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Steve McLinden, the Bankrate.com Real Estate Adviser5 questions to ask a home inspector

Dear Steve,
I read your "8 questions to ask home listing agents" piece and was wondering if you could provide a similar list of questions to ask home inspectors. Thanks.
-- Steven

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Dear Steven,
How about five questions with a few suggested follow-ups and some assorted tips thrown in for good measure? (By the way, I'd be honored to provide such a list to someone with such a distinguished first name.)

Let's inspect the inspector, shall we?

Here are a few questions to ask:

  • How long have you been in business and how many home inspections have you performed? To be safe, stick with a full-time inspector who has been in the business for more than five years. Also, ask about the inspector's professional certifications with nationally recognized industry organizations. Tip: Interview at least three inspectors and ask for a sample report and references from each.
  • Can you tell me exactly what will happen during the inspection? This will eliminate any unpleasant surprises. Ask the inspector if you can follow him during the inspection. (But promise to stay out of his way.). Tip: If the inspector is brief with you in your phone interview or personal interview, he may be hurried in his work as well.
  • What will be included in my report and what type of format will you use for it? Too much information is never a problem in an inspection report. Besides the action checklist he'll likely provide you, make sure he will also provide a customized narrative on the condition of all the home's major components and of areas that are in need of maintenance, plus the estimated repair and replacement recommendations and costs that will be involved if work is needed. The more that's spelled out for you, the better.
  • How soon will I get my report? Expediency is important with so many dates and deadlines to adhere to.
  • If problems are found then repaired, how quickly can you re-inspect the property so you can modify the original report? If you're getting an inspection as a seller, your prime sales window may close if too much time elapses.

A few other tips: Don't feel inclined to go only with the cheapest price. A $50 savings might cost you significantly more in oversights. Also, don't ask the inspector to assess the value of the house or whether you should buy the property in question. Inspectors are not allowed to offer such advice or information.

And please don't blindly hire an inspector that your agent recommends. Some agents view an "overly thorough" inspector as a deterrent to a sale -- a deal-killer if you will -- and the agent may not refer you to one with a reputation of meticulousness.

Do a little of your own homework before you get started. The Web site HomeGauge.com offers a list of home inspectors by state ranked from "Platinum" to "Gold" to "Bronze" by their qualifications and professional designations.

Other relevant home-inspection sites are www.nahi.org, the site for the National Association of Home Inspectors; www.ashi.org, the site for the American Society of Home Inspectors, and www.nachi.org, the site for the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors.

Good luck.

To ask a question of the Real Estate Adviser, go to the "Ask the Experts" page, and select "buying, selling a home" as the topic.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy-- Posted: March 11, 2007
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