Getting ready to make an offer on a house?

Don’t forget to include a home-inspection contingency in your agreement of sale, which means you’ll get the right to have a licensed or certified home inspector check your would-be home for flaws that might make you rethink your purchase.

If the home inspector were to find problems like a leaky roof, faulty plumbing or cracks in the foundation, you could then ask the seller to make repairs. If the seller says no, you could walk away without losing your earnest money.

As a home buyer, though, it’s still your responsibility, both before and after you receive a report, to make sure you’re getting the most thorough and professional inspection possible. Here are a few questions to ask your home inspector.

  1. WHAT LICENSES OR CERTIFICATIONS DO YOU HAVE? Some states require home inspectors to be licensed, but some don’t. There are industry-wide certifications, by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), that add credibility.

  2. HOW MUCH DO YOU CHARGE? The average home inspection costs around $315, according to HomeAdvisor. Condos and small homes under 1,000 square feet can cost as little as $200, while larger homes over 2,000 square feet may run $400 or more. Generally, the homebuyer pays for the inspection.

  3. HOW MANY YEARS OF EXPERIENCE DO YOU HAVE? Seasoned home inspectors (think 5 or more years of experience) know how to check every nook and cranny in a house.

  4. HOW SOON WILL I RECEIVE YOUR REPORT? Under most home-inspection contingencies, homebuyers typically have five to seven days to perform an inspection and ask the seller for repairs. That means you’ll want to find an inspector who is readily available and will provide you with a report within 24 hours after the inspection.

  5. DO YOU HAVE ERRORS AND OMISSIONS INSURANCE? This is a liability insurance the home inspector should have to cover costs in the event he or she misses a major defect, like a busted boiler.

  6. HOW BIG OF A PROBLEM IS THIS? A thorough home inspector will almost certainly find some flaws. But most problems are likely to be small issues, such as flaking paint or a cracked faceplate — things that aren’t worth haggling over with a seller. That said, there are some major things to watch out for; any kind of structural issue, for instance, can pose a safety risk. Just know that there’s no such thing as a house “passing” a home inspection, since what’s tolerable for one homebuyer might cause another to walk away. That’s why it pays to ask your inspector what their biggest concerns are about the house, so you can determine what’s worth asking the seller to fix.

  7. ARE THERE ANY AREAS YOU DIDN’T CHECK? Unfortunately, home inspectors are limited in terms of what they can assess when inspecting a property. They can’t knock down walls, for instance. And some checks, such as those for mold, radon or asbestos, require special equipment that the home inspector may not have. In these cases, you’d need to hire a specialist to handle those tests, so ask your home inspector whether they recommend you hire another expert for a follow-up.

  8. CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THIS MEANS? Generally, home inspectors won’t go through their report line by line with you. So when you’re going over the report with your real estate agent and don’t understand something, it’s important to ask what it means and how it could affect the overall value of the house. Arming yourself with this information can help you negotiate with the seller over repairs.

  9. WHAT WOULD YOU WANT FIXED? If you want a home inspector’s honest appraisal, find out what they would personally request the seller to repair if they were the one purchasing the house.

  10. HOW MUCH WILL THIS COST TO FIX? It’s important to pick your battles. If you ask a home seller to fix every little thing that’s wrong, it could cause the deal to fall through. Knowing how much individual repairs cost can help you determine what to ask the seller to fix, and what’s better to let go.

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