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.