You’ve decided to buy a home and you’ve selected a Realtor to find the right house for you. You know how much you have to spend, you know where you want to live, and you know what kind of house you’re looking for. After several days of looking your Realtor calls you with the great news that she’s found the dream house for you to come look at. You make a walk through of the house, fall in love with it and decide it’s the one for you. You make an offer on the house and it is accepted.
This is where you and your Realtor need to make sure you are using the right home inspector for the job. There are many inspectors – all must be licensed – at least in the State of Oregon, but that is just the bare minimum that is required to be an inspector. Most, if not all, Realtor’s, already have relationships with their favorite inspectors that they like to call on. Remember, this is YOUR home that you are purchasing. The results of the inspection may make this your dream house after a few items are fixed or may lead to years of discovery of a less enjoyable kind. Let’s take a step back….
How well do you know your Real Estate Agent and how much do you trust them? Did you pick them by throwing a dart at the yellow pages you nailed to the wall or is your agent someone you’ve known for years and have implicit trust in? All Realtor’s are required to maintain a minimum level of ethics and follow a set of very rigid laws to in order to keep their license in good standing. That said, there may be agents who are willing to skimp on certain parts of the service they are providing to you – their choice of inspector may be one of those areas. I was very fortunate when I sold my last house in that I had known my agent for years and trusted her every step of the way – she will always receive my business.
Anyway – where were we… Oh, yes. The home inspector. This is where, if you don’t know your agent very well, you need to start asking some questions about whom they plan on having inspect your home, what your agent knows about them, how long they’ve been doing business, etc, etc, etc… If your agent does not know much about the inspector they were planning on using, you may want to start doing a little research – and fast.
So how do you find the right inspector? I think the first thing most all of us do in this day and age, is look to the internet. That can be overwhelming in and of itself. There are a thousand and one inspectors in any city and they all want your business. That number needs to be narrowed down – to a handful that you can interview and make an educated decision on.
According to an article written by Abby Hays for U.S. News in the April 27, 2014 edition (http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2014/04/27/7-questions-to-ask-when-choosing-a-home-inspector), there are seven questions that you should ask a prospective inspector:
1) Are you a member of a local, state, national, or international inspection organization?
Most every major metropolitan area will have some association or another that provides membership and ongoing education to home inspectors. Make sure that if your inspector is a member of a local association, that it is accredited with national or international associations. Membership in one of these associations does not mean that an inspector is an expert in more than one area of home inspection, but that that person has passed their criteria for membership, which may be above and beyond the local or state criteria. Members will need to follow licensing and certification procedures and are required to maintain standards of ethics and procedures while performing home inspections.
2) Tell me about your background.
A good home inspector will usually have some experience in the construction or home building industry and knows the in’s and out’s of home construction and codes. Remember – even the most experienced home inspector will not be able to tell you if every electrical or plumbing fixture is working perfectly or not – that may require further inspection by someone specialized and licensed in a particular area.
An inspectors knowledge of older homes – or lack thereof (especially if you’re planning on purchasing an older home) is good good to know. If you’re planning on buying a fixer-upper, it is good to know what you’re getting into. If you’re not planning on buying a fixer-upper, good information up front may keep you from accidentally getting into one.
3) What is your experience in home inspection?
Hiring an inspector who is a rookie is not always bad thing – especially if they have a fairly extensive background in construction and a very good education in inspections – or at least would be joined by an experienced inspector to make sure the job is done correctly. Still, it may be better to hire an inspector who has a lot of inspections under their belt, given the degree of experience a high number of inspections provides.
4) How long do you anticipate the inspection to take?
This is a hard question to answer with a definitive time frame as each inspection will be a little different. That being said, it should not take more than two or three hours to perform an inspection. Older homes or fixer-uppers will most likely take longer to inspect. Anyone who says that they should be done in an hour, two at the tops may want to be steered clear of – chances are, they are not doing an adequate job of inspecting the house.
5) What will be inspected?
A good home inspection should include, but not be limited to:
- Heating and cooling systems
- Interior and exterior
- Kitchen, which includes cabinets, counters, sinks, faucets, garbage disposals and other built-in appliances
- Exterior walls
- Parapets, trim
- Basement and crawl space
- Examination of the attic and roof to assess the insulation, ventilation, framing, roof surface, flashing, penetrations, drainage, overhangs, gutters and downspouts
A good home inspector will have additional tools to help make sure they are getting everything – I don’t expect every inspector to be a Mike Holmes, but every inspector should take the time to do the job right. Some of the more thorough inspectors will have thermal imagers for heat / cold loss and possible water mitigation issues. A good digital camera with a good flash is very important as well – pictures are very well worth a thousand words.
6) Can I walk through with you during inspection?
I would be surprised if an inspector answered no to this question. If one does, red flags should be waving all over the place. An ancillary question would be about asking questions during the inspection – a good inspector should be more than happy to answer any questions, so long as the question isn’t asking him or her to provide an answer they are either not qualified to answer or that may fall outside of their legal or ethical ability to answer. A great inspector will walk you through the process explaining everything as they go along.
7) What kind of inspection report do you offer and how long will it take?
A good inspector will have at least a preliminary report back within 24 hours and a full report within no more than 48 – 72 hours. Reports should be complete with descriptions and photos and should meet the criteria of the lending institution.
You should always make sure that all parties are clear on these questions, and what the costs involved are prior to the inspection commencing. Talking about this after-the-fact may lead to issues for all involved.
It may not be a bad idea for a home owner who is considering selling to have their home inspected prior to putting it on the market – not only does it give the homeowner knowledge of what may be required for sale, but may also help in expediting the sale of your home, providing a prospective buyer is accepting of the inspection as offered. Knowing an inspection was performed and some or all of the required fixes have been taken care of may help ease a prospective home buyers anxieties knowing they may not have to deal with some or all of the issues established in the inspection.