As a rookie in the early 1980s the thought of engaging the services of a home inspector made my blood run cold – nothing could kill a deal faster than a home inspector!
How times have changed! Today a home inspection is a complex undertaking performed by skilled technicians with years of training, specialized education, certification and hands-on experience. The modern home inspector is a professional capable of determining the condition of a home and delivering a precise and detailed report. Quality Home Inspectors Ltd. wrote “… you need to know your inspector is an experienced professional, able to deliver his findings to you in an honest, straight-forward manner and that’s he’s working for you, and no one else.”
Sandra Rinomato writing for HGTV says “A professional home inspector reviews the operating systems and structure of a home of any age—even new homes—and leaves a written report for the client to keep as a reference guide”
If you’re a first time buyer then chances are you haven’t been involved in a home inspection before and you should know that the following is by no means a comprehensive list and should be used as a guide only. So here are some tips and ideas to help you through a Home Inspection:
- Multiple Quotes – Always get quotes from more than one inspection company:
- Ask how much will it cost and whether or not that quote represents the final invoice and that there are no hidden charges for reports or emails,
- Check what you get for the cost and compare the value with others you get quotes from,
- Ask to see samples of previous inspection reports and check to see that they are detailed while still being easy to understand,
- Ask for recommendations from previous clients – a good company will be happy to oblige you and will most likely have a number of happy clients willing to vouch for them;
- The company’s website should have a professional appearance with useful data and links and contact information.
- Certification And Insurance – Most regions require some sort of certification or licensing so be sure that the inspection company is certified in the area the home is located and ensure they have a valid business license:
- Be certain that the inspection company and the inspector are fully insured,
- What does the insurance cover? Error, omissions, negligence, et cetera,
- Ask to see and read all pertinent certificates.
- Inspector’s Credentials – Check the inspector’s credentials for diplomas, certificates and experience:
- A carpenter or electrician or plumber or a background in construction is useful but not essential,
- How long has the inspector been certified or licensed? You’re looking for experience so a rookie might not be your best choice,
- What is his or her background and how does it apply to home inspection? Prior work requiring some form of mechanical aptitude would be an asset,
- Has the inspector successfully completed extra courses like Radon Detection? Look for things that apply to your situation and if you’re not sure, ask.
- I’ve Got this Friend – Do not have your friend perform your home inspection! I can’t stress this point enough. Your friend may have the best of intentions and be a very good carpenter or plumber or roofer but a home inspector he is not. There are far too many subjects that your friend will not be proficient at. More likely than not, your well meaning friend will miss some defect or other hidden damage that could prove very costly you.
- Ask Questions – prepare a list of questions before hand and don’t be afraid to ask them – no matter how stupid you may think they are;
- If you see something, anything that isn’t exactly how you think it should be then ask for an explanation;
- Ask about the driveway, the sidewalks around the house or anything else that may affect the value of the property. Remember, this inspection may shed some light on a defect that has repercussions on possible renegotiation of the purchase price.
- Move Stuff (Really Important) – Don’t suppose the inspector will move furniture and other objects in order to check the condition of walls or carpets or the electrical outlets fixed behind them. Some might move furniture and some might not so bring a helper along who is willing to move some heavy stuff like dressers and so forth (be sure to have this cleared with the Seller beforehand). You never know what secrets you might find.
- Specialized Inspection – Your home inspector is probably a good generalist but unlikely to be a specialist in more than one or two fields. Don’t limit your inspection, get creative, look around, make notes and ask yourself:
- Is the owner aware of any possible issues – most owners will already have disclosed this in one form or another but ask anyway,
- Does the listing agent know anything that is not on the disclosure statement?
- What other things concerning the condition of this house should I be aware of?
- Here is a short list of some specialized inspections that you might need:
- Septic tank and field – this is a specialized field of expertise,
- Roof, gutters and perimeter drain,
- Furnace, AC and hot water tank/system – and don’t forget to ask for recent utility bills,
- Well – check the flow rate in gallons per minute and whether or not a water softener is required,
- Vermin – mice or Insect Infestation like termites, cockroaches, bedbugs or ants,
- Hot tub and swimming pool – equipment, filters, plumbing, liner and deck, and annual maintenance costs,
- Toxic material like asbestos, Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation and Radon.
- Consult Your Realtor® – Last but by no means least is to “ask your Realtor”. In most cases your Realtor works for you, the Buyer not the Seller and is usually obliged to share information about the home with you. Simple. Your Realtor deals with inspectors all the time and should be able to give you some guidance. In today’s market seldom are residential properties sold without a home inspection. As a Realtor® attending the home inspection and staying for the duration is neither trivial nor boring and it’s always good to have another pair of eyes on the job.
Make the home inspection one of the subject clauses in your contract to purchase the home. An inspection will cost hundreds of dollars so you don’t want to be spending that kind of money on a house you may never own. It should also be one of the last clauses to be removed as it will most likely cost more than most of the other clauses in your contract such as financing and reviewing the Property Disclosure Statement. Typically the Home Inspection clause is the only clause requiring a substantial cash outlay – usually in the $300 to $500 range.
One final note: Add your Home Inspection Report to your new home’s manual. The next buyers of your home will appreciate the added value.