How to get the most from a home inspection

Getting a home inspection is plain smart, and can save a buyer from a bank-account busting world of trouble later on. These home inspection tips will help you get the most from the experience.

1 Include an inspection contingency in the sales contract.

Specify that you will be having the entire home inspected, not just the major systems. Set a reasonable time frame for the inspection, such as 14 days. Add a clause that says repairs must be made by the seller (or the price must be adjusted); otherwise the buyer can void the sale.

2 Choose a qualified inspector.

Laws regulating home inspections vary by state, but most reputable inspectors will be members of one of these organizations: the National Association of Home Inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. The Better Business Bureau also can provide a list of credited home inspectors. The best home inspectors have experience in the building industry and understand local building codes and requirements. Request and check references.

3 Ask what will be inspected and how long it will take.

The inspection should include a complete assessment of the interior and exterior of the house, from roof to foundation, as well as a thorough analysis of the electrical, plumbing, heating and air-conditioning systems. Ask to be filled in on any areas that were missed because they were too small or difficult to reach. On average, a home inspection should take two or three hours to perform. Larger and older homes may take a full day.

4 Be realistic.

An inspector can’t uncover everything, such as wiring issues covered by drywall or mold that can’t be seen beneath shower tiles. An inspector can tell you that the air conditioning system is 11 years old and has a life expectancy of 12, but he or she can’t tell you when it will fail. Also realize that most older homes have some deficiencies or areas of concern — be prepared to decide what you can live with and what you can’t.

5 Ask what kind of report will be provided.

Request a sample copy before hiring the inspector. If the report is little more than a checklist, choose a different inspector. A complete report should be several pages long (20 or more is not uncommon) and should describe what was inspected and what problems, if any, were uncovered. If there are serious issues or problems the inspector can’t diagnose, the report should recommend further examination by a structural engineer or other specialist.

6 Plan to attend the inspection.

The best way to understand what the inspector is reporting is to see exactly what he is talking about. If it is unclear to you whether something uncovered is a major or minor issue, ask.

7 Follow up on the inspector’s recommendations.

Don’t wait until after closing to get estimates for repairs, as some issues can turn out to be more expensive than anticipated.

Are you looking for a home? Find a local realty expert who can help with the hunt, or explore homes for sale with our real estate listings.