real estate

5 mistakes buyers and sellers make with home inspections

What is a home inspection

A home inspection is a mainly visual evaluation of a home’s condition. Home inspectors typically provide inspection services to determine the performance of the home. The inspection isn't just about identifying problems with the house. A thorough inspector considers the appointment a master class in your new home.

"We want to teach them how to maintain the property, because it's the biggest investment they'll ever make," says Alden E. Gibson, ACI and RHI, president of the American Society of Home Inspectors and president of Inspections by Gibson.

Getting a home inspection? Here are the 5 mistakes to avoid.

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5 home inspection mistakes to avoid

  1. Not researching the inspector.
  2. Not attending the inspection.
  3. Not reading the inspection report.
  4. Not getting a presale inspection.
  5. Not prepping the home.

1. Not researching the inspector

Too many buyers and sellers take whatever name is recommended without doing research. The inspection is only as good as the inspector doing it, says Troy Bloxom, president of the National Association of Home Inspectors and owner of Home Inspections Plus, near Anchorage, Alaska.

A few questions to ask:

  • How long have you been inspecting homes?
  • How many inspections have you done?
  • What are your qualifications, certifications and training?
  • What was your job before you were a home inspector? (Ideally, your pro was in contracting or building.)
Inspector walking away from house | Max Whittaker/Getty Images

You want a certified professional who stays current. "There's a lot of stuff you have to know, and you want someone who's keeping up with ongoing education," says Kurt Mitenbuler, owner of Kurt Mitenbuler & Associates.

You're looking for an inspector who can analyze the home's strengths and weaknesses -- then explain them.

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2. Not attending the inspection

Attendance may not be mandatory, but it's a good idea.

Just reading that inspection report isn't enough for most homeowners to get the full picture, Gibson says. "If they don't see it, they don't understand it."

Gibson adds that he turns down 50 inspections a year "because people can't be there or don't want to be there."

Mitenbuler says, "Any home inspector who doesn't let you follow him around? That's weird. Ask me any question you want."

Set aside enough time for the whole thing, Gibson says. The inspection will take an entire morning or an afternoon. Some inspectors will sit with you after the inspection to explain things and answer questions, he says.

Many localities don't allow inspectors to offer advice on whether to buy the home, Mitenbuler says. But a good inspector can give you an estimate of how much money you'll need to put into repairs and upgrades and talk about how well that fits your budget.

3. Not reading the inspection report

Too many buyers and sellers just glance at the inspection report, Gibson says.

You need someone who uses "clear, concise" language in person and in written reports, says Mitenbuler.

One clue: Scan a few inspection reports, he says. Either check the website or ask for a sample.

A knowledgeable pro will state simply what's wrong with the house and what it will take to fix, Mitenbuler says.

Reports are often in digital format, with photos to illustrate the home's strengths and weaknesses, Gibson says.

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4. Not getting a presale inspection

Many sellers elect to leave the presale inspection to the buyers, says Bloxom.

But that's a mistake.

When the buyers get an inspection (and if they're smart, they will), the sellers will have little time to complete repairs and keep the sale on track, says Bloxom.

But if sellers have the home inspected before putting it on the market, they have more time to get repairs done, he says. With the extra time, they can shop around and control costs.

Both buyers and sellers often wait too long to engage an inspector, Gibson says. You should find an inspector long before you have (or make) an offer, he says. Some buyers and sellers will wait for the second-to-last day before they even call, Gibson says: "Any good inspector will be booked out."

5. Not prepping the home

Inspectors are peeved when homeowners don't prepare the house.

"Don't force the home inspector to empty the closet to get into the attic," Mitenbuler says. If you have a crawl-space hatch, move anything sitting on top of it.

Got a lock on a utility closet, basement or shed? The inspector needs access. So open it or provide keys.

For homeowners, inspections "are invasive," he says. "I get it."

For a seller, the best tack is to be at home to meet the inspector, introduce yourself, provide your cell number -- and then you can take off, Mitenbuler says.

To reduce the need for repeat inspections, hire professionals to do repairs, Bloxom says.

Too many times, when faced with a list of needed repairs, a seller will DIY or try to get them done on the cheap, he says. But that shows up during the re-inspection and could mean another round of repairs -- and a 3rd or 4th inspection, Bloxom says.

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