How Much House Can I Afford

May 12, 2019 Posted By: growth-rapidly Tag: Buying a house

Unless you expect to rent all of your life, you’re going to need to buy a house of your own. You will need to figure out in what neighborhood to live in.

You’ll need to figure out how long you expect to live in the house. However, this is only one piece to the puzzle.

The main thing you will need to determine is how much house you can afford.

After all, and as any financial advisor will tell you, taking a 30-year home loan for a house is a major financial. And it should not be taken lightly. The worst thing you can do is to get a loan that is too expensive for your budget.

So knowing how much house you can afford can help you determine whether or not you’re ready to buy a house.

LendingTree: A Better Way to Find A Mortgage is making getting a mortgage loan simpler, faster, and more accessible. Compare the best mortgage rates from multiple mortgage lenders all in one place and at the same time. LEARN MORE ON LENDINGTREE.COM >>>

Here are some strategies that can help you determine how much house you can afford.

Related topics:

5 Signs You’re Not Ready to Buy a House

10 First Tome Home Buyer Mistakes to Avoid

1. Do a Budget.

First up, do you have a budget? As any financial planner would say, buying a home is perhaps the biggest expense you will ever make in your life. When you are a homeowner, not only will you have to account for basic expenses like food, transportation, entertainment, etc, you will also have to account for monthly mortgage payments, home repairs, etc…

So, having a budget is an important step in determining how much home you can afford.

2. Increase your Credit Score.

How much house you can afford also depends on your credit score. In fact, mortgage lenders aren’t likely to offer you a mortgage loan if you have a bad credit score.

Although you can get an FHA loan with a 580 minimum score, but there are things to consider when taking an FHA loan, like paying for a private mortgage insurance (PMI).

So, a good credit score will not only help you get qualified for a loan, but it will also help you get the best terms and rates possible. So the higher your credit score, the better.

Get a copy of your credit report for FREE and address any mistakes immediately. You can call the 3 credit bureaus (equifax, equinox, and transunion) to report any inaccuracies. Once you do that, the next step is to try to raise your credit score.

One of the ways to improve your credit score is to pay all of your bills on time. Payment history accounts 35% of your total credit score. So, it’s crucial not to have late payments.

Another way to raise your credit score is to keep your credit balance under 30%. For more information, read: How To Raise Your Credit Score to 850.

Feeling Overwhelmed With Your Finances?, You have options and there are steps you can take yourself. But if you feel you need a bit more guidance, simply speak with a financial advisor. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with fiduciary advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you are ready to meet your goals, get started with Smart Asset today.

3. Down Payment.

Your down payment is crucial in figuring out how much house you can afford. It is so because the larger the down payment, the less financing you will need, which also means the lower your monthly mortgage payment will be.

So although you can put a down payment as low as 3.5%, the rule of thumb is to put 20%.

Click here to compare mortgage rates through LendingTree. It’s completely FREE.

4. Beware of Closing Costs.

In addition to coming up with a sizable down payment to purchase your home, you will also need to think about the closing costs. Closing costs typically cover the home inspection fees, attorney’s fees, appraisal fees, etc.

Closing costs can range from 2 to 4% of the home purchase price. Depending on the home, closing costs can cost you a lot of money.

5. Get Pre-approved for a Morgage.

One way to know if you can afford a house is to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Mortgage lenders will gather your financial information like your salary, debt, employment history, and credit score, before they decide to give you a loan. Getting pre-approved is important, because at least you know you’re shopping for a house within your budget.

One word of caution though, a mortgage lender can give you a bigger loan. So make sure you can afford it. In other words, just because you’re qualified for a specific amount of money, does not necessarily mean you can afford it. So, review your budget before making a decision.

Related: Apply for a Mortgage Loan Today

Not All Mortgage Lenders Are Created Equally

When it comes to getting a mortgage, rates and fees vary. LendingTree allows you to view and compare multiple mortgage rates from multiple mortgage lenders all in one place and at the same time, so you can choose the best rates for your needs. LendingTree makes getting a loan faster, simpler, and better. Get started today >>>

Related Resources

Get Pre-qualified For A Mortgage Online Now

Compare Mortgage Rates All in One Place

Check Your Credit Score For Free


Home Financing: Investing in Your Life and Future

The content on this site is not intended to provide legal, financial or real estate advice. It is for information purposes only, and any links provided are for the user’s convenience. Please seek the services of a legal, accounting or real estate professional prior to any real estate transaction.


How 2017 Rate Volatility Impacts Home Affordability

Prospective home buyers may feel disheartened when they see rates rise. Here’s what it really means for them.

Rising mortgage rates decrease how much home you can afford, but you have more flexibility than you might think because of how lenders qualify you.

Let’s recap the wild ride rates have been on since November, then review how this impacts affordability, and how you can qualify for the most home possible.

2017 rate recap and outlook

Mortgage rates rose .75 percent between the election and Christmas last year, driven by a belief that the new administration’s proposed policies of infrastructure spending, tax cuts, and deregulation would be inflationary if enacted.

Rates rise on inflation threats, and this is what happened post-election.

We said back then the dramatic rate spike might level off, and now that’s happening, albeit in a very volatile way. Rates are up and down daily as investors react to new government policies. One day investors bet inflation will be muted by policy delays or roadblocks (lower rates), and another day investors return to the post-election inflationary bet (higher rates).

The net effect is that rates are off post-election highs, and now are up about .5 percent since the election.

Rate volatility will continue as investors and the Federal Reserve try to predict rate direction under the new administration, so let’s see how it impacts your home-buying plans.

How rates impact home affordability

On a $350,000 home purchase with 20 percent down, a rate spike of .5 percent reduces the home price you can afford by about $17,000.

This measure can make you think you’re doomed to a smaller house or worse neighborhood. But if you understand how lenders think, you can find solutions.

Mortgage lenders use a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio to qualify you, meaning they divide your bills (for housing, car payments, credit cards, etc.) by your income to get a percentage of how much of your monthly income you spend on bills. Most lenders don’t lend to you if your monthly bills are more than 43 percent of your income.

If you earn $65,000 per year and have car, student loan, and credit card bills totaling $615 per month, you qualified for that $350,000 home purchase when rates were .5 percent lower, but now you don’t.

The reason: your DTI percentage was below 43 percent pre-election, but now it’s above 44 percent after rates rose.

On the surface, the only solution would be to reduce your purchase price by $17,000 to $333,000 to get your DTI back below 43 percent.

How to increase home affordability

But instead of reducing your price by $17,000, you can reduce your other non-housing bills.

For example, let’s say your credit card payment was $125 on a balance of $3,125. You need to get that payment down to $45 to qualify for your original $350,000 home purchase price, and you can do so by paying down the balance by $2,000.

That’s a lot better than reducing your purchase price by $17,000, and if you’re light on cash, you can negotiate a seller credit at closing to recoup the $2,000.

How to make the right decisions

Just like all real estate is local, all lending is individual.  So don’t automatically assume rising rates push down the price you qualify for.

A good lender will examine your full financial profile and goals, then dive into the math to find solutions for you.

Looking for more information about mortgages? Check out our Mortgage Learning Center.


Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.


Former Mass. Rep Pleads Guilty in Mortgage and Other Scams

A former Massachusetts state representative has pleaded guilty to a batch of bank and wire fraud charges. So reports State House News Service.

Among other crimes, David Nangle admitted to getting a home mortgage and three home equity lines of credit amounting to $115,000 by hiding debt from banks.

Nangle, who faces the possibility of decades in prison, also admitted paying golf club dues out of campaign donations.

Read the full article from State House News Service.


How to Buy and Sell a Home at the Same Time—Without Losing Your Mind

Ah, to be a first-time home buyer again: How easy it was to buy a home when you weren’t carrying another mortgage on your back at the same time!

If you’re looking to graduate from first-timer to repeat buyer, you know things are about to get much trickier. Unless you’re a bona fide house collector, you’ll have to sell your home in order to buy anew—adding a whole separate layer of anxiety to what you already know is a stressful home-buying process.

In an ideal world, you’d buy a new home, move, and then, when all the dust settles, deal with the turmoil of selling.

But for most people, that’s totally unrealistic. Not only does it cost a lot, since you’ll be paying two mortgages at the same time, but sellers of your potential new home might be quick to judge if you’re holding on to your current home.

Drew Snyder, a Realtor® with Snyder Sutton Real Estate in Topanga, CA, says one of his clients had difficulty getting sellers to “take them seriously unless the house was on the market or in escrow. As soon as we put it on [the market], they were considered as serious buyers.”

So, while shopping for a new home and selling your current home at once may sound like a real estate nightmare, it may be your best option.

Here’s what you need to know to make sure both processes go as smoothly as possible.

Know the market first

Before you start seriously searching for a new home—or put your current home on the market—make sure you have a solid understanding of the housing market in your area (and the area where you’re planning to buy).

Ask your real estate agent: Is the market weighted toward buyers or sellers? Only then will you be able to fully strategize. In real estate, your best plan of action may depending on whether sellers or buyers are in the more powerful position.

One way to play it safe is to keep your mind open to lots of buying options. If it’s a seller’s market, you might find that you’re able to get your home sold quickly, but that the homes you tour with your real estate agent just aren’t up to par.

If you can widen your search and find multiple homes you’re interested in, you’re less likely to find yourself in trouble if a purchase falls through—selling your current home won’t leave you stranded.

Another way to protect yourself is to hire an appraiser and price your old home fairly.

If it’s a buyer’s market, you have to know that your home has lots of competition. You may not have the time or energy to update your home, but one thing you can do is set a reasonable price that will get buyers interested.

Now is decidedly not the time for delusions of grandeur: Two extra months on the market because you couldn’t humble yourself to lower the price means two months that you’ll be paying double mortgages. Two very long months…

Plan your schedule carefully…

You might be asking: Should you try to buy first, then sell—or vice versa? Both have their risks and rewards.

Selling first makes getting a mortgage easier, but it also means you’ll need to find a temporary place to live.

Buying first means that moving will be easier, but it also skews your debt-to-income ratio, making it harder to qualify for a new mortgage—not to mention the difficulty of juggling two monthly house payments.

Your down payment can be difficult to come up with, too, if all your money is tied up in your old home.

“It’s walking a tightrope,” says Gary DiMauro, a Realtor in New York’s Hudson Valley. And he’s not just talking about scheduling: Your finances will be on the high wire, too.

When determining whether you should sell or buy first, think beyond “How can I make the move as easy as possible?” Instead ask: “Can I handle two mortgages? What if my home sells for less than its listing price?”

Whichever option you choose, make sure you’re prepared to accept the consequences: either having to store your stuff and rent temporarily, or undergoing the financial burden of dual mortgages.

… but don’t rely on timing

When buying and selling a home simultaneously, “There are so many external circumstances,” says DiMauro. “I’ve yet to see it really work smoothly and efficiently.”

Remember: You’re not the only party in this equation. For every seller there’s a buyer, for every buyer a seller.

While things might appear to be working smoothly when viewing your master plan from above, that doesn’t take into account the varying fortunes of the people you will be working with.

Closings are rife with delays. Your buyers might have difficulty securing their mortgage; your home inspector may bring up issues that need to be fixed before you can move in.

“You’re relying on the seller of the place that you’re buying to be ready to move, in concert with the buyer of your house,” DiMauro says.

So even if you’ve planned to sell your home first and are prepared to rent while buying, know that even the best-laid plans go awry—and that you might end up juggling both mortgages. Preparing yourself for this (however remote) possibility ahead of time will ensure a smooth transition.

Know your financial solutions

For those who choose to sell first, the process is relatively straightforward: taking on the additional cost of a rental between homes.

However, you might want to consider the option of a rent-back agreement, where you negotiate with the lenders and buyers to be able to remain in the property for a maximum of 60 to 90 days—often in exchange for a lower selling price or for rent paid to the buyers.

This can relieve some of the pressure of finding a new home, giving you additional time to house hunt.

But if you’re buying first, talk to your Realtor about ways to decrease your financial burden and risk. Here are the two most popular options for buyers:

  • Contract contingency: Buyers can request that their new home purchase be dependent on the successful sale of their old home. If you’re looking in a competitive market, this may not be a good option. However, if the seller of your intended home has had difficulty attracting interest, this may be a good deal for all parties involved—assuming that you can persuade them that your home will sell quickly.
  • Bridge loan: A bridge loan allows you to own two homes simultaneously if you don’t have deep pockets for a second down payment. This option is especially attractive if you’d planned to sell your home first and use the proceeds to buy the second. It functions as a short-term loan, intended to be repaid upon the sale of your original house.

Don’t let fear rush you

If your home has sold but you haven’t found a new place to live, don’t let anxiety push you toward a bad decision.

DiMauro usually recommends that his clients preemptively plan on a short-term rental “so they don’t feel stressed or pushed into something that they would not normally be interested in,” he says.

“They shouldn’t make a purchase because they felt like they were pressured from the time constraints.”

Found the perfect home right on schedule? That’s great. But don’t feel that you have to compromise on things that are important to you just because you need to find a home.

Conversely, don’t accept a bid that you feel is too low just because your finances are strained by two mortgages. If you have a temporary apartment set up, you’re less likely to compromise.

Certainly, selling and buying a house simultaneously will be stressful—but carefully considering and planning for the risks and hurdles can mitigate the stress.


How To Buy A Home With A Low Credit Score

July 23, 2019 Posted By: growth-rapidly Tag: Buying a house

Life is full of surprises. Just when you think you have everything figured out, a roadblock, like losing your job, presents itself. And a few months later you realize that you have missed on a few credit card payments.

When applying for a mortgage loan, mortgage lenders not only assess your ability to repay the loan, but they also review your credit report.

Click here to find the best mortgage lenders for low or bad credit score.

And if your credit report does not reveal a good credit score, then getting a mortgage loan to finance your property can be quite difficult. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, do not despair yet. There are a few things you can do to overcome a low credit score. Here are a few tips to get started:

1. Meet face-to-face with a lender and be transparent

When you have a low credit score and you have run out of time to fix it, one of your best options is to meet face-to-face with a lender and explain your situation.

Indeed, there are some lenders out there who are inclined to offer you a home loan despite bad credit after taking into consideration your unique circumstances.

LendingTree: A Better Way to Find A Mortgage is making getting a mortgage loan simpler, faster, and more accessible. Compare the best mortgage rates from multiple mortgage lenders all in one place and at the same time. LEARN MORE ON LENDINGTREE.COM >>>

Related Resources

When a lender runs your credit through a computer, you risk to be automatically rejected if you don’t meet the computer’s prerequisites.

But when you sit down with a lender and explain your poor credit, the lenders will be able to reach a deeper understanding on whether you are able to repay the loan.

So if you have a bad credit score, it’s best to be transparent and upfront about it.

2. Show that you have a full time, stable job.

Although your credit score is an essential lending requirement, it’s not the only thing a lender looks at.

Being able to show that you have a full time, stable job is another way to increase your chance of getting a loan even if you have a low credit score.

A good income will show that you’re able to make the payments on the loan despite a bad credit score.

Related: Apply for a Mortgage Loan Today

3. Have a bigger down payment.

A bigger down payment, say 20% + of the home purchase price, makes it more likely to get approved for a loan despite having a low credit score.

Furthermore, and more importantly, putting at least 20% down will allow you to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (“PMI”), which is an additional monthly payment you make on top of your monthly mortgage payments.

A PMI is a way to assure the lenders, that if you, as a borrower, default on the loan, the bank will be covered by mortgage insurance.

Feeling Overwhelmed With Your Finances?, You have options and there are steps you can take yourself. But if you feel you need a bit more guidance, simply speak with a financial advisor. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with fiduciary advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you are ready to meet your goals, get started with Smart Asset today.

4. Consider applying for an FHA loan.

Since you have a low credit score, you may assume that you have little to zero chance with a lender. But did you know that you still can get approved for an FHA loan?

Depending on the amount of money you’re seeking as there are limits, an FHA loan may be the right loan for you.

An FHA loan is loan that’s insured by the Federal Housing Administration. FHA Loans are very popular among first time home buyers because they require a much lower down payment (3.5%) and a very low credit score (580).

So if you have a low credit score of 580 and can meet the other FHA loan requirements, you should be able to a home loan.

Click here to compare FHA loan rates

For more information see: FHA Loan Requirements – Guidelines & Limits.

5. Avoid applying for more credit prior to loan approval.

A low credit score is itself not a good sign. But the more debt you’re applying to prior to seeking loan approval can significantly damage your file.

You see, every time you’re applying for a new credit, it can be a credit card, a car loan or a personal loan, it goes to your credit report. And the more inquiries you have on your credit report raises a red flag that you’re experiencing financial difficulty.

These are just a few tips to consider when shopping for a home loan with a low credit score.

Tips to raise your credit score:

Although you still can get a loan despite having a low credit score, it’s not always the best decision. For one, it comes with higher interest rates.

So if you’re not in a rush, your best bet is to put buying a house on hold and work on improving your credit score. Here are a few tips to improve your credit score. For more information, read: How To Raise Your Credit Score To 850.

Always pay your bills on time and in full. Payment history accounts for 35% of your total credit score. So whether it’s a credit card or a phone bill, stay on top of these payments

Keep your credit card utilization rate below 30 percent if your total balance.

Be stable. One thing that may make you a low risk borrower before a lender’s eyes is having a stable job. Lenders love stability. So if you have been with your current job for a while, that will work in your favor.

Get a credit card if you don’t have one. You may think having a new credit card may hurt you, but it can actually help you if you’re able to manage it properly.

Click here to compare mortgage rates through LendingTree. It’s completely FREE

Related Articles:

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Not All Mortgage Lenders Are Created Equally

When it comes to getting a mortgage, rates and fees vary. LendingTree allows you to view and compare multiple mortgage rates from multiple mortgage lenders all in one place and at the same time, so you can choose the best rates for your needs. LendingTree makes getting a loan faster, simpler, and better. Get started today >>>


Homeownership: Caring for and Protecting Your Investment

The content on this site is not intended to provide legal, financial or real estate advice. It is for information purposes only, and any links provided are for the user’s convenience. Please seek the services of a legal, accounting or real estate professional prior to any real estate transaction.


Keeping Your Elderly Loved One Safe at Home While You Travel

Help your loved one rest, relax, and recharge — even when you’re the one going on vacation.

Caregiving for a loved one is a full-time job. And like any full-time job, you need vacation days to relax and rejuvenate — except caregiving doesn’t come with a team to cover for you while you’re gone.

If you want to actually relax during your getaway, some careful scheduling and home updates will prevent worrying about the quality of your loved one’s care.

Find someone to help

As the primary caregiver for your loved one, you need someone to cover both your caregiving and homeowner’s responsibilities while you’re gone.

  • Hire a professional caregiver. Professional caregivers help with a variety of duties. They can live with your loved one 24/7, stay during the day, or just visit for a few hours, depending on the need.
  • Turn to family, friends, or neighbors. If you have siblings, ask them to cover for you. You can also ask members of your community to take care of your home and do household tasks that your loved one can’t do.
  • Find a skilled nurse. Does your loved one need special medical help? Have a certified nurse step in to fill your shoes. Nurses are licensed and trained to provide care for complicated medical issues.
  • Look into assisted living. Many assisted living communities offer short-term stays for patients. Just be sure to plan ahead — these communities often need advance notice to make accommodations.

Prepare your home

Don’t make your temporary caregiver figure things out alone. Prep your home so everything is easily accessible. While you’re at it, get some home technology that will keep you in the loop.

  • Gather important information. Gather all the necessary paperwork, medical records, and emergency contacts your loved one might need. Tape the documents to the refrigerator, within easy reach.
  • Prepare meals. Whether you hire a full-time caregiver or not, prepping meals ahead of time makes it easier for your loved one to eat properly. Package meals in the fridge or freezer with clear labels and instructions.
  • Do the laundry. Ensure that your loved one will have enough clean socks and underwear while you’re gone. Lay out clothing for the week, or hang outfits grouped together and clearly labeled in the closet.
  • Install a home security system. A smart system lets you view alerts and even security camera feeds remotely from your smartphone.
  • Get a medical alert. A medical alert will help your loved one contact emergency services at the press of a button. You can also receive a call if anything happens.

Set the social calendar

Your loved one is used to having you around, so make your absence easier with some careful schedule planning. Post a calendar in an obvious place so your loved one always knows what the next thing is on the to-do list.

  • Overlap the transition. If possible, have your temporary caregiver start while you’re still around. It will help the caregiver understand how you do things, and it will help your loved one get to know them.
  • Make a social calendar. From doctor’s visits to social events, put everything in the calendar. Hang a large, visual calendar for easy reference, and mark the date you return.
  • Write down the daily schedule. Is your loved one used to a certain daily routine? Let the temporary caregiver know. Map out a typical day for the caregiver to have as a reference.
  • Plan something fun. Ask your loved one if there’s anything special they’d like to do while you’re gone or once you get back. You want them to have something to look forward to during your absence.
  • Reassure your loved one. Listen to their worries and concerns before you leave. Let your loved one know that the only thing that will change while you’re gone is your presence. Make sure they understand that you’re coming back.

Rest and renew

Taking a vacation shouldn’t make you feel guilty. Take time to care for yourself, and you’ll be a better caregiver. With everything settled before you leave, you’ll enjoy your vacation knowing that your loved one is well taken care of.



Bodnar of MMG: Long End of Bond Market Having a Tough Time

Bill Bodnar of The Mortgage Market Guide (MMG) explains that long-term interest rates moved up to their highest levels in a year despite significant bond buying from the Fed. What’s next?

Watch the video to find out what it means for you and your clients.

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16 Questions To Ask a Home Inspector Before, During, and After a Home Inspection

If you’re buying a house, you know that your home inspector will check it out and make sure it’s in decent shape. But if you want to get to know your home beyond its pretty facade, you should pepper your inspector with questions—a whole lot of them, in fact!

But when you ask those home inspector questions is as important as what you ask. To ensure you get the most out of your home inspection, here’s a timeline of queries to hit before the inspection even starts, during the actual home inspection, and well after it’s over.

Questions to ask a home inspector before the inspection begins

So, how do you separate a great home contractor from a merely good one? It boils down to interviewing home inspectors to gauge how thorough a job they’ll do. To help, here are some of the best questions to ask.

Bonus: This’ll also help you know what to expect! Knowledge is power, my friends.

1. ‘What do you check?’

“A lot of people don’t know exactly what a home inspector is going to do,” says Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors.

Wondering what does a home inspector look for? A whole lot—1,600 features on a home, to be exact.

“We inspect everything from the roof to the foundation and everything in between,” Lesh says.

Going into the inspection with a clear understanding of what the inspector can and can’t do will ensure that you walk away from the inspection happy.

2. ‘What don’t you check?’

There are limits. For instance, “we’re restricted to a visual inspection,” says Lesh. “We can’t cut a hole in somebody’s wall.”

As a result, an inspector will often flag potential problems in the report and you will have to get another expert—a roofer, HVAC person, builder, electrician, or plumber—to come back and do a more detailed examination.

“Understand that we’re looking at what exists in the house today,” says home inspector Randy Sipe, of Spring Hill, KS. “I can’t see into the future any more than anybody else.”

3. ‘What do you charge for a home inspection?’

A home inspection costs around $300 and $600, though it will depend on the market, the size of house, and the actual inspector. Generally you’ll pay the inspector the day of the inspection, so you’ll want to know in advance how much and what forms of payment are accepted.

Lesh cautions against going with an inspector who quotes you a very low price.

“That’s often a sign they’re having trouble getting customers,” he says.

Spending on a good inspector will more than pay for itself in the long run.

4. ‘How long have you been doing this?’

Or perhaps more important: How many inspections have you done? A newer inspector doesn’t necessarily mean lower quality, but experience can mean a lot—especially if you’re considering an older home or something with unusual features.

5. ‘Can I come along during the inspection?’

The answer to this should be a resounding yes! Any good inspector will want prospective owners to be present at the inspection. Seeing somebody explain your house’s systems and how they work will always be more valuable than reading a report, and it gives you the opportunity to ask questions and get clarifications in the moment. If an inspector requests that you not join him, definitely walk away. Run!

6. ‘How long will the inspection take?’

Inspections often take place during the workweek, when the seller is less likely to be around. Knowing how much time you’ll need to block out will keep you from having to rush through the inspection to get back to the office. You’ll get only a ballpark figure, because much will depend on the condition of the house. But if you are quoted something that seems way off—such as a half-day for a two-bedroom apartment, or just an hour for a large, historic house—that could be a red flag that the inspector doesn’t know what he’s doing, says Lesh.

7. ‘Can I see a sample report?’

If you’re buying your first home, it can be helpful to see someone else’s report before you see your own. Every house has problems, usually lots of them, though most generally aren’t that big of a deal. A sample report will keep you from panicking when you see your own report, and it will give you a sense of how your inspector communicates. It’s another opportunity to ensure that you and your inspector are on the same page.

Questions to ask a home inspector during a home inspection

Ideally, you should attend your home inspection—in person or by video—and ask your home inspector anything that comes up right then and there. The reason: Rather than trying to decipher your home inspector’s (very technical) report, it’s much easier for this pro to actually show you what’s going on with the house.

To help you get this essential show-and-tell session rolling, here are a few important questions to ask a home inspector that will help you size up a house yourself, and keep it in good condition for as long as you hang your hat there.

1. ‘What does that mean?’

During the inspection, your home inspector will go slowly through the entire house, checking everything to ensure there are no signs of a problem. He’ll point out things to you that aren’t as they should be, or may need repairs.

Don’t be afraid to ask any questions about what the home inspector is telling you, and make sure you understand the issue and why it matters. For example, if the inspector says something like, “Looks like you’ve got some rotten boards here,” it’s smart to ask him to explain what that means for the overall house—how difficult it is to repair, and how much it will cost.

Just keep in mind that your inspector can’t tell you whether or not to become the buyer of the house, or how much you should ask the seller to fix (though your real estate agent should be able to help with that).

2. ‘Is this a big deal or a minor issue?’

For most people, buying real estate is the biggest purchase they’ll ever make. It’s normal to start feeling panicky when your inspector is telling you the house has a foundation problem, a roof or water heater in need of repair, or electrical, heating systems or an HVAC system that isn’t up to code.

Don’t freak out—just ask the inspector whether he thinks the issue is a big deal. You’ll be surprised to hear that most houses have similar issues and that they’re not deal breakers, even if the fixes or repairs sound major. And if it is major? Well, that’s why you’re having the home inspection done. You can address it with the seller or just walk away.

3. ‘What’s that water spot on the ceiling, and does it need a repair?’

Don’t be shy about asking questions and pointing out things that look off to you during the home inspection and checking if they’re OK, real estate–wise. Odds are, if there’s something weird, your inspector has noted it and is going to check it out thoroughly. For example, if there’s a water spot on the ceiling, maybe he needs to check it from the floor above to know if it’s an issue.

Ideally, your inspector will ask you if there’s anything you’re specifically concerned about before he starts the inspection. Make sure to tell him if this is your first real estate purchase, or if you’re worried about the house’s age, or anything at all that strikes you, the buyer, as a possible negative.

4. ‘I’ve never owned a house with an HVAC/boiler/basement. How do I maintain this thing?’

Flaws aside, a home inspection is your golden opportunity to have an expert show you how to take care of your house.

“Inspectors are used to explaining basic things to people. If you have an inspection question, ask it,” Lesh says. “Don’t expect your inspector to teach you how to build a clock, but we are happy to answer and explain how things work.”

5. ‘What are your biggest concerns about the property?’

At the end of the inspection, the inspector should give you, in broad strokes, a summary of what he found. You’ll get a written report later, but this is a great moment to get clarity on what the inspector thinks are the house’s biggest issues, and whether or not they require further investigation.

Often, it’s a good idea to call in another home inspection expert—a plumber, electrician, roofer, or HVAC professional—to take a look at anything the inspector flagged.

You should walk away from inspection day with a mental punch list of things that need to be addressed by either the seller or another expert. In some states, there’s a limited amount of time for these negotiations to happen, so you and your agent may want to hit the ground running.

Your official home inspection report will have more detail, but you should know what’s on it by the time you leave the home that day.

Questions to ask a home inspector after the inspection is done

What are some questions to ask a home inspector after he’s finished the inspection? Because, let’s face it, just staring at that hefty report highlighting every flaw in your future dream home can send many buyers into a full-blown panic!

Know the right questions to ask a home inspector afterward, though, and this can help put that report into perspective. Here are the big ones to hit.

1. ‘I don’t understand [such and such], can you clarify?’

Just so you know what to expect, here’s how it will go down: A day or two after the inspection, you should receive the inspector’s report. It will be a detailed list of every flaw in the house, often along with pictures of some of the problem areas and more elaboration.

Hopefully you also attended the actual inspection and could ask questions then; if so, the report should contain no surprises. It should contain what you talked about at the inspection, with pictures and perhaps a bit more detail. If there’s anything major you don’t remember from the inspection in the report, don’t be afraid to ask about it.

2. ‘Is there any problem in this house that concerns you, and about how much would it cost to fix?’

Keep in mind, most problems in the house will likely be minor and not outright deal breakers. Still, you’ll want your home inspector to help you separate the wheat from the chaff and point out any doozies. So ask him if there are any problems serious enough to keep you from moving forward with the house.

Keep in mind that ultimately it’s up to you and your real estate agent to determine how to address any issues.

“The inspector can’t tell you, ‘Make sure the seller pays for this,’ so be sure you understand what needs to be done,” says Lesh.

3. ‘Should I call in another expert for a follow-up inspection?’

Expect to have to call in other experts at this point to look over major issues and assign a dollar figure to fixing them. If your inspector flags your electrical box as looking iffy, for example, you may need to have an electrician come take a look and tell you what exactly is wrong and what the cost would be to fix it. The same goes for any apparent problems with the heating or air conditioning, roof, or foundation. An HVAC repair person, roofer, or engineer will need to examine your house and provide a bid to repair the problem.

Why is this so important? This bid is what your real estate agent will take to the seller if you decide to ask for a concession instead of having the seller do the fix for you. Your inspector can’t give you these figures, but he can probably give you a sense of whether it’s necessary to call somebody in.

4. ‘Is there anything I’ll need to do once I move in?’

Wait, you’re still not done! It’s easy to forget the inspector’s report in the whirlwind of closing and moving, but there are almost always suggestions for things that need doing in the first two to three months of occupancy.

Lesh says he sometimes gets panicked calls from homeowners whose houses he inspected three months after they’ve moved in. Although he’d noted certain issues in his report, the buyers neglected the report entirely—and paid for it later.

“I had a couple call and tell me they had seepage in the basement,” Lesh says. “I pulled up their report and asked if they’d reconnected the downspout extension like I recommended. Nope. Well, there’s your problem!”

Everything you didn’t ask the seller to fix? That’s your to-do list. Isn’t owning a home fun?