Welcome to the MilHousing Nation Podcast, where we are having conversations that matter for wherever the military has taken you. We’re bringing you stories from real military spouses who not only understand the challenges. They are harnessing the opportunities to build lives they can love. From new spouses to veteran spouses, you’ll get tips, tricks, and actionable steps that will help you along your military life journey.
Welcome, everyone. This is Heather Campbell. And we are so thankful you have joined us on the MilHousing Nation Podcast. Where we dive into the uniqueness of the military family journey by helping you build a life, a community, and a home you love when you are not in control of where you will call home next.
Okay, everyone, let’s get started. Today I am going to be talking with you guys about questions to ask your home inspector. Now I remember when I bought my first house, this was really stressful. We’ve learned so much since then, most of it actually through making mistakes. But this whole process of getting a home, having the inspection, waiting for the appraisal, all of those kinds of things can be really stressful.
So today we’re going to be talking about some of those questions you should be asking and the ways that you can approach this home inspection, feel informed and feel prepared as you take this very big step in your family’s life of committing to buying a home. And, of course, you want to make sure that your family is going to be safe and that you guys will be well provided for.
I want to give a special shout-out to today’s episode sponsor, Armed Forces Bank. We love working with them. And we are so thankful for all the support that they give us here at the MilHousing Network.
Okay, let’s get right into it. When you are looking at buying a home, if you have not done this already fun fact part of it is an inspection. Now, over the last year or two, with crazy post-pandemic house buying. Some people have been waiving the inspection. I of course, will never ever recommend that if a seller wants you to waive the inspection and not have the home looked at that should be like a huge red flag. Which can be stressful as military families because we need somewhere to live, right? Sometimes we’re doing the best with the options available, and we need a place to live. But I would absolutely recommend don’t waive the inspection. And when you are moving into that inspection phase of home buying, here are some questions that you need to be asking.
First, we’re going to talk about three different areas of when to ask questions before the inspection. And then of course, questions to ask maybe during the inspection or the day of also sort of blended with those questions for after the inspection, so as you start getting those results. Now, of course, these questions can apply as well. If you are the seller, if you’re the seller, and you are, for whatever reason, you’re moving, you’re relocating, you’re just moving into a different home. Whatever the case, if you are selling your home, these are the same questions that you can be asking your home inspector that’s going to be coming in and getting your home ready to turn over into the new buyer’s hands.
Now, before your home inspection, if you can, contact the home inspector and ask them questions like “What do you check for? What don’t you check for?” We had a home in Panama City, and it had previously sat empty after the housing crash; it had been a foreclosure and then set empty and through a whole bunch of different things that were crazy in the early 2000s. This home needed some things fixed up on it. We were a young couple we bought it anyway. We didn’t know that our home inspection did not cover the fireplace. So, of course, me being me or during deployment, I want to build a fire a Christmas fire in this fireplace. You guys, we lived in Florida, okay, we were in Panama City, it was very warm. But I was committed that we’ve lived here for three years and we are using this fireplace. I reached out and found out that our home inspection did not cover it, and I needed to actually get it specially inspected by like a fireplace inspector. I couldn’t even tell you what their job title was. I don’t remember. But I basically had it looked at and found that it was not safe to burn in. And so then we needed to do this entire like renovation on our fireplace, which cost multiple thousands of dollars during a deployment right before the house went on the market. It was very stressful. I was thankful to have that done.
Also, after my fireplace was brand new and shiny, I did not build my Christmas fire in the fireplace. All of that work, all of that money, all of that knowledge. I did not build the fire. Instead, I sold our home with this beautiful, brand new ready-to-use fireplace. But then there was an ethical piece there. Do I feel comfortable selling the home knowing this needs to be done? Or do I go ahead and fix it before it’s even on the market? So be aware, talk to your home inspector, “What things are covered?” Do they look inside of your fireplace or not? And then also know what things they don’t inspect right. What they do and what they don’t, hey, we don’t look at this or this isn’t part of our standard inspection set. Maybe there’s an extra fee, or maybe you have to ask. So be aware of what they are and are not going to be looking at during that inspection.
Ask them how much they charge. How much does it cost you to do this? Maybe you have different options. Maybe there are a few different inspectors. Maybe you know someone in town who has a highly recommended resource that is approved through your mortgage company and the way that you will be buying your home. So ask, “How much do you charge? What experience do you have? How long have you been doing this?” Those are important questions. You know, there’s differences; obviously, I didn’t know that fireplaces were not included in home inspections.
So if I get a job as a home inspector next year, you guys, like, be really careful because I am not super knowledgeable on that yet. But be aware of how much they’re charging, what they’re going to be looking at what their experience is. And then also ask, “Hey, can I come?” If you are in the local area, or maybe if you’re the seller, and you have the ability to accompany your inspector on the inspection, sometimes that’s really helpful. Sometimes it helps weed out some of this back and forth between the sellers or the inspector and the buyer.
If you’re just there when it happens, and you can ask those questions in real-time of how long the inspection is going to take. “Hey, does this take 30 minutes? Are you taking multiple days?” I don’t think that happens. But you know, “Is it half day? Is it an hour? What should we expect for this inspection?” Of course, those things are going to be dependent on property as well, whether it’s a condo or a townhome, a single-family home, lots of land, little land, those things all are going to factor in, age of the home, those things will factor into the inspection.
And then also ask about their credentials. When you’re finding out about your inspector, how much they charge, what their experiences are, ask about their credentials, are they licensed? Are they insured? Do they have all of those things in place to ensure that they are a legitimate business that you can trust with, ultimately, with your dollars and the safety of your family?
Now, I’m going to sort of roll these questions from the beginning of the inspection before the inspection also into during the inspection, maybe you get to do, or maybe these are things you can address ahead of time and say, “Hey, I really want these things looked at specifically,” right? So these, I say during, but if you’re not allowed to accompany the home inspector, these might be things that are either beforehand, or maybe in that immediately after the inspection of what they’re covering.
Okay, remember, we’re looking at this home, you’re buying this home, and we want to make sure that it’s safe for your family to live in, and that you are making a wise investment and that you are just knowledgeable. Things that come back before we talk about what is an inspection when things come back, that doesn’t mean red flags of things you should not be comfortable buying, right? Even new homes sometimes have little quirks and things that need to be addressed, things that are going to need to be maintained, things that are going to maybe need not in a new home, but things that might need to be updated. That does not necessarily mean that you should not buy a home.
So please do not hear this episode and be scared and think oh gosh, I shouldn’t I shouldn’t buy a home, or if something comes back, it’s wrong. No, it’s okay. It’s just getting that knowledge and making sure that you are making an educated decision for the well-being and safety of your family.
Okay, during the inspection, this one is so simple. Ask, “What does that mean?” When they say something about the drainage or when they’re using terms and terminology that you don’t know, ask about it, even if they think you’re annoying. Ask the more that you know, the more that you understand, then the better off you’re going to be. One of the ways that I love to sort of judge my understanding on a topic is to be able to communicate it to someone new.
So if my husband tells me something about I don’t know the PCS process and the way they’ve opened marketplace and done all these new things in the Air Force, being able to share that with the spouses in our unit. As one of the key spouses, I get to share that information. It’s important that I have a good understanding of it before I can turn around and relay it. Right? So if there’s something you’re not familiar with, if there’s something you can’t communicate with your dad or your father-in-law, or your spouse or you know, your neighbor, who does this for a living, make sure that you understand what it is that we’re talking about, we’re using the same terms in the same ways to mean the same things from the inspection. So that’s the first one. “What does that mean?”
“Is this a big issue or minor issue?” Maybe they see something and say, Oh, well, you want to update this case in point fireplace not being up to code? That’s a major one. You should probably address that before you know, put fire in that tube that goes to the sky. You should check on that. So that’s a big one. But other than wanting to use the fireplace, honestly, we could have sold the house and never even known had I not had it looked at. So it was kind of a minor thing unless you want to use the fireplace, and it’s important, right? So to understand, okay, this issue that they’re finding isn’t a major issue. Is it a minor issue?
Ask when they see something when they when they see something when they’re writing it down. Well, what is that? What does that mean? Is this a big issue or a minor issue? Ask as you’re going or even if you see something and say hey, I’m not familiar, is that the way that’s supposed to look, our first home in Florida had a lot of like red at the bottom of the brick. It was a red brick home, but it was like a different color, like an orangey red on the outside. It was like, hey, you know what is that is that mold? Is that mildew? Like, is that deterioration of the brick? What is that? You guys, it was from a sprinkler because it was very hard water that had a lot of iron in it, and it left a red residue on the brick. Totally minor. Not an important thing, easily power washed off, but it was something I wasn’t familiar with. I hadn’t lived somewhere with high amounts of iron in the water. I didn’t know that your sprinkler might leave your house looking a little red, so you’re going to need to clean it or make sure the sprinkler doesn’t hit the house. Okay?
So ask about things when you see them either beforehand or if you are allowed to accompany on that inspection. But if there’s something you’ve seen, or maybe something that your real estate professionals have brought to your attention. In addition, you can ask about those things to be looked at, at the inspection.
Ask about the maintenance of different things. “Hey, I see that there is this issue with the lawn, or I see that it has a built-in sprinkler system. Do you know anything about the maintenance of sprinkler systems?” Or, I stayed in a cabin recently. As you guys know, we live in Alaska. And this cabin had a grinding toilet, which was something I wasn’t familiar with. So if I was purchasing that property, that would be something I would ask, “Hey, what, what does maintenance on a grinding toilet look like? And what can you tell me about this?”
So ask not only about maintenance, ask about the installation of the home. Now this one is important, not only because I live in Alaska currently, but as you guys know, as I just said, I also lived in Panama City, Florida, where it gets quite warm. I have lived in Alabama, where it gets quite warm, I want to know if the AC that I’m pumping into my home is going to stay in my home, I want to know if the horrible hot sun is going to be beating down and baking my house. Here in Alaska, I want to know if the heat I’m putting into my home is going to stay in my home.
Okay, so ask about the installation. There’s one thing to be up to code. There’s another step; sometimes home inspectors will recommend more, maybe more of the roof, maybe more on the walls. And so that’s great information to have before you get into that first negative 40-degree winter. Know what you’re working with. Again, that’s not a reason to not purchase a home but just be informed about what the insulation looks like for your property.
Ask about the roof life. This one is so good, especially if you live in an area that tends to get severe weather. Sometimes you might be right on that cusp and kind of hold out and hope for a good storm and the ability to claim the roof on insurance. But sometimes, you have a brand new roof. So just ask. You don’t want to move into a home, typically also sidebar; they’re going to tell you in your inspection about the roof. But if for some reason they don’t include that, or they don’t put it in the report, make sure that you ask, but you don’t want to get into a home, like we did one time, and find out that there was a roof leak because a hurricane was hitting. And we found out that our roof was leaking into our attic, which was leaking down into our bedroom. That was not a super fun thing to find in the middle of a storm. So again, our roof came back normal in our inspection. We were able to replace it with insurance. But that was a surprise of being in the home for just a couple of weeks was a leaking roof.
So be sure that you’re asking about these very basic things. “What does this mean is it’s a major issue or minor issue?” “I see this can you tell me more about it?” “What does the maintenance look like?” “What’s the insulation?” “How was our roof life?” And also ask about drainage issues, especially if you have a sloping yard. If it slopes towards the home, ask how the water drains. I lived in a home in Alabama our whole neighborhood but just the area of town we were built in kind of boggy and spongy and squishy when we got a lot of rain during the winter. So I’d have this sort of standing squish on top of my grass. Thankfully, we did not have any drainage issues towards our home. But I don’t think it would have kept me from purchasing our house. But it would have been nice to know that, hey, it’s gonna get kind of squishy outside when it rains. So those are some of those questions to be asking during the inspection or in that immediate after of hey, can you look at this? Can you tell me more about this?
Now we are going to take a quick pause. And I would like you guys to hear a little bit more about today’s sponsor, Armed Forces Insurance and Armed Forces Bank.
A full-service military bank committed to serving those who served since 1907. Armed Forces Bank provides a vast array of affordable and easily accessible financial products to both active and retired military, and civilian clients in all 50 states and across the world. When you’re in the military, your needs are different, and your banking should be too. That’s why no matter where you are stationed in the world Armed Forces Bank strives to make everything from banking solutions to financial advice personal, valuable and convenient for you with numerous services, including online and mobile banking tools to help you bank on your schedule.
Okay, now that we have heard from our sponsor, again, we are so thankful to work with them here at the MilHousing Network. I want to move forward with those questions for home inspection for after the inspection. And these are going to be really similar to some of those questions for during so these can kind of be fluid. Some questions might be before or during some might be after.
There’s not necessarily a checklist, although you could Google it and find many, many checklists. But there’s no right or wrong way to do this. As long as you have that opportunity to communicate with your inspector and potentially with your seller or with your seller’s agent. Or if you’re the seller, communicating with a buyer and the buyer’s agent, you want to make sure that you are getting those answers and that you have a great understanding of what you are walking into, literally, as you walk into this home purchase and start to live there with your family.
One of the questions is, “Can you clarify?” Now it’s gonna be really similar to what does that mean? Sometimes it’s something you have no idea about at all, and I need to know what it means but sometimes, I think I might have a misunderstanding of this, or I think those words mean this. “Can you clarify? Can you tell me more about this?” I am sure that many of you have had multiple conversations with professionals in different areas where you’ve had something need to be explained. All of you women in the audience who are listening are just gonna really, you know, feel coals heaping on your head with this story.
One time, we needed something fixed on our car. And we were a young couple. And we had young children, and my kids had been acting crazy in the car shop. So my husband took them out to the car, we had a DVD player in our car at the time, and we were gonna go turn on a movie. They were over. They hit that limit, right? You guys all know they’ve hit the limit, we need to remove them from public. So he’s out in the car. The technician was explaining to me about CV axles; those of you who are mechanics are maybe really familiar with this. I am a health scientist. I was not familiar with CV axles. So I asked him to explain it to me more. I said, “Okay, if this one portion of it is what’s wearing down, can you explain to me why we have to replace the entire axle? I’m not familiar with this.” And you guys, he looked me right in the face and said, “Where did your husband go? I can probably explain it to him easier.” Yes, I am not kidding. That is exactly the conversation. So I may be less tactfully told him. “No, I am the one who runs the house. I am the one who takes the cars in and does the doctor’s appointments and takes care of all of the finances because my husband goes to work. So you can explain it to me because I will be the one making this purchasing decision.” Which he did. And then I took his recommendation and my business elsewhere.
But if you have something that you do not understand, ask for that clarification. Ask for them to explain it to you in a way that you can communicate with someone else. Again, use that as sort of your gauge. Can I relay this to someone else in a way they will explain? That’s when you know you have a true understanding of a topic.
Also, ask about things when you see them on the report, similar to “is this a major issue or minor issue?” Ask how much it’s going to cost to fix and if they fix it. Sometimes home inspectors do side projects as a contractor, and they can do that repair. Now, I personally don’t love this question as one to ask the inspector. I’ve done a lot of research getting ready for today’s episode of what questions we should be asking. I’m not a real estate professional.
So I want to make sure that I’m communicating with you guys well. And I feel kind of weary about asking if my home inspector can fix the issue. Now it might be better if they’ve already done the inspection, definitely don’t ask it before because I would be worried they would find an issue that they Oh happened to fix. Hey, you have this problem. Oh, by the way, I happen to fix that problem.
So if it’s not something that you feel comfortable with them fixing, you can still ask for an estimate of the cost. Typically, professionals who work in this space are going to be acquainted with one another, and with their peers. They’re going to know hey, this is a big issue. And it’s really expensive, or hey, this is a potential major issue. But it’s not super expensive. It’s an easy fix. But it is important, or hey, this is a minor issue. And by the way, if you want to fix it, it’s really expensive. Right? So get that information how much, “Hey, I see this thing on the report, do you fix it? Do you know somebody who does? Do you have an expert that you can recommend to address this issue with us? And do you have any idea how much this should cost when I start looking for assistance in fixing these issues?”
This also will equip you as the buyer to do those negotiations with your seller. Same with the seller, this will give you that information to be negotiating with your buyer when they are asking for things that maybe you know are minor issues that are expensive, right? You can make a rubric like big costs, little costs, big problem, little problem, and little problems that are little cost maybe are easy ones to fix. Big problems that are little cost, absolutely get those fixed. Big problems that are big costs, maybe those are the ones you negotiate about. And the big problems that are, or the minor problems that are a big cost. Those are ones that you can kind of say, yeah, I’m not going to be making that repair for you. So again, be informed.
All of these questions are to help you be informed as the buyer or the seller as you prepare for this exchange of property. And then the last question that I have for you to be asking is making sure that they are communicating with you about recommended professionals. So similar of, “Hey, do you know someone who can do this? But also, is there another expert?” Maybe it’s not just, hey. I know this guy who does this thing. But oh, man, your fireplace is not safe to burn in. You need to find this specific type of inspector that specializes in this area of inspections, right? You could have an electrician tell you, hey, you’ve got a plumbing issue over here this close to these lines, but you’re going to ask the electrician to tell you about a plumber, right because our plumber needs to be fixing this plumbing problem.
So be asking for those recommendations, especially if you are in a new area. Ask the professionals. Ask the real estate professionals that you’re working with. Ask your inspector. And then also you can ask around in your local community, maybe someone from your church or your kids’ soccer team or someone from your gym, or someone in a spouse page on your installation. Get that information because the more information you have about your area, about your home, about the potential fixes about professionals to work with.
All of those things are going to set you up for success so that you can be making this decision, feeling confident, feeling prepared, and ultimately moving into this new stage as homeowners or recent home sellers. But you will be able to go forward into this transaction feeling equipped and prepared, ready to move into the next chapter.
That is everything that I have to share with you guys. Like always, please make sure that you are following us on social media. You can find us at MilHousing Network on Instagram or on Facebook. You can also find us at MilHousingNetwork.com We are so thankful to bring all of this information into our audience to help equip you guys, to help support you guys, to help you build that community wherever you are moving. Thank you so much for being a part of the MilHousing Nation. We appreciate you. The MilHousing Nation is where you always have a community, no matter where you’re stationed.
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