I have a couple friends who are professional home inspectors and really don't envy their positions. In our "sue everybody cuz nothing's my fault" society, the risk they take with every inspection is a bit nuts. If only people would take responsibility for their own actions. Alas, enough of that. What does that inspector actually "do" anyway? While we're not going to get into the liability noise today (that's above my pay grade) I would like to talk a bit about the process in general and how you can make the most of this service. Let's get inspecting.
First and foremost, you should understand exactly what it is you are paying for. If, after the inspection, you walk away thinking "I thought they were going to mow the lawn," that is on you. Take some time up front to ask this professional, what it is they check for. Now, to be fair, there's around 1,600 features on a home that inspectors are looking at. We don't expect them to list them all to us as we stand there in the kitchen. It's just important that you have a good understanding of what is covered. That ensures you will get what you were hoping and will (hopefully) learn a bit about your new home in the process.
What's not checked is nearly as important. Inspectors are not going to cut a hole in the wall to check the wiring. They are also not going to cut a hole in the ceiling to check what caused that water damage. Their job is almost entirely "visual." They will highlight areas to you so you can explore them further. The wiring appears to be from the 60s and should be inspected by a licensed electrician. The ceiling in the master bedroom has a large dark spot in one corner and should be inspected by a roofing contractor or other construction professional. The inspector is not there to fix anything for you. They are there to be a highly skilled, licensed pair of eyes. That "licensed" thing varies by state, so check with your local peeps and see what you find out. For example, New Hampshire requires licenses while Maine and Vermont do not.
Ask lots of questions. You might think inspectors reading this will roll their eyes at that recommendation, but I assure you any inspector worth their salt (and your time) will love it. The more you ask, the more engaged you are and the more you will learn. A professional inspector will enjoy the education process and will appreciate you taking an interest in your potential new home. Take full advantage of this opportunity to have an experienced, skilled professional walking through the home with you. Think of it like taking your best mechanic friend to purchase a used car with you. The peace of mind is priceless.
This goes for specific and even mechanical questions as well. "I have had buyers ask the inspector about how the furnace works (in an older home) and if the radiators were a viable heat source," notes Badger Realty agent, Bernadette Donohue. "The inspector was super helpful and educated us both on their reliability and simple maintenance," she continued. An inspector can't be expected to know the inner workings of every piece of machinery in your home. But, their experience will certainly provide a wealth of information gained over a decade or two of walking through and inspecting homes.
Do your homework. I know I say this often, but it very often rings true. I'm seeing a physical therapist for my back. Guess what happens when I do my exercises every day? My back feels better! Who would've thought? If your inspector highlights some trouble areas and makes some recommendations: follow through. Hire that electrician or contractor to further inspect those trouble areas. Don't be surprised by water dripping on your face (as you lie in bed) if you didn't follow through and have that dark spot on the ceiling investigated and fixed.
Lastly, don't be a Chicken Little. Your inspector is going to find a bevy of things that they will highlight. I got a home inspection on my newly built home and they still found a handful of things that were noteworthy. But, I didn't adjust a single one of them! They were things that I knew about (I built the house!) and I knew were not an issue either for me or the new owners. Feel free to ask the inspector to separate the "good to knows" from the "holy cows." Work on the holy cows, but feel free to ignore the good to knows. I guess what I'm saying here is if you take every inspection as a list of "faults" with the home and continue looking for a perfect home: You're going to be homeless. Separate your list and act accordingly. Happy inspecting!