I’ll start my list with questions I am never asked that I think are most important.
First question you should ask is one that I have yet to be asked by any home buyer since 1993 despite having 7,000 or so clients. You should ask to see the inspectors state issued license or ID card issued by ASHI or a reputable home inspector organization. Please ask, I have been carrying those ID’s in my wallet for years just in case some one asks for them. If your inspector can’t find his or hers it is time to stop the inspection and try again with another company.
Another question you should be asking the home inspector is what is your education, training and experience. A good home inspector will have years of inspection experience, a few hundred hours of class room experience and be able to tell you the last few continuing education classes attended. New Jersey law requires inspectors to have at least 40 hours of continuing education in home inspection every two years. I have taught many of those classes and found many students learned quite a bit.
Home inspectors expect questions to be asked during home inspections. If you ask a home inspector a question, hear the answer and nod your head up and down the home inspector is likely to feel your question was answered. If you do not understand the answer a home inspector gives you tell the inspector. I have no problem at all explaining things more than once and in different ways till buyers understand.
Ask the home inspector about any of your concerns. Do not bother asking the inspector if you should buy the home, if the home is right for you, if the price is right, who has to fix what and the like. Home inspectors can answer your questions about most issues however the above questions are outside of the field of expertise of most home inspectors.
Feel free to questions the home inspector about the drainage around the exterior of the home, how to help keep your basement dryer, how to prolong the useful life of the roofing and if there are problems with the roofing and or siding. Home inspectors answer those questions all the time and can provide useful tips.
While outside ask the home inspector if there are any signs of improperly abandoned oil tanks, if there are the home inspector can advise you and your attorney how to proceed.
Home inspectors can tell you how many amps the service is, the service voltage, if there is room to expand within the electric panel, if amateurs have caused problems with the wiring and if the wiring appears to be safe. If the home is older make sure you ask the inspector if aluminium wiring or knob and tube wiring exists, both are potential fire hazards and may make it difficult to get home owner’s insurance.
When the home inspector is inspecting the plumbing system ask if the sewer clean out cap is newer. If it is suspect problems with the sewer pipe may exist and budget for replacement. Ask the inspector how old the plumbing supply, waste and vent pipes are. If the pipes are old replacement may be necessary sooner than you would like.
Heating systems must be inspected and you are entitled to be told how the heating system works. If you do not know the parts on the boiler or furnace now is the time to find out. Ask the home inspector questions about what part does what and why they are there. Every home inspector I know is anxious to teach you everything he or she knows. If the inspector does not know the names of the parts on the equipment you should be concerned.
Many buyers have questions to ask home inspectors about the structure of the home. Keep in mind home inspectors can not see into or through walls. Home inspectors can see what they can see and make a few educated guesses. Home inspectors are likely to miss hidden damages from insects, rot, water and construction defects unless obvious symptoms exist. Home inspectors who provide an answer of “I do not know” when asked the question is there hidden damages are not being evasive they are being honest.