Home Inspections – 9 Tips to Minimize Your Risk as a Buyer by Finding the Right Inspector

This article is written for buyers of real estate in California, but most of the tips are applicable to every state. The State of California and the California Department of Real Estate now strongly recommend that every buyer of property in the State have a professional home inspection.

1. What is a home inspection?

A home inspection examines the physical and operational condition of a property through visual means and through testing of plumbing fixtures, electrical systems, appliances and heating and air conditioning systems. Inspections include the roof, foundation, water drainage, walls, floors, windows, doors, and more. Home inspections do NOT include inspection for living organisms including mold and termites. However, most home inspectors will comment if they see evidence of water, mold, infestation and/or damage from any of those.

2. Are there inspection standards?

To quote the California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA) Standards of Practice, “A Real Estate inspection is a non-invasive physical examination designed to identify material defects in the systems, structures, and components of a buildings…” and, “A material defect is a condition that significantly affects the value, desirability, habitability, or safety of the building.” For the entire document see the CREIA Standards.

3. What is reported?

The inspection report itemizes each “material defect” that needs attention. Reports vary considerably. Some are complicated checklists and narratives without pictures. Others include full color pictures with captions explaining what is in the picture. Most buyers find reports with pictures are much more useful because they make defects clearer to the seller when you ask the seller to fix a defect. As you know, “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

4. Look for the latest InfraRed (IR) thermal imaging.

Every inspection should include measurements of electrical outlets with electricity monitors. Water pressure should be taken with a pressure meter. Temperature probes are used to be sure heaters and air conditioners are working properly. The latest technology is InfraRed (IR) thermal imaging. This is an invaluable tool that some inspectors are starting to use. It can show defects the human eye cannot, such as the presence of moisture in floors, walls and ceilings. It shows defects in insulation and leaks in air and heating systems. If you can find an inspection company offering IR thermal imaging, consider them first.

5. What about licensing and credentials?

Few people know that the State of California does neither control nor license home inspectors! So it is very important to investigate the qualifications of any inspector. Get references from the inspector or talk to agents who have worked with the inspector. Look for the inspector’s membership in industry organizations. Your inspector should adhere to the CREIA Standards of Practice mentioned earlier. Other organizations include the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors, NACHI (www.nachi.org), and the American Society of Home Inspectors, ASHI (www.ashi.org).

6. Be sure you know the background of the person actually doing the inspection.
Many good home inspectors are one man companies. Others are franchises with the inspector/owner running his local office. Others are companies that have many inspectors on payroll with varying amounts of experience. Any time you consider any company, be sure to get the qualifications of the one person assigned to your job.

7. Look for a guarantee in writing.

Unlike most other businesses, very few home inspectors fully guarantee their work. A good guarantee does not just offer your money back for the cost of an inspection, but actually pays to correct any defect that was missed by the inspector during an inspection. Don’t accept any verbal comments about guarantees. An inspection company with a real guarantee will have it in writing on their web site.

8. What should it cost?

The cost of a home inspection will vary greatly. A 1000 square foot condo will be lower in cost than a 3000 square foot home. Never make a decision on price alone. Saving $100 by going with the cheapest inspection can cost $1000s of dollars if something is missed.

9. How do I find the inspector’s credentials?

Look for an inspector with an informative web site. You should be able to see the inspector’s background, experience, qualifications, Certifications, sample report and customer references. Look for a guarantee, the details of which should be spelled out. Call the inspector and ask any questions you have.

Note: This article is copyrighted by the author but buyers and home inspectors are encouraged to copy and use this article as long as the author’s name and web site are kept with it.

Elite Home Inspections: Tips on Hiring a Professional Inspector

Elite home inspections are called as such because they are conducted by trained and certified inspectors, not just by your local handyman or carpenter. Their knowledge surpasses that of assessing the conditions the different parts of the home, but also extends to knowledge of certain laws and regulations pertaining to building codes. Their overall inspection will help you as a homeowner decide whether you should buy the property or not. Even though there really is no house that can be deemed perfect, any buyer would definitely want one that has the least repair needs.

If you or any of your friends are in the process of buying a house, you may want to make use of the following tips when looking for a certified inspector.

Experience

No one becomes an expert on elite home inspections overnight. It takes years of experience and highly specialized training. Therefore, the first thing you should check is the how many years the inspector has been inspecting homes. The inspector assigned to your property should have experience with your type of home. Are you buying a single family residence or is it a condominium? Perhaps you are looking at a mobile home or manufactured property. Ask the inspector to provide you with a sample report of the same type of home that they have inspected in the past.

Certifications, Credentials, and Licenses

When speaking with a home inspection company, always ask for copies of their certifications and licenses. Anyone can claim that they are a certified inspector, but if there are no documents to back that up, then be wary. You can also check if they belong to a local home inspection association. These associations require inspectors to maintain a working knowledge of the latest building code. By testing their members regularly on industry standards homeowners are more likely to receive an inspector who knows what they are talking about and what to look for when inspecting properties of all types.

Sample of Report and Inspection Checklist

The reports made after elite home inspections often consist of 40 or more pages. This is because inspectors make sure that every detail is recorded for the future homeowner’s benefit. If the sample given to you has less than ten pages in it, then consider that as a red flag. Chances are, their inspectors do their jobs in a hurry and are not very detailed in their observations. To probe further, ask for a copy of the inspection checklist. It should include structural and mechanical components of the home. The plumbing system and electrical wirings should be there. Make sure they will be providing a mold inspection and termite inspection as part of their elite home inspection services.

Length of Inspection

When the inspector comes to your home, ask how long it would take him to do the job. This will vary depending on the size of the home, but it should at least take about three to four hours. If the inspector is done after an hour then you should be concerned because he may have done it in haste and has likely overlooked some defects. We have even heard of some companies doing “drive-by” inspections. Ideally you will want to be present at the inspection to avoid this scenario.

Communication

During the hiring process, select an inspector that communicates well. After all you are going to have many questions so you will want someone who responds professionally and knows how to articulate your homes issues. If it takes them several days to answer a simple query, then they may be as slow in providing you with the results later on or with accommodating your complaints, if you ever have one. Efficient property inspectors can often provide a report the day of the inspection.

Warranty

Finally, a good home inspection service must offer a warranty to the client. This warranty can be valid for 30, 60, or 90 days and, obviously, the lengthier the better. This will ensure that the inspector did his job seriously or he will be liable for any repairs that will transpire due to damages that he failed to report. These inspectors usually have an error and omission insurance that will cover this, although some will ask the client to sign a waiver to limit their liability. For your protection and to ensure that you are getting good value for the service that you hired, go with the inspection company that offers the best warranty.

Use these tips when you are looking for companies that will provide elite home inspections for you or for the people you know. This guide is a surefire way to ensure that you get the best professional out there.

Home Inspection Tips – Radon Testing For Sellers and Buyers

A home inspection is important whether you’re buying or selling a home. Where does radon testing fit into the picture?

Let’s look first at considerations from a home seller’s perspective. If your inspector or another qualified professional has already tested your home for radon, the buyer wants assurance the testing was done correctly. She may ask that testing be redone if certain conditions aren’t met.

Did testing comply with the EPA radon checklist or your state’s protocol? Was testing done within the past two years? Have you made any renovations on your home since testing was done? Does your prospective buyer want to live in a basement or level lower than where testing was done?

She may also ask for a new test if your state or local government requires the disclosure of radon information to buyers and that disclosure hasn’t been made.

If you haven’t yet had your home tested for radon, have it done as soon as possible. Test in the lowest level of the home that can be regularly occupied. Test in an area such as a basement or playroom area if that area could be used by your buyer.

If you do the radon test yourself, carefully follow the testing protocol for your area or EPA’s Radon Testing Checklist. If you hire a contractor to test your home, you’ll protect yourself by hiring a qualified individual or company.

How do you find a qualified professional to do the testing? Ask your home inspector. Also, your state should have an office that deals with radon issues. They may be able to provide you with a list of testers in your area. Many states require radon professionals to be licensed, certified, or registered.

If your state doesn’t regulate radon related services, ask your home inspector or a reliable contractor if he holds a license, or a proficiency or certification credential. Has he completed training in measuring radon and properly dealing with radon issues? You may also want to contact the American Society of Home Inspectors, the National Association of Home Inspectors, or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.

Let’s look at the other side of the coin. What if you’re buying a home? The EPA says if you are thinking of buying a home, you can choose to accept an earlier test result from the seller. Or you can ask the seller for a new test to be done by a qualified radon tester.

Before you accept the seller’s test results, ask a few questions. What did previous tests show? Who did the actual testing? Where in the home was the previous testing done? Was it in the level in which you plan to live? Have any changes been made to the home since it was tested? For example, have there been any alterations to the heating and cooling systems?

If you accept the seller’s test results, be sure the test complied with the EPA checklist or relevant state protocols. If you think a new test is needed, discuss it with the seller as soon as possible. If you decide to use a qualified radon tester to have it retested yourself, contact your state radon office for a copy of their approved list of radon testing individuals and companies.

If the seller hasn’t had the home tested, ask that it be done as soon as possible. Consider including radon testing provisions in the contract. Note where in the home the testing will be done and who will do the testing. Also note the type of test to be done and when it will be done. How will the seller and buyer share the test results? Who pays for the cost of testing?

You’ll want to be sure radon testing is done on the level you intend to occupy, whether it’s the first floor or basement area. If you decide to finish or renovate an unfinished area after you buy the home, a radon test should be taken before starting the project and again after the project is finished. Generally, it’s less expensive to install a radon-reduction system before (or during) renovations rather than afterward.

To view more complete information on radon testing from the Environmental Protection agency, go to http://www.epa.gov/radon/radontest.html.