After you’ve finally chosen a house, made an offer, and set up a closing date, the next big step is the home inspection. Don’t let this final hurdle intimidate you – and don’t go into an inspection without having some idea what the inspector is looking for and what types of questions you should ask. Also, don’t rely on the real estate agent to find the inspector – find one on your own. Don’t think that a newly-build house doesn’t need an inspection – it does. Even new homes will have some issues, and you need to know those repair costs before you sign on the dotted line.
First, take a look around yourself. The first time you saw this house, you were probably blinded by the things you loved about it. Now is the time to give it a once-over with a critical eye. The yard should slope slightly down and away from the house. If the land slopes toward the house, make sure there is some type of drainage. Look at the roof – are there any ripples or dents? Is the roof line straight? Take a walk around the outside of the house and look for things you may not have noticed during your showing. Is the siding or stucco in good shape? Are there any cracks or bubbles? Do you see any signs of termite damage?
If you are able, go inside the house and check that out, as well. Most inspectors won’t look at things like kitchen appliances, air conditioners, smoke detectors, and septic systems. (You’ll probably want a specialist to inspect the septic system.) Take note of where the smoke detectors are located and note the condition of the appliances.
Now, for the inspector’s arrival – be there! A mistake home buyers often make is setting up an inspection and forgetting about it. If the home inspector doesn’t want you there, that should be your clue to find another inspector. When you meet the inspector, ask him about his experience and his qualifications.
Know what to ask. The inspector can’t tell you if you paid a fair price for the house, whether or not the neighborhood will appreciate in value, or whether you should install a pool in the backyard and how that will impact the home’s resale value. Instead, ask him questions about proper drainage around the home, if there are any issues with the roof or the siding, what you can do to seal your basement from moisture, if there are any electrical problems, if the attic is properly insulated, etc.
You can also ask which issues are major and which aren’t. The inspector can’t tell you how much a problem will cost to repair, but he can give you a basic understanding of the severity of the problem and what will have to be done in order to correct it. You can also ask the inspector how to fix something – whether you can fix it yourself easily or if you’ll have to call someone – or if it is just something you need to be aware of (and won’t have to be replaced or repaired immediately). Also, if you don’t know how to operate something (thermostat, water heater, etc.), go ahead and ask! The inspector is usually happy to share his knowledge.
Finally, prioritize the list of repairs. The inspector won’t separate the must-fixes from the minor repairs, and you don’t want to ask the seller to fix everything on the list or you may risk the sale. Instead, use the knowledge you gained by questioning the inspector and talk to your real estate agent. Decide which of the repairs are musts and list those on your repair request form. You want to have any major problems and safety issues addressed, but it is probably best to overlook the crack in the sidewalk or the loose faucet handle.