Finding Home Inspectors
You've found the house, your offer has been accepted,
and funding is in place. But before you start packing, be sure you hire a
professional home inspector to make sure your house doesn't have any major
defects that could cost you down the road.
A home inspection typically includes an examination of
heating and central air conditioning systems, interior plumbing, electrical
systems, the roof, attic, visible insulation, walls, ceilings, floors, windows,
foundations, and basements. Inspections may also include appliances and outdoor
Once the inspector examines the house, he or she will
write up a report with findings. If there are any major problems, you'll need to
negotiate with the seller to either lower the sale price of the home, or
determine how the problem will be fixed.
When you make an offer it's wise to have a contingency
clause based on the home inspection. In other words, if the inspector finds
$10,000 worth of problems and the seller doesn't want to provide the fix, you
can rescind your offer.
In fact, two in five resale houses will have at least
one major defect that could cost you from a few hundred dollars to as much as
$15,000 to repair, according to the 2000 HouseMaster Resale Home Deficiencies
Spending a few hundred dollars for a home inspection is
well worth the peace of mind.
If you don't know how or where to find a home inspector,
be cautious about asking your real estate agent.
"Be careful, though, of inspectors who are popular with
agents - that popularity may stem from not killing too many deals by going easy
on their inspections," says Eric Tyson and Ray Brown in their book Home Buying
For Dummies (Hungry Minds, Inc., 1999).
Tyson and Brown say the
American Society of Home Inspectorsis a good place to start.
"Just because an inspector is an
ASHI member doesn't
guarantee that you'll get a good inspection, but it certainly increases the
likelihood that you'll be working with a qualified professional," Brown and
All certified members have performed at least 250
inspections have passed two written proficiency exams. They must also adhere to
standards of practice, continuing education requirements, and code of ethics.
The authors and the ASHI recommend you interview several
inspectors before choosing one. Some of the questions you should ask include:
· What does
the inspection cover? Make sure the inspection and the inspection report meet
all applicable requirements and comply with the ASHI
Standards of Practice.
· How long have you
been in the profession and how many homes have you inspected? Again, ASHI
Members are required to have completed at least 250 paid professional home
inspections and passed two written exams that test the inspector's knowledge.
· Are you specifically
experienced in residential inspection? The answer should be yes. If someone says
they have specialized training in something like construction or engineering but
not in residential inspection, you may want to move on to the next candidate.
· Does the inspector's
company offer to do repairs or improvements based on the inspection? The answer
should always be no. This is against the ASHI Code of Ethics because it might
cause a conflict of interest.
· How long will the
inspection take? The average for a single inspector is two to three hours for a
typical single-family house; anything less may not be enough time to do a
thorough inspection. Some inspection firms send a team of inspectors and the
time frame may be shorter.
· How much will it
cost? Costs vary quite a bid depending on the region, size of the house, scope
of services and other factors. A typical range might be $300-500, but consider
the value of the home inspection in terms of the investment being made.
· Does the inspector
prepare a written report? Ask to see samples and determine whether you
understand the report.
· Does the inspector
encourage the client to attend the inspection? This is a valuable educational
opportunity for you to learn about how things work around what could be your
house, and the inspector may point out things that don't quite merit a mention
in the report but which you should keep an eye on. An inspector's refusal to
allow you to be present should raise a red flag.
Finally, once you've found an inspector you
like, ask him for references, then follow up and contact those clients. Two key
questions - whether they discovered any major defects after the close of escrow
that the inspector missed, and whether they'd use the inspector again.