As the buyer of new home, it’s completely within your right to know the status of your prospective purchase before closing the deal. In fact, these days it’s not uncommon for a buyer to physically accompany inspectors as they exam a home. But if your inspector is adept at writing reports and willing to walk you through its finer points, it might not be necessary.
Here are a few tips you can follow to help you understand an inspector’s report:
Although your busy schedule won’t always permit it, try and book your home inspection around a time when you are available. That way, if the inspector finds any critical issues, you’ll receive a firsthand account of what they are and how much they might cost to repair. It’ll also give you the opportunity to see how the inspector works.
Should an inspector seem unqualified or insufficiently equipped to perform his obligations, feel free to get a second opinion. Remember, the cost of even two home inspections is far less than the price of even the most superficial repairs. Better to know now.
Know Your Report Types
Generally speaking, there are two types of home inspection reports: checklists and narrative.
Checklists are the more vague of the two report types. They usually consist of a list of systems with a series of boxes indicating the system’s condition. For instance, the electric wiring of a home might be rated “Good,” “Fair,” or “Poor.” At the bottom of the checklist report is a section where the inspector can write notes. Usually this area is reserved for the inspector to comment on systems that were problematic.
One point of note: A “Fair” rating doesn’t always indicate that a system is due for repair, but a “Poor” usually does.
The problem with the checklist report is that it lacks the details of a narrative report. It’s therefore important that you know which report type your inspector uses beforehand, since you’ll almost always want to be around to ask questions if he utilizes the checklist method.
Narrative reports on the other hand are written in an article format. Typically, the inspector writes down details pertaining to each examined system, including any deficiencies.
While at first glance the narrative report appears to be the better model of the two, sometimes it’s written in such a way that makes it difficult for the buyer to understand. For this reason, buyers are even more encouraged to ask questions than they would be if the inspector harnessed the checklist approach.
Start With the Important Issues
No home is without its flaws, but by knowing which systems cause the most potentially hazardous (and costly) issues, you’ll be well positioned to ask the right questions.
Before anything, it’s imperative that you know the status of the home’s electrical systems, roofing, plumbing and ventilation systems. Of course, you’ll also want to ask about any gas leaks or other health risks.
And finally, always remember to take your time. Remember, once you close a deal, there is no going back.