Inspecting a Home Inspector – What Should You Expect in a Home Inspector

You’ve decided you need a home inspector because you’re either buying a home or selling one, and you want to do it right. Out of curiosity you sit down at the computer and do a Google search to see what qualifications a good home inspector should have, and you get a little scared.

The first thing you see is a group of ads for home inspection courses. You’ve heard of people buying bogus college degrees online, but can Joe Anybody become a home inspector the same way? The image of a TV commercial comes to mind. You know, the one where the doctor is on the phone talking a guy through an operation. No thanks!

So, how do you find a truly qualified home inspector? The first thing to try is to ask trusted friends or business acquaintances for their recommendations. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a good “word of mouth” lead. Requirements vary from state to state and place to place, so you need to find a good local inspector. Save the bulk of your computer research for checking out the names you’ve been given.

You need an inspector who literally knows houses inside and out and is thoroughly acquainted with state, county, and city regulations. Start asking questions. Interview each prospective home inspector. Let him inform you by describing the inspections he does and why he thinks you should choose him. Here’s a list of possible questions you could ask.

* Is he certified by the proper state, county, or city agencies? What license number does he have? His license number is a great way to know how long he has been in business. The lower the license number, the longer he has been in business. Check to see if he displays his license number on his website.

* What trade associations does he or she belong to and what certificates does he or she have? (For instance, the American Society of Home Inspectors is an excellent organization. There are organizations in each state as well.)

* What’s his educational background? Does he keep up to date with the changes in the industry?

* How many years of experience does he have inspecting homes, and how many has he inspected?

* Does he have a background as a contractor or engineer? (It’s not necessary for an inspector to have an engineering degree or to have been a contractor for twenty years, but the principles learned from such education and experience are valuable.)

* Is he a full time inspector?

* May you accompany him when he does the inspection? (This is typically recommended, but you must not hinder or distract the inspector. You should not get near any open electric areas or get on the roof with him due to safety concerns.)

* How long will the inspection take? (The average is one hour per thousand square feet, but this can vary depending on the house and those who are present.)

* Does the inspector get on roofs when possible? Does he get in crawlspaces when they’re accessible?

* What kind of report will you receive, and when will you receive it? (Most home inspection companies offer onsite reports. Many will provide a preventive maintenance manual as well.)

Here are a couple more guidelines to consider. You should shy away from inspectors who criticize their competition. Don’t go with the lowest price. Go with the one with the best qualifications.

Incidentally, the cost of inspection services is highly variable. It depends on the level of experience of the inspector and the level of services provided. Cost is also determined in part by the size and value of the property inspected. An inspection of an eight thousand square foot home will cost more than one for a two thousand square foot home.

The inspector you’re looking for needs to have an understanding of basic construction practices and mechanical systems. He should understand how buildings are constructed and how the systems work. A good inspector will have a talent for making observations which provide indications of problems or potential problems. This talent comes from years of experience in inspecting homes.

Of course, the inspector must have the skills necessary to issue the inspection report. After all, that’s what you’re hiring him to do for you.

Best Experiences Can Be Found in Home Inspector Schools

The role of the home inspection in real estate transaction is powerful. Deals in residential properties depend on the judgment provided by home inspectors. A very good home inspector means the one with good skills and knowledge. All of these start at home inspector schools. In school, the whole process of home inspection is tackled and also the opportunity the profession brings to an individual.

There are different kinds of courses offered in different schools and training centers. Students can choose any of these depending on their time and resources. Classroom courses offer the curriculum where the students are required to study home inspection class at school or training centers. The Home study or Online courses are offered to those individuals who prefer to study at the comfort of their homes, managing their own time and resources. Questions are answered through online also. Some training centers provide the Continuing Education. This is offered for marketing course, technical course or specialty course, depending on the needs of the applicant. The basics of the inspection are vital in producing licensed, certified or qualified inspectors. What the individuals learn is the knowledge that no cost can compare.

The home inspection process involves the steps being done prior and during the arrival at the site, the process during the inspection, communicating the findings and reporting. Home inspection follows specific guidelines in structural inspection. It is also the same with dynamics of the house structure wherein the weight, movement, wind and water, and internal stresses are taken into consideration. The foundation inspection includes inspecting the home’s footing’s, foundation walls, block foundation, poured concrete, brick and wood foundation, and piles, piers and beams. Home inspector schools provide tips on inspecting crawl spaces like accessing and inspecting the floor, ventilation and insulation. Inspecting the roof structure means checking the framing members, roof trusses and sheathing, water penetration and attic moisture.

The exterior inspection is one important part of the inspection. This includes the inspection of trim, windows, doors, areas of the house (steps, porches, balconies, patios, driveways, etc) and garage. One of the services done in home inspection is inspection of roofs. Home inspector is understood to have knowledge about the different types of roofs, the equipments needed and the natural enemies of roofs. Electrical and plumbing systems are part of the process and the same with the heating and cooling systems, insulation and ventilation systems.

A home inspector upon discovering flaws uses his or her judgment in inspecting. The checklist is reviewed and findings are filled-in on the report. An advanced home inspection company nowadays uses software that generates a formatted report. Good and unbiased reports usually win the trust of the home buyers and sellers. A Federal Housing Administration or FHA home inspector also provides a detailed report to protect the lenders and assures that the property is habitable.

Home inspector schools are really homes of certified home inspectors. Basic knowledge about home inspection is introduced in schools. An importance must be placed as early as this stage in order to instill to individuals what are the roles of the home inspection profession to the real estate world.

How to Hire the Right Home Inspector

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!