1. Do You Walk the Roof?
If you are buying an older home, you may want to find an inspector who walks the roof. These home inspectors may charge a bit more, but it could by highly valuable.
When home inspectors get on the roof, we can see things that otherwise wouldn’t be visible. We can walk on the shingles and ‘feel’ low spots, soft spots, damaged shingles, damaged roofing, and thoroughly inspect any chimneys.
Home inspectors that use binoculars or just eyeball the roof from the distance is nice — but it is inferior to getting on the roof.
Noticing area of water pooling and vent deterioration while walking a rubber EPDM flat roof.
2. What Is Your Background?
It is always an advantage if the home inspector has a background in the trades. If you can find a home inspector who used to be a builder or a contractor, that can be a big plus.
You can also ask the home inspector who long he has been doing it for. Obviously, you would prefer a home inspector with over ten years of experience compared to a newbie who is just getting started. It can also be a good idea to ask for 1-2 references from happy clients.
3. How Much Do You Charge?
This question is a no-brainer, but most home inspectors expect to receive a check, get cash, or pay by card immediately after the home inspection, so it is important to ask.
The average cost for a home inspection will depend on the size of the home and other factors — but most home inspections are in the $250 to $750 range.
It is also a good idea to ask the inspector what type of payment he requires or prefers…some inspectors may only accept checks. And if you are having any extra services performed such as a radon test, make sure to ask him prior to booking the inspection.
4. Do You Do Sewer Line Inspections?
If you are buying an old home, and you have any suspicions about the plumbing, you may want to get a sewer camera inspection. This is when the inspector removes a drain cover of the sewer line and puts a camera snake into the pipe to try to gauge the condition of the pipe out to the street.
If you must replace your sewer line, it can cost upwards of $20,000 or more.
But not all home inspectors do these types of inspections. It is a good idea to ask the inspector, and how much they charge.
5. Do You Provide Digital Reports with Pictures?
Pretty much all home inspectors provide digital reports nowadays, but you may still come across a home inspector who doesn’t. Personally, I would never hire a home inspector if I didn’t receive a digital report with a lot of pictures.
I want a picture record of everything.
Ask the home inspector how many pictures are usually included in the report?
With my inspection reports, I would commonly have 100+ pictures in each report.
6. Can I Get A Copy Of Your License And Insurance?
Not all U.S. states have home inspector licensing, but my home state of Virginia does. So, when my clients call to book an inspection, the first thing I do is send over a copy of my license, insurance, and a ‘pre-inspection agreement’.
The pre-inspection agreement details what will be inspected along with the price and date of the inspection.
Your state may not have licensing, but your home inspector should at least have a certification from a home inspector training organization or be a member of an association.
7. Can I Join You During the Home Inspection?
It is always recommended that homeowners join the home inspector during the inspection.
When my clients join the inspection, they will always gain a superior understanding of the home compared to clients who just skim the report. My clients can visually see the condition of the home, and they can get insights on home maintenance and other issues I come across.
Unless the home inspector has a good reason for saying you can’t join the home inspection—which should raise a red flag—you should try to find an inspector who welcomes you to join them.
8. Do You Do Radon Testing?
Depending on your region of the country, you may want to do radon testing.
Radon is a colorless and odorless gas that seeps from the earth.
It is naturally present in the air, but some homes can build up harmful levels of radon. Radon gas is associated with lung cancer and other ills when exposed to high levels for many years.
Radon testing is performed by leaving a tester in the home for 2-4 days on the lowest level of the home — usually the basement. Some home inspectors must send the sample to the lab which can take a few more days.
If you want a fast radon test result, find an inspector who has his own testing machine, so it won’t need to be sent to a lab.
9. Do You Do Lead Testing?
If you are buying a home that was built before 1978, it may contain lead paint. Lead paint is mostly an issue for children, and it can cause neurological problems if ingested or inhaled.
If the house has peeling paint, and it is an old home, it is recommended that you get it tested for lead paint. In addition, the soil itself may be contaminated with lead paint (children sometimes eat dirt).
Some home inspectors do lead paint testing, and others don’t — so you will have to ask.
10. Do You Remove Electrical Panel Covers?
Most home inspectors worth their salt will remove the electrical panel cover.
There is some risk associated with removing the cover because the wires are exposed. It could cause sparking, which could damage the eyes, or the inspector may even get shocked. There are protective gloves the home inspectors can wear, and other ways to protect ourselves.
But for me, I always take off the electrical panel cover to get a closer look at the electrical system. I get to see if there is any rusting at the connections, any loose wires, and any undersized or oversized breakers.
You may want to ask the home inspector if he takes off the panel cover.
11. Do You Do Mold Testing?
When I inspected homes, I also offered mold testing through swab tests and air tests.
Sometimes sellers dispute whether something is actually mold, so the only way to verify it is to send it to a lab for analysis.
And if there are suspected mold spores in the air (maybe because of a dirty HVAC system) air tests can be performed. These air tests pull air in through a device at a fixed rate, and then the sample is sent to a lab. The lab will tell you if any of the mold spores are at elevated levels and the species of the mold.
If mold testing may be an issue for you, you should ask the inspector if he does mold testing and how much he charges.
12. Do You Do Re-inspections?
If you have an idea that you may want the home inspector to come back to the home after the repairs have been done by the seller — you need to ask them if they do re-inspections.
A re-inspection is where the home inspector verifies that the seller actually fixed the problems that were stated in the home inspection.
It usually only takes an hour or so, but not all home inspectors do re-inspections because there are liability concerns.
13. Can You Give Me References And A Sample Report?
Before you book the home inspection, you may want to ask the home inspector for a reference or two from a happy client as well as a sample report.
The sample report will give you an idea of what to expect from their home inspection, as well as how detailed the report is (and the number of pictures).
To be honest, it was rare when a client actually asked me for references, but it does happen once in a while — and I’m always happy to provide it.
14. Do you take off HVAC covers?
This is a similar to the ‘walking the roof’ question. I want to verify that my home inspector will take off the furnace or heat pump cover and take a look inside.
Many times, I will find mold, rust issues, water problems, and all sorts of problems when I take off the HVAC cover.
Sometimes taking off the furnace cover is a big hassle due to the location (or some weird screws that are hard to remove) but other times it is easy to remove. But it is worth the effort, and it may be a good idea to ask them if they do it.
Don’t be afraid to ask your home inspector questions during the inspection.
Home inspectors are also educators on how homes work and home maintenance.
We know that it is important to understand at least the basics of operating a home such as…
« Getting water away from the home
« Using the main water shutoff
« Operating GFCI circuits
« Maintaining the HVAC system
It is a good idea to write out some questions you have before you book a home inspector, as well as a few good questions during the home inspection.