How can I make sure I don't get screwed on my home inspection?

Monday, July 2, 2018

Once you and the seller have finished negotiations and signed a residential sales contract, the clock starts ticking on the inspection period. It can be as short as a few days or up to several weeks, but the time flies by fast. If you don’t want regrets over what you should have done if you had only known better, follow our 7 simple steps that put you in control of the process to get everything you need:

  1. Line up an inspector right away. The best inspectors are often booked up for a week or more, so half of the average inspection period is gone right away, even if you make your appointment as soon as you have a contract. Don’t wait. Do it immediately.
  2. Get an inspector with construction experience. Home inspectors are now required to provide proof of education and/or experience, and take a test, to get an inspection license in most states. But one that has actually built houses is a good choice. Even better is an inspector that is also a licensed building contractor.
  3. Talk to 2 or 3 inspectors before deciding. Your realtor will usually provide  a list of several inspectors, but recommendations from friends that have recently bought a house are another excellent source. A visit to the each inspector’s website can give you preliminary information before you call. Many inspectors post their prices on their website, while others want you to call them or fill out an online “inspection request” form before providing a price quote. If you are having trouble finding an inspector in your area, the websites of two national home inspector associations, ASHI (www.ashi.org) and InterNACHI (www.nachi.org), will provide contact info for nearby inspector members based on the zip code of the house. 
  4. Verify that the inspector actually gets up on the roof. Home inspectors are not required to walk the roof, and some only examine it from the edge on a ladder. Defects that require roof replacement or repair are the most expensive ones found during the average home inspection, and a good evaluation can’t be done without seeing the whole roof surface up close. Some roofs are too steep to walk on safely and have to be examined from a ladder or with a drone, but ask any potential inspector about their method of examining a roof. If the description sounds a little hazy, with multiple disqualifiers for actually getting up on it and looking around, move on. 
  5. Insist on a firm price for the inspection before making the appointment. Getting an accurate price in advance, with no surprise additions after the inspector pulls into the driveway, is the best scenario for both homebuyer and inspector. But it requires two things: that you accurately describe the property, and the inspector disclose any additional charges for things like outbuildings, termite inspection, pool, an older home, or a crawl space. It’s a good idea to have the inspector email or text you a price quote when you make the appointment that itemizes the charges.
  6. Be there for the inspection and ask lots of questions. Not much happens during the first twenty minutes of an inspection while the inspector gets set up and oriented to the layout of the house. So, if you want to arrive a little late, that’s fine. But plan on attending the rest of the inspection until the very end to get the best up-close and detailed information from your inspector. Not all inspectors like to be followed around and asked questions while they are working, so see how your inspector wants to present the information and respond to your concerns.
  7. Allow additional time for any necessary follow-up evaluations and contractor estimates. Although some inspectors will provide “ballpark” estimates on repairs that don’t require further evaluation, any big-ticket items where you would feel more comfortable with an actual contractor bid, or ones that need further evaluation by a contractor, will require additional time. Make sure you a have at least 3 or 4 days after the inspection for this work, so you have all the facts and can make a decision without being rushed.
        This means you need a minimum of 10 days for your inspection period. We occasionally get a call from a frantic homebuyer needing “any time you can possibly squeeze us in for an inspection today or tomorrow. The seller only gave us 5 days for the inspection!” That’s nonsense. The inspection period is a negotiable item in your contract, just like the sale price and closing date, so be sure to insist on enough time for adequate due diligence. A seller that’s rushing you is hoping you won’t look too closely at what you are buying until after you have moved in. 

   Getting through the inspection period can be stressful, and we hope these tips reduce your anxiety level. Happy house-hunting!

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 

  To learn more strategies for getting the best possible home inspection, here’s a few of our other blog posts:

What is a home inspector not allowed to do?

How can I make sure I don't get screwed on my home inspection? 

How thorough is a home inspector required to be when inspecting a house?

Should I trust the Seller's Property Disclosure Statement?

Can I do my own home inspection?

How can homebuyers protect themselves against buying a house over a sinkhole? 

The seller gave me a report from a previous home inspection. Should I use it or get my own inspector? 

    To read about issues related to homes of particular type or one built in a specific decade, visit one of these blog posts:

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1940s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1950s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s house?

• What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1970s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1980s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1990s house?

What problems should I look for when buying a country house or rural property? 

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been moved?

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been vacant or abandoned?

What are the most common problems with older mobile homes?

What do I need to know about a condo inspection?

What are the "Aging In Place" features to look for when buying a retirement home?

   Visit our HOME INSPECTION page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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