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What you need to know about selecting your home inspector

Submitted by SterlingBrown on Tue, 04/16/2019 - 07:24

What you need to know about selecting your home inspector

Housing and Urban Development, HUD, has a list of 10 important questions they believe you should ask your home inspector. Although, I don’t agree with the order of relative importance that they choose, they do cover the major items you should be concerned about.

Home inspections are not only a technical exercise it’s also, and more importantly, an exercise in clear communications.

The first question most people ask when trying to choose a home inspector, is how much? Even HUD lists this as the sixth most important question. Until you ask all the other questions you actually don’t know if you are comparing apples to lemons. There are those who will tell you that all home inspections are the same and that all home inspectors are the same. This is no truer of home inspectors than it is of doctors, lawyers, Realtors or any other professional you meet in your day-to-day life. Professionals as a rule, provide services. Perhaps the most important things to know about a service are exactly what it will cover and how well the practitioner will cover it.

The question HUD considers the most important is “What does your inspection cover?” A truly professional home inspector will follow a standard of practice that defines exactly what a home inspection should cover and also delineate some of those items that might not be included. The most common standards of practice come from the American Society of Home Inspectors, ASHI, or the International Association of Certified Home inspectors, InterNACHI. These are available online and it is well worth reading through them. The inspector should be able to tell you, at least in general terms, what the inspection will cover and obviously which standard of practice they happened to follow. This is a good time to voice any particular concerns you might have about the property to be inspected.

The second most important question “How long have you been practicing in the home inspection profession and how many inspections have you completed?” All home inspectors started out sometime and the more inspections they have completed the more experience they will have garnered over the years. This is a good time to clarify whether or not the home inspector is part-time or full-time. Common sense dictates that a full-time home inspector has the advantage of more experience over the same timeframe as a part timer.

You do want to know that the experience an inspector might have is relevant to your needs. As HUD puts it “Are you specifically experienced in residential inspection?” The point being a trades person experienced in one particular phase of construction might well be able to properly inspect that phase but at a total loss when asked to inspect the work of another trades person. The question is what happens when you have the world’s greatest carpenter inspecting the world’s worst plumber’s work?

Number four on the HUD list is “Do you offer to do repairs or improvements based on the inspection?” This is quite common in a number of businesses. If you take your car in to have the brakes checked or the wheel alignment checked, after you get their opinion it is not expected that you will take the car to another dealer for that the work performed. Some of the home inspection associations apparently do allow this within their code of ethics others do not. The appearance of a conflict of interest is just as bad as an actual conflict of interest. You want to know that your home inspector does not personally benefit from finding conditions warranting correction.

“How long will the inspection take?” One well respected home inspector has said that a home inspection will take as long as it takes to do properly. This is true, but on a national average a single-family dwelling, with garage, under 2500 ft.² would typically take around two and half to three hours to do properly. Inspections running significantly under this raise the question of, “What was not inspected properly? Several things can impact the time on site that are not directly related to the actual inspection. Some inspectors take notes and photographs and then prepare their inspection report back in the office. Some inspectors prepare the report on site as they progress. This does take a little longer than simply taking notes. Questions from the client, whose presence is always recommended during the inspection, obviously take time to respond to. Additional people on site during the course the inspection can also slow progress with questions or interruptions.

And now the question that seems to be foremost in everyone’s mind, “How much will it cost?”  There is no universally recognized method for calculating fees for performing a home inspection. Some inspectors will base their price simply on square footage of the home, typically the finished area only. Others will base their fee on the size and age of the home and some may attempt to link their fees to the selling price of the home similar to the fees charged by the realtor for their services. There are those who will charge an hourly rate and add on mileage charges so you can see there are number of ways of calculating fees which might result in different quotes for the same house. Nationally you might expect to see fees ranging from as little as $300 upward. In addition to everything else there will be regional differences. While concerns about pricing never go away entirely they have to be balanced with your comfort and confidence with the inspector you finally select.

A vitally important question is “What type of inspection report do you provide and how long will it take to receive the report?” States that regulate home inspectors and the major home inspection associations all require a written report. This is seldom in the form of printed on paper in this day and age. Your report will most likely be delivered online either by signing into the inspectors website or in the form of a PDF file attached to an email. You want to have a very clear agreement as to how when the inspection report will be delivered no matter in what form. Our practice is that the report is emailed to the client the evening of the inspection. Other inspectors may want a little longer to produce a final report. Since you may have a limited time to act on some of the home inspector’s recommendations you want the report in hand as soon as practical.

“Will I be able to attend the inspection?” To maximize the benefit you receive from the inspection you should attend if at all practical. If your home inspector discourages your attendance you might want to give serious consideration to selecting a different home inspector. This is your inspection and you have a right to attend and raise any concerns you might have about the property as well as being able to get clarification of any items brought up by the inspector, if they’re not entirely clear.

The last two questions are interlinked. “Do you maintain membership in a professional home inspection association?” and “Do you participate in continuing education programs to keep your expertise up to date?” The better home inspectors will always belong to an association and all the associations I’m aware of, and all states regulating home inspectors, require continuing education. If you read the standards of practice and the ethics of each home inspector association you’ll notice a great deal of similarity and the typical requirements for continuing education range between 16 and 24 hours annually.

At Mid-America Inspection Service we think we are your best choice for inspections in Fargo/Morehead and west central Minnesota including the lakes region. It is important that you feel comfortable whichever inspector you select because the information they provide can impact the single largest investment most people ever make. Please call us for any further information or to book your inspection.

Submitted by SterlingBrown on Tue, 04/16/2019 - 07:24