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.

Four Tips To Help You Choose A Quality Home Inspection

Buying a home can be quite intimidating. It may be the single largest purchase you will ever make. You will definitely want the best possible home inspector in your corner. The independent home inspector can give you an unbiased opinion of the condition of your dream home before you take that final plunge. Both the cost and expertise of a Home Inspector can vary greatly. How can you be sure that you choose the Home Inspector that is, quite frankly, the best?

First, you need to understand what it is that a home inspector does. I like to think of Home Inspectors as “expert generalist.” I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who claimed the title of “jack of all trades, master of none.” A list of what is included in the inspection should be made available. In those states that require that home inspectors be licensed there is either a state issued standard or they have adopted the ASHI or NAHI standard. Both of these Home Inspector associations provide additional certification and have their standards and practices available on their respective websites. When you see the rather extensive list of what should be inspected you will realize that home inspectors need to have a general knowledge of every single aspect of the home they are inspecting. For instance, a licensed electrician may have extensive knowledge about lights, outlets, breaker panels and wiring. However, he may have little to no knowledge about foundations, plumbing, or roofing.

So, Tip number one: Look for an inspector that has varied knowledge and experience

States like Kentucky that issue licenses require training, but that training may be minimal and classroom hours cannot replace years of hands on experience. Don’t be afraid to ask a home inspector to outline his experience.

Tip number two: Don’t accept your agents recommendation without doing your own investigation

This is not to say that your real estate agent would bring in a “ringer” and not want you as a buyer to be fully informed. But, there is a fiduciary conflict of interest inherent to the relationship. In real estate, most would agree that ten percent of the agents sell ninety percent of the properties. So, who is to say that your agent has enough personal experience with an inspector or company to give a first-hand recommendation?

Ask your agent, point-blank, “would you use any of these inspectors if you were buying this home for you and family. But, what is important here is not where the recommendation came from, rather that you personally do your own investigation.

Tip number three: Select a home inspector that uses the most modern technology

“Thermal imaging is a non-invasive, non-destructive way of evaluating conditions below the surface. Because everything from faulty wiring to the presence of termites to mold to wet insulation affects the surrounding temperature, heat-sensitive photography can reveal these and other issues that just cannot be seen by the naked eye or with conventional or digital photography.”, says Dan Schuerman, a manager with PDmB, Inc., a home inspection software manufacturer.

Technology in the home inspection industry is exploding at an incredible rate. Find an inspector that is keeping pace with the most current advances in home inspection technologies i.e. boroscopes, moisture meters, digital thermometers, CO detectors, etc…

Tip number four: Choose the report that is easy to understand and includes the areas you are most concerned about

When you boil it down the report should be your most important consideration. When all the dust settles the report will be the single remaining remnant of your investment. Make sure that you get a sample report. Check out the format as this can vary greatly from one firm to another. Are photos included in the report and how well are they integrated in relation to reported issues? Some reports include photos, however they an indexed at the end and require constant page turning.

How are issues classified in the report? For instance, major concern, minor concern, repair/replace, safety hazard or are issues rated by cost. Holmes on homes noted an inspection report that listed over 250 inspection points as “serviceable”. A limited number of classifications can make a report tedious and may not provide the benefit of long-term budgeting for items with say a ten-year or five-year life expectancy.

Another great question is how the report addresses repairs or maintenance issues. Are there clear suggestions for the appropriate professional to address the concern? Are repair and maintenance recommendations included? And finally, is the language of the report full of technical jargon or is the information communicated in a way that is easily understood by the average home buyer?

In conclusion, finding the right home inspector can bring tremendous information to the table at a time when you can use it the most. Having an independent professional come along side of you and helping you to formulate a quality decision can make your buying experience far less stressful. You will not regret the time you spent researching and interviewing your local home inspection choices it will simply add to your peace of mind.

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.