If you’re diving into the housing market, you’re not alone. Record-low mortgage interest rates have made moving inviting for a lot of people, and a shortage of available properties means that houses are moving quickly — a one-two punch that can create a lot of pressure on buyers to make a quick decision about the the largest purchase they’ll ever make.
If you’re feeling the need for speed as you place an offer on your dream home, there’s one part of the process you should never, ever skip: the home inspection. A thorough home inspection is an important pause in the process that can protect you from making a big mistake. You can’t see cracks in the foundation during an open house, but a trained inspector will be able to scope out any major visible issues that could cost you in the long run. Having a home inspection contingency built into your offer can let you walk away from a house with major issues, ask for repairs, or negotiate a better price.
So how can you make the most of your time with the home inspector? Try these tips for a successful, informative inspection day.
1. Take the day off.
A thorough home inspection takes anywhere between 90 minutes to 3 hours, depending on the size and type of property you’re looking at. A two bedroom condo won’t take as long to review as a five-bedroom single family home, but in every case the inspector has a comprehensive checklist to cover — and that process takes time. This means you’ll need to clear your schedule to give you enough time to travel to and from the property, take in the inspection, and ask any questions you have of the inspector while you’re together face to face.
A half day off work might be enough, but the sheer amount of information you get from the inspector can feel overwhelming. Your head could be spinning with trepidation or with thoughts about paint colors and furniture arrangements. Give yourself a whole day to process the inspection and discuss it with someone you trust. You’ll have a lot to think about!
2. Follow the inspector’s lead.
Home inspectors are highly-trained professionals, and the vast majority have a system for how they work their way through a home to cover the huge checklist of items to review. Give your home inspector room to work, and let them take the lead. Your job is to follow, watch, and listen.
It’s best to think of your inspector as a tour guide through the home’s systems. That tour may start in the basement or attic, but you’ll eventually get to all the parts. Stand back to allow your inspector access to faucets, electrical panels, and any other system. Keep your hands to yourself as they work so you don’t get in the way. You’ll probably be invited to take a closer look at anything noteworthy or problematic, so don’t try to force the inspection to go in a certain order or start testing things on your own.
3. Ask lots of questions.
Following your inspector’s lead doesn’t mean keeping your mouth shut, though. Your home inspector works for you, so don’t be afraid to ask questions as you walk through the house. Most inspectors are in the business because they love houses, and they want to share that love with others. They want to answer your questions and make sure you understand what you’re seeing.
If you’re concerned about coming across as pushy or about breaking the inspector’s concentration, make your first question about the process. Before you start, ask how the inspector prefers to work, and when the best time to ask questions is. If the inspector wants to take questions at the end of the tour or before leaving a room, go ahead and use your notes app to jot down your questions to share later. But don’t walk away at the end until all of your questions have been answered!
4. Keep an open mind.
No house is perfect, and that means that there’s no such thing as a spotless inspection report. Your inspector’s job is to let you know about anything they find that’s not up to snuff in the house, so don’t take it personally. No one is trying to sink your deal or “fail” your dream home. A home inspection is designed to be informative, so take in all that information as neutrally as you can.
It’s not your inspector’s job to tell you what to do with the findings in the report. Once you’re sure you understand the ramifications of the inspection, it’s time to turn to your real estate agent to decide about next steps. Together you’ll talk through whether issues are merely cosmetic or worth renegotiating your offer. If you can take emotions out of this equation, you’ll have a much easier time!
5. Maintain your relationship.
Once you receive your complete inspection report in writing, don’t lose your inspector’s number! You’ll want to get in touch if you have any follow-up questions about what you read. If the inspection leads you to request seller repairs, it’s a good idea to have your inspector come back for a second walkthrough, or re-inspection, to confirm that repairs have been completed and done properly.
You may also want to have additional specialty inspections for the property, particularly if any red flags went up during the standard inspection. For example, if your inspector uncovered evidence of termites, a dedicated pest inspection is a good idea. The same goes for lead inspections and radon testing. If your home inspector doesn’t offer ancillary services, they should be able to provide a referral to someone who does.
No matter how your home inspection turns out, working with a qualified inspector is the key to making an informed decision about your purchase. And if you’re looking for more tips about the home buying and inspection process, HomeGauge is here to help! Check out our Learning Center to learn more, or search our database for a qualified home inspector near you.