When buying a home you should ALWAYS get a general home inspection.  So, what does a general home inspector do to inspect the property?  According to the National Association of Home Inspectors, there are over 1,600 different items on their list to look at during inspection.  So, a general home inspector is looking for a lot of potential problems.  Let’s take a look at a few of the basics to give you an idea of what you will learn from a home inspection.

  1. Structural Issues  The home inspector will look at the foundation of the home.  Examples of things they will look for are:  Is the foundation solid?  Are the window and door frames square?  This is a very important item as structural issues can be very expensive to fix.  This item is particularly important if you are buying an older home.  If there are major structural issues with a home, you should seriously consider walking away from the deal.
  2. The grounds of the home  The home inspector will look for things such as if there are any current or future water issues like standing water or faulty grading or downspouts.  Things such as standing water can be an indication that the home does not have proper water runoff.
  3. Roof Inspectors are looking for issues with shingles, flashing and fascia.  Issues or defects with any of those items can be an indication of leaks and lead to expensive repairs.  The inspector will also look for defective gutters or issues with chimneys and skylights.
  4. Exterior IssuesHome inspectors will be looking for cracks, rot, decay or any other issues in brick masonry or stucco.  If the home has vinyl siding, they will be looking for any defects such as bowing or denting.  The exterior inspection will also indicate if there are any issues with the exterior paint.
  5. Interior  The home inspector looks for a lot of items in the interior of the home.  They will look for things like cracks in the wall that may indicate settling issues.  They will look for faulty framing and water stains on the ceilings which may indicate water leaks.  The inspector will evaluate the heating/air vents to ensure there is proper ventilation.  The list goes on and on for the interior but you get the idea.
  6. Windows, doors, and trimThe inspector will be looking for windows to be in good working order and identify any broken seals.  The inspector will look at the frames of windows and doors to ensure there is no rotting and that they have proper calking.
  7. Kitchen  Your home inspector will ensure all of the appliances are in working order.  He/she will inspect the range hood fans and the vent to the outside and look for leaks under the kitchen sink.  They will also ensure all of the cabinet doors and cabinets are operational.
  8. Bathroom  The inspector makes sure that the toilets work, the drains in the sinks and tubs work, and the showers spray.
  9. ElectricalInspectors are evaluating if there are enough electrical outlets in each room and if the visible wiring and electrical panels are satisfactory.  They will go through each room and make sure that the light switches work.
  10. Plumbing  The inspector will inspect pipes, drains, water heaters, and water pressure and temperature.

So, we have given you a high-level overview of what is included in a general inspection.  Now you may ask, how do I find someone to do this type of inspection?  Generally, your real estate agent will provide you with some recommendations.  You can also look up a list of local home inspectors on the American Society of Home Inspectors website, http:/www.ashi.org.  We recommend that you interview 2-3 home inspectors as the home inspection is an important part of the home buying process.

Here are some examples of questions that you should ask a potential home inspector:

  1. Are you a member of a professional inspection organization?  Reputable inspectors will be a member of a statewide association or one of the following national/international associations: The National Association of Home Inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors or the International Association of Home Inspectors.
  2. What is your background?  In an ideal situation, you might find a home inspector that has a background in building homes and they will understand building codes and know very detailed information on what to look for during inspections.  It is also good to have a home inspector that has been in the business for years and has a lot of experience in inspecting homes.  Also, if you are buying a historic home, for instance, you may want to get a home inspector that has experience in doing inspections for those type of homes.
  3. How much experience do you have?Similar to the question above, you are looking to hire an inspector that knows what they are doing.  You may decide to hire an inspector that has less time as an inspector if perhaps they were a builder for a long period of time before becoming an inspector.  The idea is to ensure you are hiring someone knowledgeable and able to do a thorough credible inspection.
  4. What will you inspect and what kind of report do you offer?As discussed above, there are well over 1,000 items that a home inspector should inspect.  It is not possible for the inspector to inspect things that cannot be seen such as interior wiring.  However, the inspector should be evaluating any and everything that can be seen visibly in the home.  The inspector should be inspecting the roof, basement, and attic.  After inspection, most home inspectors usually provide a report within 24-48 hours.  This report should detail the items that were unsatisfactory.
  5. Can I attend the inspection?A good inspector will have no issue having you tag along during the inspection.  They will also show you how to use items in the home and explain what they are inspecting and why.
  6. How much do you charge?It is always recommended that you understand the price that will be charged prior to hiring any contractor.  You will want to ensure that the home inspectors charge is in line with what others are charging and that the fees are acceptable to you.

After interviewing home inspectors, your next step is to hire one of the inspectors.  We recommend that you identify any areas of concern that you have about the home prior to your inspection.  You will want to highlight areas of concern so that you can get the inspectors opinion and have peace of mind if you make an offer.  You may also want to attend the home inspection to ensure that you understand the details of the condition of the home.  Keep in mind that this process can last for hours and you will want to plan accordingly if you plan to be present for the duration of the inspection.

Once the inspector provides you with his/her detailed report, you will want to review the report carefully.  It is customary that your real estate agent will review the report as well.  You will want to have a conversation with your agent to address what items you will request that the seller fix.  This can vary according to the deal that you negotiated.  For example, your purchase contract may have included a clause that says that the seller will pay for repairs up to a certain amount.  You may also have included a clause that states that you can walk away from the deal if the repairs exceed a certain amount.  You may also be buying a home “as is” and you have done a home inspection to ensure that you are not buying a home with expensive repairs that you cannot afford.

If you will be negotiating any repairs with the seller, you will want to get estimates for how much it will be to fix the items.  Your agent will go back to the listing agent and there will be a negotiation process on what the seller will agree to pay to repair.  You will also want to discuss if this will be fixed prior to closing or the seller will simply pay for the amount agreed upon and the buyer will be responsible for having the items fixed after closing. If the buyer will handle ensuring that the items are repaired after closing, the monies will be received at closing.

You will want to move forward with getting a home inspection very quickly after going under contract.  The reason being is that contracts typically stipulate that there is a timeframe in which the buyer has for due diligence to get inspections.