How to Get the Most Out of Your Home Inspection

Home Inspector with lookSmart Home Inspections, LLC 24GI00058700

When you finally get to the point of having a home inspection in this very challenging real estate environment you are probably very stressed and challenged. It is a tough market to get an offer accepted and get to the home inspection stage of the home buying process. Once here how do you get the most out of your home inspection?

A home inspection is a top to bottom visual examination of the home that you are buying. The home inspectors’ job is to tell you what systems need repair and what will need repair or replacement down the road. The New Jersey Home Inspector is required to report any material defects which are deficiencies that negatively affect the safety, value, or habitability of the home. The home inspector will inspect the entire home then create a home inspection report of the findings. The buyer will use the report to determine if they still want to buy the home and if so what credits or corrections they will ask the sellers for. Some home inspections are for homes sold as-is, in this case the home inspection is for the buyer’s education only and will not be used for negotiation purposes.

Home inspections can be stressful but there are things you can do to prepare for them and to get the most out of them so you can make good decisions about the home you are buying. The first thing is to set your expectations. Home inspections are visual examinations of a subject property. As NJ Home Inspectors we do not open walls or conduct invasive testing. We are not allowed to move items in the home, and we are not allowed to dismantle systems. As a buyer the first thing to understand is what a home inspector can and cannot do. Make sure you read the home inspection contract to understand what the home inspector will be excluding. For example, in New Jersey, home inspectors do not inspect irrigation systems, alarm systems, intercoms, and water softening equipment. There are other excluded items too so make sure you read and understand the contract before the home inspection.  If you go into the home inspection understanding the limitations, you will have reasonable expectations of the information the home inspector will be able to provide. The most important thing to remember is that home inspectors cannot see issues behind walls and ceilings. If the issues are covered, they will not be able to be viewed and reported on. Yes, infrared technology can be used in certain instances but using an infrared camera is not a catch all for latent defects. The home inspection consumer must have realistic expectations on what the home inspector can and cannot do to avoid confusion on inspection day.

To get the most out of your home inspection you must attend it. I understand that we all lead busy lives but attending the home inspection is crucial for you to understand the problems that exist in the home. When you attend you can watch and follow the home inspector inspect your new home. Along the way the home inspector will be explaining what he or she sees. There is a difference in seeing the defect in person and listening to the home inspector describe it then just reading about the problem in an inspection report. Actually, being present allows you to learn the severity of the issue and allows you to ask questions. You can see firsthand what the issues are in the home and this first-hand experience trumps just reading an inspection report. Home inspections are educational, you will learn a lot about your new home by listening to and watching and asking questions to the home inspector. This is especially true for first time home buyers. First time home buyers can learn a great deal about the home by spending three- or four-hours with their home inspector. 

You should ask questions during your home inspection. If you don’t understand a problem or system, ask your home inspector to clarify and explain. NJ Home inspectors are really educators who enjoy teaching clients about homes. The job of the home inspector is not just to point out problems in the home but to educate our clients about the homes that that are purchasing. Good home inspectors will welcome questions and be eager to educate you about the problems that exist in the home you are buying.

During the home inspection you should take note of the larger issues. There is likely to be some time before you receive your home inspection report. Good home inspectors will get you the report within 24 hours, but it is still helpful to take note of the big issues. If you write notes about the major problems, you can start thinking about how you want to approach them. Taking notes on the big issues allows you to spend the next day thinking about the issues and formulating a plan to move forward. Do not be afraid to take notes during your home inspection.

After the home inspection report is delivered you must read it. Reading the home inspection report is crucial. So many times, clients did not read the report and paid the price later for issues that they should have sought credit for or had the seller repair. Home inspection reports can be lengthy however it’s time well spent reading the reports. One tip you can use is to highlight the major issues of concern and paste them into a separate document that you can send to your attorney. Doing this helps to narrow down your major issues of concern rather than have your attorney or the seller try to determine what is foremost on your mind.

Get inaccessible areas inspected before you close. Often there will be areas in the home that the home inspector could not view during the home inspection. These may include attic spaces or garages that are full of storage. If the home inspector cannot inspect these areas during the home inspection they will not be reported on. The most important areas to get inspected if they are not accessible are crawlspaces. If the crawlspace is sealed or cannot be accessed this is problematic because crawlspaces often have a multitude of issues. As a buyer make sure that you speak to your attorney and ask for all inaccessible areas to be made accessible before you close. If you do not have these areas inspected there are significant open risks to you, the buyer.  Good home inspectors will explain this limitation during the home inspection and document any inaccessible areas in the home in the written report.

You should ask follow up questions. If you read the report and don’t understand something, call the home inspector, and ask for clarification. Homes and defects can be complicated it’s important that you understand the problems that exist so you can intelligently ask the seller for correction or credits. Good home inspectors will be accessible and welcome your questions after the home inspection. If you are unclear on something it will be challenging to ask for that issue to be corrected.

You should make sure you understand the issues and be able to intelligently speak to your real estate attorney about your concerns. Do not just leave it to your attorney to choose the major issues, you must be an active participant in the process.   So many times, I have had both buyers and attorneys fail to ask questions and they end up not understanding the real issues and thus ask for the wrong items to be corrected.  There must be a synergy between the home inspector, buyers, and the buyer’s attorney so that an intelligent and thoughtful request letter can be composed. If the buyer and the attorney are not on the same page as the home inspector, the best outcome will not be achieved. You as the buyer must make sure your attorney understands the issues so they can properly ask for correction or credit. If your attorney does not understand the major issues, you will not have an efficient or productive negotiation. Often the wrong issues are negotiated because of a lack of communication between the buyer and the buyer’s attorney. It is up to you, the buyer who has hired the attorney and the home inspector to make sure that your attorney understands the problems and how to explain them in an intelligent way to the seller in written form.

It is advantageous for you, the new buyer, to get familiar with how homes work and the systems that are typically found in homes. If you go into a home inspection with little to no understanding of the terminology of homes or what systems do, then you will be at a disadvantage. Yes, the home inspector can explain the issues but you as a buyer should have at least a basic understanding of how homes work, their systems and basic terminology. This will help you communicate more effectively with your home inspector and make the home inspection process easier as you gain useful insights into the home you are buying. Before buying a home read some books on how homes work so you will have good foundational knowledge.

You should get estimates from reputable contractors: New Jersey Home inspectors are not contractors, and they cannot provide accurate written cost estimates in an inspection report.  It is vital for you as a buyer to seek out professional contractors to provide estimates of the larger issues found in the home. If you don’t you are just guessing as to the cost of repair or replacement. Often estimates will vary greatly. The better job you do at getting cost estimates the more precise your negotiation with the seller will be. You will have a firm base to build on your negotiation rather than just guessing as to the cost of repairs. Obtaining accurate cost estimates is a crucial piece of due diligence so you know more accurately what the corrections will cost.

Before you close you should visit the seller and get a lesson on how to use any complicated systems in the home. Homes today often have a lot of technology and complex systems. Home inspectors will not be able to spend significant time educating you on how these specialized systems work. Sometimes home inspectors will not be versed on a particular system. It is always helpful for you to visit the seller and have them show you how things work in the home, especially the upgraded and complex systems that they installed. Doing this prevents you from being able to operate something or having to pay someone to come in and teach you. Ask for this, it’s important to have a walk-through of the home with the seller. This important piece of education is often left out. I do highly recommend it for an easier transition into your new home.

You should have additional inspections performed if they are recommended. Additional inspections are often recommended either by the home inspector during the inspection or before the home inspection takes place. Such ancillary but important inspections can be chimney inspections, oil tank location, and sewer line inspections. Doing these allows for improved due diligence. The more information you have as a buyer the better decisions you can make about the home you are buying. Home inspectors are not engineers. If warranted a home inspector may request that you have a professional engineer or architect evaluate a significant structural problem in the home. These additional evaluations are important because they help you, the buyer, understand these major structural issues. Good home inspectors will not call for further evaluation at every turn but only when absolutely needed in the event of finding a major structural concern in a home. Do not neglect the home inspector’s advice about getting a further evaluation of important structural concerns.

Having your new home inspected can be a stressful process but it is the most important aspect of purchasing a new home. There are several important things you can do to make the process more efficient and productive. If you use the tips in this article, you will be much more prepared than the vast number of home buyers. You will be ready to absorb information, create effective repair request letters, talk intelligently about the issues in the home, and negotiate effectively with the sellers.

John Pusa
Glendale, CA

Hello John Martino very good helpful report about how to get the most out of a home inspection.

Mar 01, 2024 09:07 PM
Richard Weeks
Dallas, TX
REALTOR®, Broker
Great information, thanks for sharing.  I hope you have a great day.
Mar 02, 2024 03:36 AM
Bill Salvatore - East Valley
Arizona Elite Properties - Chandler, AZ
Realtor - 602-999-0952 / em:

Thanks for sharing, make it a great Saturday and enjoy your


Bill Salvatore, Realtor- Arizona Elite Properties

Mar 02, 2024 04:33 AM
Kat Palmiotti
eXp Commercial, Referral Divison - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

These are all great suggestions regarding home inspections. Knowing what is/is not included is key - if you can't see or access something, it cannot be inspected. And whether or not buyers attend inspections seems to differ by state. In my state, the buyers are welcome at the very end for an overview. In NY, they are usually there for the entire inspection.


By the way, we had another ActiveRain inspector come talk to us at our weekly ActiveRain Zoom call. We are currently having a challenge here at ActiveRain which is focused on people who never attended those calls. Take a look at this link, and if you are interested, consider yourself formally invited by me! 

Mar 02, 2024 06:43 AM