The Home Inspection: Do’s and Don’ts for Home Buyers

Learn why you should choose your own home inspector, what you should do during the inspection, when to negotiate on repairs and more.
Kate Wood
By Kate Wood 
Edited by Beth Buczynski

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A home inspection isn't just your opportunity to ensure that a home is fit for you and your family. Knowing what to look for in a home inspection will help you understand any defects and, if you have enough leverage, assess what repairs should be made on the seller's dime before moving day.

Use these home inspection tips for buyers to prepare for the inspection and what comes next.

Do vet more than one home inspector

It's in your best interest to choose a home inspector with care. Your real estate agent may recommend an inspector, or the seller might offer to show you a report from a home inspection they've had done. To avoid any conflict of interest and to get the most objective information on the home's condition, you'll want an independent home inspector. And because things move quickly after an offer is accepted, you may even want to research inspectors while you're house hunting.

Certain professional organizations can be a shortcut to finding a qualified home inspector. (Not all states require home inspectors to hold licenses.) For example, the American Society of Home Inspectors requires members to perform more than 250 inspections and pass the National Home Inspector Examination to be eligible for membership.

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Do get a home inspection for new construction

Even if you're buying new construction, a home inspection should still be on your to-do list. A home inspector may evaluate a home differently than a county or municipal inspector, whose job is to determine whether new construction complies with building codes. At a bare minimum, a home inspector is a new set of eyes double-checking that there aren't any loose ends (or unconnected ducts).

Do be there for the home inspection

It’s recommended that buyers be present during the home inspection. Following the inspector from room to room will allow you to ask questions as they go. That will help you better understand the inspection report — which can feel pretty intense, especially if you're a first-time home buyer — and learn more about your potential new home.

Keep in mind that your home inspector does not have a crystal ball. You can ask any questions that spring to mind, but your home inspector may not be willing or able to provide answers about things outside the scope of contract requirements.

Don't get in the home inspector’s way

While you're encouraged to tag along and ask questions, don't impede the home inspector. You should also stick with them, rather than heading off to other parts of the house. For example, if they're checking the bathroom water pressure and you start running the kitchen sink, it could mess with the results.

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Don't be afraid to negotiate with the seller

You shouldn't expect the seller to take care of every last item in an inspection report — a thorough home inspection can easily list dozens of separate defects — but you may want to negotiate the cost of major repairs that were not included in the seller's disclosure.

To keep from handing over a too-lengthy list, skip anything that could be considered normal wear and tear or cosmetic. And if you already have plans to renovate, it's not worth haggling over minor repairs.

If larger issues do pop up, you can ask the seller to fix them before you move in. You may want to request a reinspection before closing or to see proof (think receipts) that professionals did the work.

Alternatively, you can request a credit from the seller or negotiate a reduced sale price. Though finding someone to make the repairs after you move in is more work for you, it may be the better arrangement, as you won't hold up the sale and you'll get to hire any contractors yourself.

Don't assume the home inspector can be held liable

A home inspector's chief concern is safety, but the home inspector isn't your keeper. Some inspection contracts won't give you much assurance in case of undiscovered problems; your home inspector might offer a limited warranty.

The inspector's responsibilities are delineated in their contract, limiting their legal liability. An arbitration clause, for example, would hamper your ability to file a lawsuit in case of disaster. Even if you were able to file a suit, there are sometimes additional clauses that limit how much you'd receive as compensation — you might only recover the cost of the inspection.

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