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Mastering the Home Inspection Process

by Caitlin Kelch

One of our most popular essays focuses on grieving the loss of a home. Whether the home was lost because of a higher bid or a family home was sold in the interest of economics, it’s a big deal. When you’re in the throes of searching for a new home, the stakes are high financially and emotionally so some decisions may be pushed aside in favor of simply getting on with the dream. I decided to buy my first home fairly late in life because I desperately wanted out of a bad landlord situation and was terrified that I might find myself in the same situation should I rent again. I put an offer on an “okay” home and just steered my thoughts towards the massive hedges of lilacs on the property, instead of looking at the house with a critical eye. My emotions were about to buy this just “okay” house, and I thank the universe every day that I hired a great home inspector who told me to take back my offer ASAP.

I’ll keep it short, but think radon, mold, bad roof and cracks in the foundation. While I couldn’t detect the radon with any of my five senses, I do remember a faint, musty smell throughout the house and I did see some zig-zag patterns in the concrete walls of the basement. Of course, because this house was going to solve all of my current problems (ha!), I didn’t see these tell-tale signs as signs at all. In the day and age of HGTV, those of us who are uninitiated to the real process of buying and evaluating a new home need unbiased professionals to keep it real. Today we’re partnering with Travelers Insurance to share some insight on the home inspection process and what you should ask of your home inspector.

This post is sponsored by Travelers Insurance. Visit their site for more great tips on homeownership here.

Find a professional you’re comfortable with.

As with hiring any professional to provide you with a service, shop around and find a good fit. Since you’re paying the home inspector, talk to several and find one with a personality that complements yours. If you’re inquisitive, find one that appreciates sharing their knowledge, not a quiet-type who prefers to work alone and simply hand you a written report. If you’re reserved, avoid a chatty home inspector. During the inspection you may find yourself worrying that he or she is more interested in small talk than inspecting the many details of your home. For more questions to ask a potential home inspector, watch this short video from Travelers Insurance.

Be prepared for difficult news regarding your dream house.

If you’ve fallen in love with the house’s gingerbread trim, be aware that it’s a charming, cosmetic feature. The purpose of the home inspection is to ensure that all of the essentials are in good shape so that you’re not hit with a ton of costly repairs in the near future.

Look for Clues.

Pastel tiles from the 1960s may be dated, but they don’t necessarily indicate that a bathroom was neglected. It may just mean the previous owners enjoyed their flair or didn’t have the budget for a renovation. While some things like bathroom tile are okay to overlook, do look for other signs that the home may not have been well-maintained. Check out the gutters, window caulk and the garage, if the home has one. These are the types of things that, even when cleaned up before a sale, can still show signs that they weren’t maintained and may need work sooner rather than later.

Make sure your Home Inspector gets on the roof.

You can assess the roof of a home by looking at it from all angles, but a true pro will actually get on the roof to check out the “soft spots” that they saw from the ground. Ask this question on the phone before you hire, even if the roof is “new.” A new roof or repair doesn’t mean the work was up to par.

Have your Home Inspector check out any potential issues outside of the home.

Think trees, invasive plants or vines and even the joists underneath decks. If you’re in the city and share back-to-back yards or walls, do look for potential issues. The barking dog or chicken coop next door can become a headache very quickly!

All in all, there are 10 areas in your potential new home that you and your home inspector should pay very close attention to. If they’re not in good shape, you should ask for them to be repaired or for the cost of the repair to be deducted from the asking price.

Hop over to the Travelers site to learn what those 10 things are and for even more tips on choosing your home inspector!

*All images courtesy of rawpixel.com





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  • I have been a loyal reader of Design Sponge for years. This is the first time that I feel compelled to leave a comment. The information provided in this article is useful, but I feel like it is lacking. This is such a large topic to tackle, and a comprehensive article on this subject could be extremely for homeowners. I feel like this though was more of a way to introduce sponsored content.

    This article does not discuss the role of your real estate agent or all of the different inspections that can be done (IE radon, termite, chimney, sewer, etc.). It does not explain to you what the finished product from your inspector should look like (an inspection with photographs with detailed descriptions of current conditions plus how to fix the problems). This article also does not address the shortcomings of inspections, one being that inspectors cannot remove anything or lift up anything to see underneath. While the author says that you should ask your inspector to get up on the roof, or perhaps, get a ladder to look at the roof, they don’t say that if you have slate or tile roof, you should really contact a specialist for a conditions assessment. They also do not suggest that you should ask the seller for the warranty information for said roof.

    Ultimately, buying a house is most likely your largest investment. You should have as much information as possible. Providing a list of questions for your inspector would have been helpful in this article. While the author’s home inspector told them to back out of the deal, I have found that the point of the home inspection is to find issues within the house, but you can also use it to counter offer for a reduced price or ask the seller to fix some of the problems.

  • Very detailed info regarding the purchase of the home and how one would take a decision with the financial crises, issues and emotional attachments. Thank you for the post.

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