A home inspection can be a valuable tool to make sure that you get as much enjoyment out of your new home as possible. You have an opportunity to learn about your new home and how to take care of it. but you only get that benefit if you do it right.
Here are some ways to help you get the most value out of the inspection.
1. Choose the right Home Inspector
The first thing is to make sure you hire the right inspector. This should be done before you make an offer on a home so you can have the time to make a good decision. Ask your Realtor who they recommend. Usually they will give you a short list of inspectors, but don't stop there. Ask friends and relatives that you trust who they would recommend. It is also a good idea to search online to find inspectors in the area. Now you have a starting point but you need to do some research.
Go to each inspector's web sites and check out their credentials and experience. (While there look for a sample inspection report so you can see if it provides the detail you would like and if it is clear and understandable.) Depending on the size of your list, choose the 3 inspectors with the best credentials and experience. Now call each of the inspectors and talk to them for a few minutes. Get a feel for how the inspector answers your questions and how comfortable you feel about dealing with him. If you feel that you could work with him, give him the size range of the home you are looking for and ask him his price for an inspection. Price should be one of the last things you look at but you may find a huge range of prices.
After you talk to all of them, you should have a good idea of which one would fit your needs.
2. Make sure the home can be completely inspected
Too many times I have gone to a home to do an inspection only to find that the electricity or water are turned off. While I can still do an inspection, there could be a number of problems that I will not be able to find if I can't check everything.
3. Schedule the inspection as soon as you can
It is not unusual for the inspector to point out an issue that could be very expensive to correct and recommend that you have another professional check it out. If you wait until your inspection contingency has expired, you may not have the time to do that.
4. Attend the inspection
A home is the biggest investment most people make in their lifetime. Why wouldn't you want to make sure it is the right home for you. Most employers will be willing to allow a few hours time off so you can be there during the inspection. After all, this is the time to use the experience of the inspector to your best advantage. Most inspectors do not mid if you want to tag along while he is inspecting. If you do, don't constantly ask him questions such as "What are you looking at?". It will just distract him. If you are accompanying him, a good inspector will point out a big problem if he encounters it and will not mind a few questions as he goes along.
On the other hand, you might make the best use of your time by inspecting the home yourself. Walk around each part of the home and make a note of anything that doesn't look right to you. When the inspector is finished, he will want to walk around with you and show you what he found. As he does, check the items off your list. When he is finished, ask him about the things he did not mention. It may be that it is not really a problem and he can tell you why. On the other hand, he may have overlooked something. As an inspector, it can be embarrassing but I have had customers point out something that, for one reason or another, I missed. Hey I am human after all.
Don't forget to make sure you understand each thing the inspector points out. This is your opportunity to learn about your home, how it works and how to take care of something. Don't let it go to waste. A good inspector is not going to mind reasonable questions. In fact, most of them enjoy it because it gives them a chance to shine and also makes them feel that they are helping you.
5. Read the entire report, not just the summary
I try to put a number of helpful hints in my reports. I also try to point out that an older home does not meet today's building codes. Building codes have changed over the years and it is not reasonable to expect a home that is 20 years old (or 3 years old for that matter) to meet he current codes. If an older home does not have smoke detectors in the bedrooms, the lack of these detectors does not constitute a defect. On the other hand, having them could enhance safety. I do mention that in my report but it will not show up in the summary because it is not a defect.
If you read the report and something does not make sense, call the inspector for clarification. It doesn't do you any good to look at the report and not understand what it says.
6. Follow through on recommendations
I know how an air conditioner works, I know the basics of electrical wiring, I know the basics of household plumbing, but I am not an air conditioning technician, an electrician or a plumber. I can check each system and usually can tell you when something is not right. There are times, though, that I recommend that you have something checked by the appropriate professional. That is not a cop out,it is my professional opinion that you should have it investigated further. You should do that before you close on the home, not after. I have alerted you that something is wrong, that is my job. I can not tell you how much it will cost or if there are other problems that need addressed. A professional in that field will sometimes find more to the problem than even the best inspector. If the inspector tells you that you should have it evaluated, it is in your best interest to do so.
7. Don't put the report in a folder and forget about it.
All those small items on the report should get attention also. The smaller items may not need to repaired right away, but if they are ignored, they could turn into much more expensive repairs later.