1. “What are your qualifications for being a home inspector?” – Is the inspector licensed? Does the inspector have any certifications? A good home inspector should know more about building a home besides what he sees on home improvement shows. Experience in the construction field helps as does a familiarity with local building codes. There are online courses, home inspection schools and both national and international organizations that can teach the trade and certify the student. It is also important that the inspector is licensed in the state in which they practice. Not all states require a license to practice, but most do.
2. “How much experience do you have as a home inspector?” – A good indicator of an inspector’s experience is the number of inspections they’ve performed. A low number may indicate the inspector is new on the job or perhaps they don’t inspect homes as a full time job. A high number usually indicates the inspector has been on the job for a while and hopefully has the experience to recognize a wide array of potential issues.
3. “Are you insured?” – An important question to ask because home inspecting is a dangerous business. Inspectors can fall off roofs or through ceilings or get electrocuted by faulty electrical systems. If an inspector is injured on the job and his company isn’t properly insured, lawsuits may ensue. In some states, Washington being one of them, home inspectors are not required to have insurance and a surprising number of them don’t so be sure to ask before hiring.
4. “Do you or your company perform repair work on the houses you inspect?” – The answer should be an immediate and resounding “No.” This conflict of interest is not only unethical but in many states it is illegal unless there is a span of at least a year between the time of the inspection and the time of the repair.
5. “How much does a home inspection cost?” – Typical home inspections cost around $300 to $500. Beware of the “One low price for all” kind of pricing. The larger the home is and the more amenities there are ordinarily translates to more work and a higher price. Don’t purchase an expensive, elaborate home and pay for an inspection that is priced for a studio apartment. The potential for cutting corners is high and most likely you’ll end up regretting that decision.
6. “How long will the inspection take?” – Inspections vary by square footage and the complexity of the house. The more there is to inspect, the longer the inspection takes. Apartments and condos usually take 2 – 3 hours. A medium sized home 3 – 4 hours. Occasionally inspectors come across a mega mansion. These inspections can last an entire day even when working with a team of inspectors.
7. “Can I come along during the inspection?” – While it can be somewhat inconvenient for inspectors to have the client “underfoot” during an inspection, inspectors should always remember this is the client’s time. They are paying for the inspection and are the very reason the inspector is on site to begin with. They buyer has a very limited amount of time to become familiar with the house before purchasing. Being on site gives the buyer a chance to address their concerns with the inspector face to face, and at the same time provides the buyer with an opportunity to see the results of the inspection in person.
8. “Can you provide a sample home inspection report?” – Ask your prospective inspector for a sample report. Expect the report to be at least 5 – 10 pages in length even if the house is in pristine condition. A good home inspector isn’t just looking for defects but is in a sense preparing a status report for the client. Some of the things a client deserves to know include the type of roofing, what kind of foundation does the home have, the various types of fuels used, documentation of the heating and cooling systems, the approximate ages of these systems, and where the fuel and water shut off valves are located just to name a few. Be wary of an inspection report less than 5 pages.
9. “When will I receive the report?” – Often times there is a short, finite amount of time in which to have the house inspected, the results documented and if needed, to engage in negotiations for repairs with the buyer. A timely report will facilitate this process and should take no longer than 24 hours to deliver to the buyer.
10. “What do you check? What don’t you check?” – A good inspection should range from the foundation to the roof and include everything in between. There are limitations however. Inspectors do not have crystal balls and obviously can’t tear down walls so what they perform is referred to as a non-invasive, visual examination. Home inspections are not technically exhaustive. Inspectors are usually on site for less than four hours so they are limited to a mostly visual inspection, with the obvious exception of the major systems such as heating & cooling, plumbing, electrical. Where possible, these systems should be run, documented and referred to an expert if issues arise. The same goes for the stationary appliances such as dishwashers and ovens. Many inspectors opt out of testing the fire prevention sprinkler systems and security alarms leaving them for certified experts.