by Barbie Novoryta, from her book “The Yellow Brick Road to Buying A Home”
The home inspection is bound to unearth a lot of undisclosed,
unnoticed truths about a prospective property. Some may
be disillusioning enough to prompt reconsideration of the P&S or
renegotiation of it to include repairs, allowances for repairs, or a
lower sale price. For that reason, it’s worthwhile to hire a certified
home inspector to thoroughly survey, scrutinize and assess the
property under contract to determine its structural and material
condition, the ages of its appliances and utilities, and any needed
repairs, reconstructions, rewiring, retrofitting and/or other
Most of all, this comparatively small investment of $300-$600
(even $1,000 for a big single-family is but a tiny fraction of your
mortgage debt) will spare you the post-move-in sticker-shock of
discovering a bug (or two or three or a houseful) in your structural
or mechanical system that will make you a jitterbug when the repair
bill sends you through the roof. Real estate experts agree that
you, the buyer, must pay for the home inspection, to maintain your
control over its thoroughness and know what you may be purchasing.
The seller may try to cut corners and pay less for a less diligent
So how do you find a good home inspector? Begin by asking your
agent to refer you to someone—two or three people, if possible—that
she or he has worked with repeatedly, who is proven reliable in ferreting
out the physical factors that make or break a sale. You could
also ask people you know who have recently purchased a home to
recommend inspectors. But for objectivity’s sake, be sure to read
their Yelp, Google, Glassdoor and Angie’s List reviews to see how
they’ve fared with homebuyers in general. And, for land’s sake, interview
Yes, interview each of your prospective inspectors as thoroughly
as you interviewed buyers’ agents, to see whom you’d feel most comfortable
touring the place with for two to four hours (you should plan
to be with your inspector the entire time to learn firsthand what and
where the problems are) and getting feedback from. The Colorado
Association of Realtors recommends asking home inspectors these
How many home inspections have you conducted? (More
than 100 is your best bet; it shows solid experience under their
belt. But if none of your prospects broke a hundred, consider
the higher-numbered ones over the two-timers.)
- How long have you been a home inspector? (Go for a minimum
of two years, but the more, the merrier. Again, experience.)
- Tell me about your background. (Hands-on experience in construction,
electrical, plumbing or similar trades means they
know their stuff about what they’ll be eyeballing.)
- What trade associations are you a member of? National
home inspection associations such as the American Society
of Home Inspectors [ASHI], the National Institute of Building
Inspectors [NIBI], and the International/National Association
of Certified Home Inspectors [InterNACHI] are best for high
professional standing. You can also find local home inspectors
through their websites.
- What kind of insurance do you have? Make sure they have
liability insurance for both your and their protection, as well
as workman’s compensation, bonded insurance, and a clean
criminal background check. After all, they’ll be entering your
[potential] new home.
- Will you provide a handwritten report, or a digital one?
Digital shows that the inspector is keeping up with the times
and investing in the proper technology to make the reports
more professional and current. Reports shouldn’t look like
your grandpa’s scribbled ledgers.
- How much will the service cost? The home’s square footage
typically drives the cost, from $300 for a modest-size unit to
$1,000 or more for a mansion or multifamily. Anything below
$300 should raise eyebrows, as it denotes amateurishness and/
or lack of investment in insurance, technology, professional associations,
advanced business tools, and all the other credentials the higher payment covers.
On what date will you submit the report? This is key, because
your agent will hold you to your inspection deadline. Some inspectors
furnish the report the day of [if they have the digital
technology to do so, such as laptops or iPads]; others will email
it within a day or two.
- Do you have a sample report I could read? This will give you
an idea of how detailed an inspector is, regarding breadth and
depth of coverage of a home, how clearly the report is written
and laid out, and how thorough the explanations of defects
and recommendations for remediations are.
- Do you inspect homes full-time, or part-time? Go with fulltime,
which means full commitment and dedication. Parttime
often means it’s done casually on the side for extra bucks,
which is often reflected in hasty once-overs of properties and
skimpy reports on the findings.
- Do you do ancillary inspections, such as septic systems or
foundations, and is there an extra fee for that? This will let
you know whether you need to hire a specialized inspector for
an ancillary feature.
- May I see copies of your license and insurance documents?
Home inspectors need to prove who they are, as you’re entrusting
them to help you decide on your primary long-term
- What won’t be included in the inspection? Snow-laden roofs,
decks, driveways, patios and porches certainly won’t, but elimination
of too many items should raise red flags in your mind.
As the final question suggests, a home inspection won’t include every
last detail. For one, they can’t tell you what lurks within the walls or
between the joists and floorboards. Nor can they account for every termite,
ant or rodent. Nor can they discern major structural problems
that cause, say, floor-sagging; that’s a structural engineer’s specialty.
Nor can they tell you how much particular repairs or replacements
will cost. And they generally don’t inspect swimming pools, check for
asbestos or lead paint, or take readings for radon gas unless that is a
separate service they offer; specialists handle those areas. And don’t
count on home inspectors to fix anything, no matter what their background
is; that’s beyond the scope of their job. But most of all, home inspectors
can’t tell you whether you should purchase the property they’re surveying,
and they certainly can’t estimate its market value. You need to trust your gut—as well as
your agent—for that, though a fixer-upper can be a solid investment,
depending on how much sweat equity you’re willing to put into it.
Here are just a few of the things you could hear from a home inspector,
unsettling as the news may be:
The foundation is cracked.
The structure is sagging.
These storm windows are 25 years old.
The smoke alarm isn’t working.
The Chimney is damaged
The fireplace needs to be cleaned out
The roof leaks here
The roof was not installed correctly
The garage isn’t well ventilated for CO
The basement doesn’t meet code
The faucets leak
The attic isn’t well ventilated.
This toilet isn’t working properly.
This sink isn’t draining properly.
The Handrail is loose.
There are rodent droppings here
This wiring isn’t up to code
These appliances are 20 years old
The furnace needs to be replaced
The AC is not working properly
The list goes on—depending on the condition of the premises. The photos
he or she takes can be good bargaining chips in the process of renegotiation
with the seller, regarding repairs, repair allowances, price
reduction, etc., showing living proof of the property’s flaws.
After the inspector submits the final report, discuss it with your
agent and request an inspection objection, based on conditions you
find inadequate and want the seller to remediate. Of course, your agent
may judge each repair’s appropriateness, based on what the P&S states,
whether the home was meant to be sold as is, how high or low in the
market range the sale price is, etc. For instance, the seller of a priced-tosell-
faster property may be less inclined to make or pay for repairs than
the seller of a higher-end property. Also, the seller may be unwilling to
bring a home up to code if it meets previous codes that are grandfathered.
The best way to get the most repairs done or allowed for is to specify
them in the P&S beforehand. To that end, it would behoove you to be
your own “home inspector” when you first view the property. Go beyond
your awe at the beautiful architectural detail, clean lines, sunny
spaces, etc., you see before you and do some fine-tooth-combing of the
premises to spot as many problems or potential problems as you can.
You could invite a friend or family member who knows something
about building conditions to accompany you on your Yellow Brick Road
through your potential dream home to notice any flaws you might miss.
This should be part of your pre-P&S due diligence period, which
should also include spotting environmental hazards such as mold,
mildew or radon (which home inspectors don’t always cover), locating
a homeowner’s insurance provider, and determining the insurance
cost by the home’s vulnerability to flooding, tremors, hurricanes,
tornados, Fires etc., depending on the climate. Your title
deed research should include the ownership history, which can tell
you how the home has been maintained, whether it was foreclosed
on or flipped, or why the seller is selling it based on condition considerations.
If these findings convince you to seek another property, your own home inspection will have
saved you considerable hassle and cost.