A lot of people will get a home inspection for a specific reason. Buying or selling a home is the most common reason. You might also have a shifting foundation or an old, potentially leaky roof. Determining how to best spend your budget to increase your home’s energy-efficiency performance is another good reason. Most real estate experts also advise homeowners to get a home inspection at least once every ten years.


The Most Important Question to Ask

Pretty much every kind of home has something to look out for. Older homes may have years of slow deterioration that require a meticulous investigation. Foreclosed home may have suffered more acute damage resulting from neglect, even from otherwise conscientious people who simply couldn’t afford their home any longer.


Even newer homes have no guarantee to be problem-free. In fact, there’s even a name for newer homes, known as “sick homes,” that experience problems with stagnant air from a home that’s been sealed too tight. Combining superior energy efficiency with adequate home ventilation is no simple task.


All of this leads to what we think is the single most important thing to look for and ask about when choosing a home inspector. Do you have experience inspecting this type of home? In one older neighborhood where I used to live, for example, there were a lot of homes with dug out half-basement areas—and there was some question as to the stability of the rest of the foundation of the home. It was the home inspector who was able to reassure us about the foundation and to tell us the full story that it was during the late 60s and early 70s that there a huge push to remodel our neighborhood of homes with dug-out basement additions that could serve as a place for a laundry area.


Get to Know the Home Before the Inspection

You’re never going to get the most out of your home inspection if you don’t spend some time in the house first. You may have fallen in love with the home during the first 30 minutes of the open house, but you need more time and more opportunity to discover all the idiosyncrasies of the home and property. Even the most thorough, experienced, and well-spoken home inspector can’t know everything you’re thinking or everything you might have questions about once you’ve moved in. But more than just imagining what moving in will be like, try to imagine what you might want to do years down the road. There are likely questions you want to ask that go like this, “If we ever wanted to, could we….?”


Now, any home inspector worth their salt will tell you give you their information and encourage you to contact them with any follow-up questions. But there are no guarantees. If you’re not paying close attention, you might not think of the question until 6 months later and by then the inspector may have limited recall of the property, if they’re still available at all. Which is why you want to get to know the home before the inspection.


READ NEXT: Don’t Forget the Basics of a Home Inspection