Home buying is nothing if not a process. From applying for a mortgage to perusing the Internet and attending open houses, each aspect gets you one step closer to homeownership.
But perhaps the most important component along the way is home inspection. More than three quarters of buyers have had a home inspection performed prior to purchasing one, according to survey data from the National Association of Realtors. In fact, many lenders require that one be done once a mortgage has been approved.
Unfortunately, home inspections aren't all built the same. There are certain requirements that a residence needs to pass before it can be deemed safe to live in, but given human mistakes, some inspections are more rigorous than others.
The following are important questions to ask to ensure that the home inspection professional you choose is both reliable and meticulous.
1. What are your qualifications?
If there's anything that's the most crucial to home inspection, experience has to be it. Granted, newly minted inspectors have to start somewhere, but at the very least, they should be able to demonstrate that they have the bona fides needed to perform a rigorous analysis of your prospective home's features. Feel free to ask your inspector how long they've been practicing and where their licensing is from.
2. What will the inspection process include?
Your inspection professional should be open with you about just what they're looking for to ensure that your soon-to-be property - provided everything checks out - is up to snuff. On their checklist should be features like the home's heating and cooling systems, the condition of the roof, foundation, plumbing and electrical systems. The passing or failing of each feature can make or break when or whether you should close on the house by signing on the dotted line.
3. How long does the process last?
Your home inspector should tell you how long the inspection will last, but generally speaking, they tend to run between two and three hours, according to the National Association of Home Inspectors. If you'll be in the home while the process is taking place, your inspection professional should keep you informed of what's going on if there are any issues that may take more time to deal with.
4. What standards have to be met for a home to pass inspection?
Both the American Society of Home Inspectors and the National Association of Home Inspectors have recognized standards that professionals check for with each residential inspection. Additionally, there are state laws that homes need to comply with for home to pass muster.
5. How much will everything cost?
As noted by the ASHI, the cost of employing a home inspection company varies, much of it depending on how large a home is and where in the country you live. For the most part, expect to pay about $300 for a standard sized residence, but it could be more expensive if your home is larger.
As far as finding a reliable inspection company goes, there are a variety of strategies you can use. One of the more effective ways is by talking with friends who've had an inspection done recently. You can also peruse the websites of the ASHI and NAHI to search for one. Bruce Ailion, an Atlanta-based real estate expert and attorney, told Trulia that a good rule of thumb is to consider three companies. Review each of them thoroughly before coming to a decision on which one is best.
Your homeowners insurance agent may have some good companies to recommend. For help, speak with your independent Selective agent.