After following my home inspector around for several hours as he considered every nook, cranny, and system in my soon-to-be home, I asked him to give it to me straight: What was his opinion of the house? Was I making a good choice by buying it?
“If one of my kids were trying to buy this house, I’d feel totally comfortable with them moving in,” he said.
OK, a little paternalistic, yes, but the answer satisfied my curiosity. He’d noted all the imperfections and issues of each part of the house, in great detail, on his inspection report. And while none of the problems seemed overly expensive or difficult to fix, since this was my first time buying a place, I really wanted to know whether the house as a whole was good to go.
Throughout the very complicated homebuying process, you’ll cross paths with — and, in some cases, work closely with — a wide variety of people: your real estate agent, the seller’s real estate agent, multiple people in your lender’s office, employees from the title company, a home insurance agent, movers, and maybe even a general contractor or two if you want to do renovations after closing.
And while all of these people play a very important role in getting you into a house, your home inspector is the real MVP.
That’s because, in nearly all homebuying scenarios, you, as the buyer, hire your own home inspector and pay for the inspection. The inspection is for your benefit and your benefit alone.
“An inspector should be part of your A-Team, not an afterthought,” says Nicole Rueth, a Denver-based lender and branch manager at Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation. “This person should be an ally, giving you a punch list of what this home needs.”
The inspector has your best interests in mind — since you paid for the inspection, they’re on your team and can be a huge resource for you. They ultimately don’t care whether or not you move forward with buying this particular house (or any house, for that matter), so they’re an unbiased outsider. (Even your trusty real estate agent has a stake in whether or not you buy a house — and which one — since they get a commission!)
You may not realize this, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer, but you can ask your inspector questions, shadow them for the entire process, have them explain the significance of certain issues, provide additional context, and more.
You can think of an inspector as a highly knowledgeable, private consultant you pay to uncover what you can’t see (and, often, don’t even know to look for) in your would-be home. This person has walked through hundreds, maybe thousands, of properties and could ultimately save you from buying a total money pit.
So keep your friends close, but keep your home inspector even closer — they’re your best friend during the home-buying process.
“A good inspector is available to you after they give you the report to review,” says Rueth. “They should invite you to walk through the home while they are doing the inspection so you can see firsthand what they are pointing out. Being at the inspection as a first-time homebuyer is a huge benefit.”