5 home inspection mistakes to avoid at all costs

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A home inspection is an assessment of a home’s condition, and it’s important to bring in a professional to conduct one before you close on a house. Home inspectors can help you identify potential problems with the property you’re about to own and, they can give you information that will help you with the upkeep after move in.

“We want to teach them how to maintain the property because it’s the biggest investment they’ll ever make,” says Alden E. Gibson, a past president of the American Society of Home Inspectors.

If you’re getting a home inspection, here are five mistakes to avoid.

1. Not researching the inspector

Too many buyers and sellers hire whoever is recommended to them without doing any research. The inspection is only as good as the inspector doing it, says Troy Bloxom, owner of Home Inspections Plus near Anchorage, Alaska, and past president of the National Association of Home Inspectors.

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? (An inspector should be familiar with home construction, so a background as a contractor or homebuilder is helpful)

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, who is certified by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and owns an inspection company in Evanston, Illinois.

An inspector needs to be able to identify issues with a property and explain them to buyers who are usually non-experts.

2. Not attending the inspection

Being present for the inspection may not be mandatory, but it’s a smart idea.

Simply reading the inspection report isn’t enough to give most homeowners the full picture, Gibson says. “If they don’t see it, they don’t understand it.”

Gibson adds that he turns down dozens of inspections a year “because people can’t be there or don’t want to be there.”

The inspection might take an entire morning or afternoon, so set aside enough time. Some inspectors will sit with you afterward to explain things and answer your questions.

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

A good inspector can give you an estimate of how much you’ll need to spend on repairs and upgrades, which is very valuable information as you consider your budget.

3. Not reading the inspection report

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

You need someone who uses clear, concise language in person and in written reports, Mitenbuler says. He recommends scanning a few reports by checking the inspector’s website or asking for a sample report.

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

4. Not getting a presale inspection

Many sellers decide to leave the presale inspection to the buyers, Bloxom says. That’s a mistake.

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

But if the seller has the home inspected before putting it on the market, he has more time to do repairs and to shop around and control his costs for the work, Bloxom says.

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 on a home. “Any good inspector will be booked out,” he says.

5. Not prepping the home

Inspectors get annoyed when homeowners don’t prepare their houses for inspection.

“Don’t force the home inspector to empty the closet to get into the attic,” Mitenbuler says. Similarly, if you have a crawl-space hatch, he suggests moving 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.

To reduce the need for repeat inspections, hire professionals to do repairs, Bloxom says. Too many sellers will try DIY or get them done on the cheap. But poor workmanship will show up during the follow-up inspection, Bloxom says, and could result in more repairs — and another inspection.