Ah, the home inspection. That part of the homebuying process that causes sleepless nights for buyer’s agents. Why? Because the home inspection can make or break a real estate transaction. If you’ve ever lost a deal thanks to a home inspection, you know the heartbreak.
As we all get ready for real estate’s busiest season, it’s a great time to make sure you understand all the parts of the home inspection process so that you’re better prepared to help educate your buyers and sellers.
We compiled a list of critical questions for your clients to ask before, during, and after the home inspection to prepare your buyers for the process. Also, you’ll want to be familiar with the answers to questions your buyers and sellers will ask you about the home inspection process in general.
Home Inspection Questions Your Real Estate Clients Will Have
Inspections aren’t part of the everyday lives of most people, which is why smart agents spend time laying groundwork for the process. Let’s start with the basic questions most buyers and sellers have regarding the home inspection. You’ll be ready to confidently answer these questions for your clients if you familiarize yourself with these key points.
1. Why Do I Need a Home Inspection?
Truthfully, most lenders will require a home inspection for loan approval. But even if my clients are not getting loans, I always encourage both my buyers and sellers to invest in one.
For sellers, heading off possible issues future buyers will uncover that could derail a deal is the best reason to get a prelisting home inspection before putting a property up on the market. Tell your seller clients that if there’s a major issue that will kill their home sale, they don’t want to go under contract to find out about it. If they hire a home inspector first, they can take care of serious issues before they list the home. Then, they’ll feel confident their property will pass the inspection once they go under contract, clearing the way for a smooth closing.
For buyers, I always recommend finding out as much as possible about the home before moving forward in the purchase process. The best way to do that is a home inspection. To the untrained eye (which is most of your buyers), major issues like foundation problems, termite damage, or a roof that’s past its prime may not stand out. Staging can also cover many deficiencies. But when your buyers hire a professional to glean information about the home’s condition, they will see these less obvious issues.
If there are serious concerns about the home, buyers can weigh whether or not to continue with the process. Sometimes the lender will not approve a loan with major issues, and insurance companies may deny coverage in certain circumstances.
2. What Does a Home Inspection Include?
Typically, a home inspection covers all the major points in the home: electrical; plumbing; the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system; foundation or structural damage; and the roof condition. Inspectors will also check your insulation, windows, gutters, downspouts, driveways, and exterior conditions, as well as check your home for mold or wood rot. Typically the inspection is extremely thorough and designed to uncover anything that might be of concern for long-term residents.
3. How Does a Home Inspection Affect My Loan?
For those paying cash on a property, a home inspection may not be needed. But if your buyers are trying to qualify for a mortgage, they need to be aware that most lenders require one. Banks want to verify that the home, which is the collateral for the loan, is worth what your buyers are willing to pay. They will insist that the home be inspected by a licensed inspector to mitigate any unseen risk involved with their investment.
4. What’s the Difference Between a Home Inspection and a Home Appraisal?
Many first-time homebuyers ask this question because the processes appear similar to casual observers. The home inspector looks for the overall condition of the home, checking the electrical, plumbing, foundation, and roof of the home. An appraiser tries to ascertain the market value of the home. They both inspect the home, but for very different reasons.
When a home inspector comes into the home, they’re not looking at the condition of the interior paint, countertops, and cabinets. However, the appraiser will examine those elements to determine how the home compares to others in the market. They may compare the upgrades (or lack of them) to other homes that have recently sold or are currently on the market to make a valuation of the home. They then share this determination with the lender to ensure the loan doesn’t exceed the appraised value.
5. What Will the Inspector Find?
Even when all goes well, your buyers or sellers will have a laundry list of items that need to be repaired. But not everything on the list from the home inspector will need to be addressed immediately. Your inspector will point out the major concerns that are most urgent. The rest of the items may become a to-do list of projects for the future homeowner.
If the home inspection uncovers a major problem, like the HVAC being more than 16 years old, a major leak in the plumbing, or the roof’s total lack of life expectancy, those are more likely to prevent a home sale from going through. If your client is the seller, you may need to help them decide what steps to take to correct the issue. If your client is the buyer, you will have to sit down with them to discuss whether this is the right house for them to purchase. If you can negotiate with the seller in terms of which projects each party is going to tackle, you may still be able to salvage what seemed like a doomed transaction.
Questions Your Clients Should Ask Before the Home Inspection
Choosing a quality home inspector is important. As a trusted adviser to your clients, you should have a handful of vetted inspectors you can refer them to. But they will still need to interview candidates and make their own decision. Make it easy for them by supplying this list of insightful queries.
6. What Are Your Credentials?
When it’s time to hire an inspector, this should be one of the first questions your clients ask. Whether you’re coaching your buyers or sellers, you should make sure they understand that a trustworthy home inspector is licensed and belongs to an organization like the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors or the American Society of Home Inspectors. You can go to one of these sites and look for someone in your area. Or you can search by name if you have someone already in mind. Clients can also ask for referrals or even a sample of a home inspection report to get an idea of what to expect when they get their own version.
7. Are You Bonded and Insured?
You should always recommend and work with home inspectors who are bonded and insured. If anything happens to a homeowner’s personal property during an inspection, the bond and the insurance will protect the homeowner.
8. How Do You Stay Current?
You want your clients to work with a professional who knows the importance of staying on top of the latest news and information in the industry. Ask the home inspector how they maintain their industry knowledge. A home inspector who values continuing education shows dedication to the craft.
9. Can I Attend the Home Inspection?
It’s the right of the potential buyer, who pays for the home inspection during the transaction period, to accompany the inspector as they check out the house. This will give the future homeowner an opportunity to understand what the inspector will include in their report. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for the buyer to ask questions about the maintenance of systems like the HVAC or the water heater.
Encourage busy buyers to make time for this invaluable education. Many first-time homebuyers have never had to service major systems and may not know how to keep their appliances running smoothly. A home inspector can be a wealth of information during this time. Make sure to let your buyer clients know that there are no bad questions and encourage them to ask the inspector about how to maintain the home.
10. What Type of Inspection Services Do You Provide?
Some inspectors have special knowledge of specific systems. For example, I used to work with a home inspector who was also a general contractor and a roofer. So when he inspected homes for my clients, he walked the roof. Not all inspectors go to this length, so it was a bonus to have someone who did that. Home inspectors who have additional experience in another field and provide extra services may charge more for their inspections, but the benefits can be worth it. Coach your clients to find out if their chosen home inspector has experience in another field and can add extra value to the inspection.
11. How Much Experience Do You Have?
There’s nothing wrong with hiring a home inspector who doesn’t have a ton of experience. But if the home inspector is just starting out, you might have your clients ask for some references and find out if they have experience in a related field. If they were in construction, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, or roofing before they got their home inspection license, that might mitigate some of their inexperience. Make sure your clients ask for references and check out reviews on Google or Yelp.
12. How Much Will the Home Inspection Cost?
Most of your buyers will be purchasing a house on a budget. Every cost outside of closing is probably going to hurt. Your clients will want to find out upfront how much their home inspection will cost, right along with what they get for that money. When your clients are interviewing home inspectors, make sure they’re not shy when asking about the cost. On average, your clients can expect to pay anywhere from $400 to $650 for a home inspection. But you can narrow the range even more for your clients with some local research.
13. Do You Re-inspect?
There will be some instances when a home inspector will need to come back out for a second inspection. There can be a few different instances where that might happen, like if some wood rot needs to be repaired or the roof needs to be replaced. In other words, if something needs to be fixed before the insurance or the loan can move forward, a re-inspection may be needed. If that happens, your clients will need to know what that process is, how much it will cost, and what it entails. Some inspectors will come back out for a fraction of the original cost, but not all of them. Some may charge almost the full amount of an inspection or not provide that service at all. Your clients will want to know where their inspector falls.
14. Will You Answer Questions After the Inspection?
Once the home inspector has tallied up their observations and sent over the report, your clients may have questions. They should find out before they make a hiring decision whether their home inspector will be available to answer those follow-ups. Encourage them to seek out someone who is a good communicator and can go over the report in detail, alleviating their fears about items on the inspection report. The last thing you want is to have a home inspector give your buyers the impression that the sky is falling when in reality, that’s usually far from the case.
15. Can You Share Your References?
This question goes back to finding a reputable, trustworthy home inspector. The easiest way to show trustworthiness is through reviews and references. Have your clients ask for a few references. This shouldn’t be a problem for any professional home inspector.
16. What Type of Report Will You Deliver?
Some home inspectors will give a detailed report with tons of pictures, which your clients will want. Pictures will help them visualize exactly what and where the items are in the home. If the home inspector doesn’t provide photos with the report, it might be more difficult for your clients to figure out how to tackle each item on their to-do list. Make sure your clients find a home inspector who delivers the kind of report they will understand.
Questions Your Clients Should Ask During the Inspection
Hopefully, you and your clients can accompany the inspector as they walk through the home. This is a great opportunity for your buyers to get valuable insight from the inspector on how to properly maintain appliances and systems in the home. That’s great for anyone, but especially for your newbies. Here’s a list clients should bring with them on inspection day.
17. I Don’t Know What That Means. Can You Clarify?
It’s practically a guarantee that the inspector will point out issues during the inspection that your clients aren’t familiar with. Make sure they understand that those are golden opportunities to tap into the advanced knowledge that a good home inspector has. For example, your clients can ask their home inspector about the electrical system, the HVAC, or the appliances. But if they don’t understand what the inspector is talking about, they should not be afraid to ask for an explanation.
18. How’s the Roof?
The roof is critical in all home inspections. After all, an aged roof can kill a real estate deal fast. So when the home inspector is analyzing the roof, your buyers need to find out what type of roof the home has and how old it appears to be. After all, a new roof is one of the bigger investments a homeowner may have to make, so they need to be prepared.
19. Do You See Any Major Red Flags?
As they’re following the home inspector, your clients will probably pick up a lot of information along the way. But they should make sure to ask this question specifically toward the end of the inspection. If the home inspector has any significant concerns, they should tell you what they are.
20. What Are the Most Costly Repairs Needed?
This question will be exceptionally important to your buyers. If the needed repair is too expensive, it could keep your buyers from moving forward in the transaction. Depending on how much capital your clients have in the bank, there may be a way to negotiate with the sellers in this situation. But your buyers will need to know the potential outlays before moving forward. If repairs are too much, buyers may have to move on from the home and continue their search.
21. Is the Home Well Insulated?
Inspectors should check the attic to see how protected the home is from the elements. If the home inspector isn’t checking the attic, that’s a red flag. Make sure your clients are armed with this knowledge before the inspection so they can ensure the inspector includes this check.
22. Are There Drainage Issues I Should Be Concerned About?
“Water is the driving force of all nature,” or at least that’s how Leonardo da Vinci saw the beautiful yet powerful strength of it. Water has a way of damaging anything in its path. Have your clients ask the home inspector if there are concerns about how water drains away from the home. Make sure the inspector also checks for pooling anywhere on the property that might be of concern.
23. How’s the HVAC?
Similar to roofing, the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system has the power to kill a home sale. Make sure your clients ask questions about the condition, age, and life expectancy of all HVAC elements.
24. How’s the Electrical System?
Your clients need to know what type of wiring is in the home. Some homes built from roughly 1965 to the early 1970s may have aluminum wiring, and that could be a problem for a soon-to-be homeowner, especially when it comes to homeowner’s insurance. Earlier structures may be running off of cloth wiring, which is a whole other fix waiting in the wings.
25. What Type of Plumbing Does the Home Have?
Your clients should also ask their home inspector about the type of plumbing in the home. Polybutylene is a type of plastic resin used for piping in homes from 1978 until it was banned in 1995 after many cases were reported of pipes bursting and causing major damage. If the home is fitted with polybutylene pipes, they will have “PB” stamped on them somewhere. Your clients can ask about PB pipes when they’re shadowing their home inspector.
26. Do You Check for Mold?
For many clients, mold is a hidden evil that must be rooted out. Mold isn’t always visible—it could be hiding behind the walls or under flooring. The home inspector needs to test the air quality to determine if unseen mold is an issue. It’s a great topic to broach before and during a home inspection.
27. Any Tips on Maintaining [Insert System]?
If your clients are first-time homebuyers, they may be unfamiliar with many systems in a new home. Coach your clients to ask the inspector questions about how to maintain their HVAC, water heater, kitchen appliances, irrigation systems, and so much more. The home inspector likely knows a lot about a lot. This is your client’s opportunity to absorb as much information as possible as they walk through the home together. Encourage them to get the most bang for their inspection buck.
28. How’s the Foundation?
Ask about the foundation of the home and what to watch for in the coming years. The inspector will likely point out some cracks either in the walls, driveway, or the exterior of the home and tell your clients to keep an eye on it over the coming years. Some cracks aren’t a big deal, but others may be.
29. Any Structural Issues?
Structural damage will probably be a deal breaker for most clients unless they’re flippers who can fix major issues themselves. Where I work here in Florida, termites cause a lot of structural damage. If your home inspector finds major issues during the home inspection, it can save your clients money by avoiding additional inspections. If it were my client and their home inspection came back with structural damage, I would encourage them to move on from this home and not spend money on any additional inspections, like a WDO (wood-destroying organism) inspection or a septic inspection.
30. How Long Will It Take to Receive the Report?
Home inspectors should be timely with their reports. Most buyers have a limited amount of time, per their contract, to perform inspections and make their determination as to whether or not they will move forward in the transaction. If the home inspector drags their feet on delivering the inspection report, that will shorten the time the buyers have to weigh the items in the report and make their final decision. Most inspectors will deliver their reports within 24 hours after the inspection, but it’s a good idea to ask about turnaround time.
Questions Your Clients Should Ask After the Home Inspection
Now that the home inspection is complete, your buyers will have some questions about the rest of the process. Arm them with this list of post-inspection questions to ask to make sure they feel comfortable.
31. What If I Have More Questions?
If the home inspector cares about customers and getting those reviews, they should definitely make themselves available to your clients for additional questions or a possible re-inspection. Who knows? If this home doesn’t work out, your clients may need inspection services on a second home.
32. Who Do You Recommend for Repairs?
The home inspection industry is congruent with construction, and as such, the home inspector may have some great service recommendations. Ask your home inspector what repairs they would prioritize and what they expect the costs to be.
33. How Can I Best Maintain My New Home?
The home inspector may have a lot to say about home maintenance, but it can be overwhelming to keep track of all the to-do lists. For many clients, the easiest way to maintain their new homes is to use a tool like HomeManager to keep track of regular maintenance, repairs, contractors, and inspections. That way, your clients don’t have to be experts in homeownership. HomeManager is like a manual for their new home.
Increase Your Home Inspection Knowledge
Real estate is your number one game. But what if you could build up your knowledge and become an even greater asset to your clients? Add a certification in home inspection to your pedigree. Get trained at the American Home Inspectors Training Institute via The CE Shop.
You can create an entire side hustle to your real estate business or just gain some powerful knowledge to help your clients during initial walk-throughs. You’ll be able to point out many important factors that your clients won’t see. Imagine how quickly you can help buyers decide whether a home is worth the asking price or if it’s a pig wearing a fancy shade of lipstick. If you love helping buyers through critical decisions or are interested in getting more investor clients, this could be a smart career move for you.
It’s true: home inspections can be stressful. But when good real estate agents and qualified home inspectors work together, buyers can make smart decisions on properties that are based on the excellent guidance that comes from working together.
I hope this extensive list helps you while working with your clients. I would love to hear your thoughts on other ways home inspectors can assist agents in the homebuying process. Drop your comments below.