How to Hire the Right Home Inspector

Posted on December 10, 2017 in Uncategorized

25 years ago, a home inspection was a rare thing, and professional home inspectors were few and far between. Now, nearly every buyer knows that they should get an inspection, and there is a seemingly endless supply of inspectors, all claiming some ‘certification’ or credentials that sound impressive. But how do you know which is the right inspector for you?

Well, here are a few simple thoughts from someone inside the business (some of which, many inspectors will be upset with me for revealing, and will hope you won’t read them). Interview them personally. Don’t just take someone’s advice that “this guy is good.” Talk to them.

  • Ask them about what they do (and don’t do – many don’t walk roofs, some don’t give repair cost estimates).
  • Ask them about their reports (simple checklist, or descriptive narrative?)
  • Do they provide repair cost estimates?
  • Are they licensed (if necessary in your sate)?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • What is their background and/or training?
  • Are they members of the BBB or Angie’s List or other consumer oriented groups?
  • Most importantly, do they treat you with respect and listen to what your needs are?

You will quickly find that there is a world of difference in Inspectors and how they view YOU, the client, as part of the inspection. Some see you as a necessary evil, or an interruption of “their” inspection. You will know you have hired one of these inspectors if they hand you a measuring tape to keep you busy measuring rooms while they inspect.

Often on inspector chat boards they talk about “controlling” their inspection, as if the client is a bother. Never forget: The inspection is (and SHOULD be) all about YOUR education, and making YOU comfortable with your new home.

E & O Insurance.

Ask your inspector if they are insured. Many inspectors treat this question as if you have just asked them for their Debit Card and PIN, but it is a legitimate and VERY intelligent question for clients to ask. You wouldn’t let an uninsured plumber work on your pipes, would you? So why allow an uninsured inspector advise you on the entire home and all of its systems and components? E&O (Errors and Omissions) Insurance is your protection that if the inspector misses something significant, that you won’t be left paying for that mistake.

Experience.

My dad always said: “There is no substitute in life for experience.” (He also said, “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”) This is also true when it comes to inspectors. While some may have read it in the best books available, you simply have to learn some things by doing them. (Like, for example, never test the door to a room by closing it from the inside of the room. The reason why will be instantly clear when the knob falls off in your hand and you are stuck on the interior.)

You will know just by talking to an inspector and asking them the questions listed above whether you are talking to a raw “newbie” or a seasoned pro. Some pride themselves on “writing up” lots of defects, but often, many of these items are actually quite common and relatively minor (the kinds of things most sellers won’t address or compensate for). Some inspectors also pride themselves on being disliked by Realtors. This simply mystifies me since most Realtors I know honestly care about putting their client in a good home, and respect the opinion of the inspector. Most times, this indicates to me an inspector who is a little full of himself, and may be out to prove how much he knows, or wants to make a major deal out of a minor issue.

Certifications are a dime a dozen in the inspection industry. Every day, my email inbox is jammed with people selling more quick and easy “certifications” of this and that. In fact, one place will certify you (yes, you) as a “master” inspector if you take several free online courses and send them a check for $375 – without ever performing a single inspection! As you can see, certifications are highly suspect. Professionally, the ones that are truly significant are offered by the International Code Council (ICC) and certify that the inspector has a detailed understanding of current building code (particularly helpful if you are purchasing new construction).

In general, I would recommend an inspector who has performed at least 1,000 inspections, and has at least 3 years experience – but even among these, you must ask the other questions to get the best fit for your needs.

Choices.

Does the inspector offer choices to accommodate you? All buyers are not the same. All homes are not the same. So why do most inspectors offer the same inspection to all clients? Ask if they offer choices in prices, level of detail, and services offered. An investor seeking an opinion on the basic components (structure, roof, electrical, plumbing, HVAC) of a home they intend to renovate may not need the meticulous detail required by a nervous First Time Buyer. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you really need, even if it seems to be more (or less) than what the inspector typically offers. If the inspector you speak to can’t offer the service you need, keep searching, you will find one that does.

Price.

Which brings us to the last point, and the first question most people ask: “How much does an inspection cost?” The answer is – it depends (mostly on your area of the country, and the size of your home). Most inspectors base the price on square feet (the larger the home, the longer it takes to inspect). Be cautious of those who use price or zip code as a determining factor (buying a more expensive home in a more affluent neighborhood can dramatically increase your price with these inspectors who believe you must have more money to spend). Shop prices around. You CAN and WILL find a reasonably priced inspector who is every bit as good or better than the highest priced inspectors.

A good clue is: If someone doesn’t post their prices on their website, they are higher than is typical. Again, many inspectors will react rudely with some variation of “you get what you pay for.” Ask that inspector if they buy Premium Unleaded at the most expensive gas station in town, and then look through the grocery store circulars to find the highest priced items available – after all, they must be the best if they are the most expensive!

Questions For Choosing a Home Inspector

Posted on December 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

When you’ve found a home inspector you think you’d like to hire, put him on the spot. You’ve got a lot at stake. Interview him and give him the chance to tell you why you should choose him. Here are some questions you can ask him.

Is he or she certified by the proper state, county, or city agencies? Does he have the appropriate license and credentials for where you live? It would be a good idea if you can find out what’s required and where to go to find out about the inspector you’re considering. Your state may be able to track your inspector’s continuing education as well as any complaints that have been filed against him.

What trade associations does he or she belong to and is he in good standing with them? What certificates does he or she have? A few organizations for home inspectors include the International Code Council, American Society of Home Inspectors, Independent Home Inspectors of North America, and the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors. Each state has organizations for home inspectors as well.

What’s his educational background? Does he keep up to date with the changes in the industry, including changing laws or codes? Does he have a background in home construction? Does he have a wealth of knowledge about building trades or remodeling? What did he do before becoming an inspector?

Does he have a background as a contractor or engineer? Keep this in mind. Though it’s not necessary for your inspector to have an engineering degree or to have been a contractor for many years, the principles he should have learned from such an education and experience are valuable.

How many years of experience does he have inspecting homes? How many has he inspected?

Is he a full time inspector? Avoid someone who does inspections part time or only on weekends. You don’t want someone who’s been an inspector for five or ten years, but only on a part-time basis. Home inspection should be his primary business. Has he examined homes similar to the one you’re having inspected? All homes have similarities, but newer homes have different issues and risks than older homes.

Does his/her company carry errors and omission (E&O) insurance?

Does he get on roofs when possible? Does he get in crawlspaces when they’re accessible? Will he go into the basement, and climb into the attic? He should be capable and willing to go wherever he needs to for doing a thorough inspection. Granted, there may be times when it’s not possible to fully inspect all of these areas, due to physical risks to the inspector or his equipment, or weather conditions may not permit it. But it’s not acceptable to overlook these because he doesn’t want to or has some other excuse.

Will he let you go with him while he does the inspection? It’s generally recommended that you do go with him because he can answer any questions you have. If you’re buying the home, it helps if you have confidence in the inspector’s performance and the condition of the home. Of course, you must not hinder or distract him. Don’t get near any open electric areas, and you shouldn’t get on the roof with him due to safety concerns.

What kind of report will you get from him? When and how will you get it? Make sure you have plenty of time to respond to his findings. Will the report include pictures? Photographs make any defects or damage clear, especially in areas mainly accessible to the inspector. Pictures are helpful for any service and repair workers who may be needed later.

What will the inspection cost? Your inspector’s fee will vary depending on several factors, such as where the home is located and the home’s size. Other factors may include the home’s age and the need for septic, well or radon testing. No matter how important the cost is to you, don’t cut corners. The cost shouldn’t be the deciding factor on whether to get the home inspected. The sense of security and knowledge you gain from an inspection is well worth the cost. The lowest-priced inspection may not a bargain.

If the home has proven to be in good condition when the inspector gives you his report, you may be asking yourself if the inspection was necessary. The answer is definitely Yes. You wouldn’t have known what you know about the home otherwise, and you can now complete your sale or purchase with confidence and peace of mind.

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Choosing a Home Inspector

Posted on December 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

It is absolutely imperative that your home inspector meets the requirements of all laws and regulations in your state or province. Most states have regulations requiring home inspectors to be licensed, including passing a certification exam and fulfilling continuing education requirements.

  • It is wise to ask if the inspector is a member of a professional Home Inspection organization. Especially if your state does not require home inspectors to be licensed, it is important that the home inspector belongs to an association and abides by a set of standard practices and code of ethics that require professionalism. Some notable national home inspector organizations are: the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI). There are also similar state-level organizations which require their members to adhere to strict standards of practice and continuing education.
  • The best home inspectors have proper training and experience.
    There are several companies that provide hands-on training. Additionally, many inspectors have been in building trades for several years. They have extensive working knowledge of home construction.
  • Ideally, the inspectors should be referred by someone other than you.
    It is in your best interest to allow your clients to choose their own inspectors. Like all of us, Home Inspectors are human and may make mistakes. If you referred the home inspector, you might lose the trust of your clients (at a minimum) or be held liable (worst-case scenario).
  • The Actual Home Inspection Report

  • Quality home inspections include reports that describe the condition of each item inspected. The best reports are those that are created using home inspection software and include pictures and comments specific to your home.
  • Home inspectors who use this special software can often deliver the report on site. Some inspectors send their reports via email. Such Internet report delivery is often important for out of town clients, instead of messy faxes or costly overnight shipping.
  • It is a good idea to request a copy of a sample report to ensure that it is detailed and easily understood. If you can’t understand the report or if you lose interest reading extra useless information, you may not even read your own report, and you may miss important information.
  • Look for credentials, experience, and reputation over price

    All home inspectors have strong points and areas for improvement. You might choose a cheaper home inspector and think you are saving yourself money. However, saving $50 on your inspection could cost you thousands of dollars later if the inspector misses problems. Typically, the best inspectors are not the cheapest. If you want to save money, possibly thousands, then don’t choose the cheapest inspector. Choosing a thorough and experienced home inspector is the best route to take.

    Don’t be fooled by fancy reports

    Your goal is to have a comprehensive document detailing the inspection of your home, not a canned template, bulk report, or information that may not even apply to your home. You can find many sources of general information (e.g. Ortho’s Home Encyclopedia) at local home improvement stores. Choose your home inspector based on ability. Substance should be measured in quality of content, not by the weight of the inspection report.

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