I'm a newbie homeowner and now that we've been living here for a couple of years, I've noticed several things that look like they may need addressing (soft wood/possible rot, sloping roof that looks like it's dipping, concrete erosion, etc.)

I don't have the money to address all of these things, but I'd love for someone to come take a look at them and confirm whether or not they are actual problems, and then help me prioritize the issues in order of urgency.

Would it be weird to hire a home inspector to give the place a once-over? Or would it be better to hire a contractor, since they're actually experienced in fixing these things? My hesitation about the latter is a fear that they might want to sell me on expensive repairs that might not be necessary, whereas the home inspect might be more neutral, since he doesn't do repairs.

What do you think? How can I best get an expert opinion about various perceived issues without also getting the hard sell fix it all immediately?


  • 1
    If you're looking to discover more issues, then an inspector is appropriate. If you're looking to evaluate a known issue, then the contractor is the person to ask. Problem is that most contractors don't take payment for making a bid, so you'd be a jerk to bring one out in bad faith. You could probably do pretty well by asking people here how to fix issues.
    – popham
    Feb 25 at 1:49
  • Just saying, the right time to hire a building inspector is before you buy the house. But it is a good option to do it now. Feb 25 at 1:56

3 Answers 3


An inspector will help you determine whether something needs to be done.

A contractor will help you decide what to do and how to do it, and get it done.

Different professions, even though some individuals offer both services.

  • 1
    I've have had good & bad luck with inspectors. The bad: On a recent condo purchase, the inspector didn't pick up on 1) the main water shutoff valve wouldn't move and 2) the sliding windows were "racked" in their frame and wouldn't close completely.
    – SteveSh
    Feb 25 at 2:01
  • 1
    A real estate inspector in my locality will flag a bunch of issues, erring on the side overly cautious. In my experience they exercise zero discretion. If it catches his eye, it's in the report.
    – popham
    Feb 25 at 8:46

I presume that you are, in good faith, looking to get issues resolved. Maybe not all at once or right now, but you do want to get your house fixed up.

Scheduling 3 or 4 contractors to come out and look at the projects you've got in mind seems to me to be entirely reasonable. Explain up front that you have several issues to address, and ask them to provide a bid on each item as an individual project as you'll only be able to afford one item at a time. You could also ask them to prioritize as if it was their own house - i.e. project A is critical and if left unaddressed could cause more issues or get significantly worse very quickly, while project C should be done, but isn't critical.

While there, ask them to keep an eye out for any other issues they spot that might need to be addressed, and to provide a bid on those items as well.

By having 3 or 4 come out, you'll get a reasonable assessment of the condition of your house, the criticality of each fix you've identified, and the cost of doing each one. You'll also have some experienced people giving at least a moderate once-over (knowing they may get the bid to do the work in the future), and that should help identify issues you don't see.

Once you've got the bids and priorities, you can contact the one you feel most comfortable with that also gave a reasonable price and start the projects.

Note: You might find that you get a bid of $x for project A and $y for project B and $z (where z < x + y) for projects A and B at the same time. It's possible that doing 2 projects in the same part of the house will cost more than either on its own, but less than doing them totally separately.

Your auto mechanic will do this - when changing the timing chain/belt, replacing the water pump is usually no more than remove 3 bolts, pull the old pump, put in the new pump, replace 3 bolts. However if you replace the pump by itself, he'll need to do almost all the work necessary to get the timing belt/chain off. While you're in there, the pump is basically zero additional labor, just one additional part to buy. Well worth it in the long run.


It is hit or miss with inspectors. Some are overly cautious and flag everything. ( I had one that flagged "excessive dust" on top of a refrigerator.) Also had one that missed obvious rotted wood at the base of an exterior wall.

Some are versed in inspection, but have no idea how serious (or not) an issue is.

Your best bet is asking friends and neighbors to recommend a contractor to give an assessment and estimate to correct your issues. Then you know what needs to be done in what order and what it will cost. You are under no obligation to actually get the work done. You can then get a second opinion.

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