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What Questions Should I Ask my Inspector During the Inspeciton?

You are buying a new home. Being the incredibly intelligent person you are, you are also paying a professional home inspector to come through and tell you about all the defects that they can find. Here's the problem: you don't know what questions to ask your professional. How do you know what you should ask?

There are a lot of articles floating around the internet about this subject. As usual, most of them are not written by Certified Master Inspectors like me, so they tend to be a little off base. So, here is a handy list of questions you can ask your inspector:

  1. Literally anything that you want to know about your home. Seriously. You hire an inspector to help you understand the condition of the home. If there is something you want to know about, but you aren't sure if your inspector will cover it, just ask. They may be able to help you, even if your question is outside the scope of a home inspection. I've had clients ask me about the process for installing an egress window in a basement. While I would never make recommendations on how exactly to do it (other than having a qualified contractor do it, and please, please, PLEASE don't let your dad's friend's uncle do it), I have actually had one installed in my house. I can share a little information on that. I've also had clients ask me about their entertainment system. I know precisely zero things about how to hook up a television, and I have no problem admitting that you'll do better asking almost anyone else.

  2. Anything that your insurance company says you need. Home insurance often has a bunch of boxes to check that most people would never think about, given the freedom to ignore them. But they do need to collect some data to give you a good rate. There's a pretty good chance that any information you need for your insurance agent is going to be covered in the report. Go ahead and ask your inspector, anyway. If you need the age of the roof, the type of plumbing, or anything else, you can always ask and take notes during the inspection. Reading a report can be overwhelming, so sometimes getting that bit of information in a different format might make you feel more comfortable. That's part of our job. Check out this post for help in reading your report (or the following summary: talk to your inspector).

  3. If something sounds bad, be sure to ask about it. If you don't have background context for building science, don't panic right away. Sometime might sound really bad when it isn't in appropriate context. Cracks in the foundation might not be as bad as you think they are. Broken seals in windows are not the end of the world. But if your inspector can put his hand through a termite-eaten central support beam, you might be in trouble. If something is making you nervous, your inspector might be able to clear that up for you. If your inspector says "there is standing water in your crawlspace," that might sound really bad. And it certainly isn't good. But depending on the situation, there may be a source that could be corrected with relative ease. Don't panic until you've asked.

  4. If there are any questions that your inspector thinks you should be asking. I know this is kind of cheesy, but asking your inspector what kinds of questions they think you ought to be asking can sometimes be pretty enlightening. I have found in my own experience with other professionals that it opens up conversation and can sometimes get you information you might not have otherwise gotten. As inspectors, this is what we do. In specific circumstances, this might help pry a little more information out of your trained professional.

Two final notes.

First, you do not have to be an extrovert to get a thorough home inspection. It is your inspector's job to present as much information as possible given the constraints of the situation in the most understandable way possible. Don't feel like you are being pushing or intrusive when you want to ask questions. If your inspector makes you feel like an idiot for asking a question, it might be a good time to think about getting a different inspector.

Second, please, PLEASE do not ask us if we would buy the house, if we would let our mothers' buy the house, if we would recommend our friend's great aunt twice removed buy the house. At least here in Ohio, and in most other licensed states, we are not legally allowed to answer that question. No respectable certifying organization allows their members to answer that question, either. I know that it is tempting to ask. But this is one of the very few questions that we just aren't allowed to answer.

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