintenance may be required, both immediately and within the coming years.
To help prevent you from facing your own pricey shocker, we consulted home inspectors and a broker for questions to ask your home inspector. Always come prepared.
A standard of practice details what an inspection will and won’t include. Especially if you’re a first-time home buyer, asking about it will help you anticipate what to expect from the process. “This is a lot of money,” says Rick Ursitti, certified home inspector at Pillar to Post in La Cañada, California. “So understanding how your home will be inspected is critical.” He also suggests asking for a copy of that specific standard of practice. Pillar To Post, Ursitti notes, uses the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) standard of practice. Your home inspector may use a state-specific standard, but the components should be pretty similar.
In addition to helping you plan your day, this can give you a sense of how thorough the inspection will be. “If they say an hour, I wouldn’t trust it,” says Ursitti. “A typical average 2,000-square-foot home should take about three hours.” If you’re looking at a condo, he suggests about two hours.
Ursitti explains that, if something is missed during an inspection and is a safety issue, your home inspector may be responsible for correcting the problem. “Pillar To Post home inspectors are required to carry insurance that protects both the inspector and buyer’s agent for potential missed issues or safety concerns,” he says. “It is always a good idea to ask. Don’t always assume an inspector carries coverage.”
“Those are the big-ticket items if you have to repair them,” says CJ Brasiel, broker owner at Veridian Realty in San Jose, California. “If they’re at the end of their life or old, those are the problems.” If you want to get more specific on one or all of these components, she suggests asking: Has the electrical been updated? Is it copper plumbing? Are there any drainage issues, and are there any structural issues because of the foundation? Is the roof leaking?
This is another question that lets you know how thorough your inspection is going to be, and can help you discover problems that could become larger issues down the line. “I have found so many shower leaks or drains under the house that you would not have seen if I didn’t go under the house,” says Ursitti. “Sometimes there’s a limitation, but the inspector will make whatever attempt they can. I went under a house that I shouldn’t have gone under because of size, and it turns out I found a $140,000 foundation problem.”
After an inspection, your home inspector will leave you with a report of what they found throughout the home. “I would suggest that people really read and look over their inspection report,” says Eddie Friendly, owner of Friendly Home Inspections in Lawrenceville, Georgia. The inspector may go over it with you, but don’t hesitate to reach out after the fact if you’re left with lingering questions about what fixes and maintenance your property needs.