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.

Five Tips To Quickly Recognize Serious Structural Problems – Home Inspection Tips For Denver-Boulder

Five tips to quickly recognize serious structural problems

Serious structural problems in houses are not very common, but when they occur they can be difficult & costly to repair. These tips won’t turn you into a home inspector, but it will give you some of the common indicators of structural concerns. In these cases, a structural engineer should be called out to investigate further and provide a professional opinion.

Tip 1 – Leaning House

Take a macro-look at the home from across the street – is the house obviously tilting or leaning, or one edge of the home separating?

Tip 2 – Exterior Walls & Entries

Look for areas of wall separation greater than ½” in size
Check the Chimney area well – is the chimney separating from the home?

Tip 3 – Doors & Windows

Do doors and windows open freely? Look for cracks around the edges of windows and doors, and for sagging lintels on brick homes.

Tip 4 -Floors & Walls

Are there drywall cracks > ¼” in size? Are there uneven floors near corners?

Tip 5 – Basement Foundation Crack

Look for significant cracks both inside and outside on the foundation, particularly near corners, around windows, and any cracks that run the full length vertically or a considerable length horizontally.

Summary

o Tip1 – Is the house obviously leaning?

o Tip 2 – Are there large external cracks?

o Tip 3 – Are doors & windows sticking?

o Tip 4 – Are walls cracked or floors uneven?

o Tip 5 – Are there basement cracks present?

Any of these may indicate a structural issue that should be inspected or reviewed by a structural engineer. Structural concerns when selling or purchasing a home are the most costly items you can be faced with. Look closely at these areas, or ask you home inspector to focus on these areas in a separate walk through of the home. If you aren’t sure about something you see, have a structural engineer look at it. The cost of an inspection will be well worth the peace of mind in knowing the severity and extent of the concern.

George Scott, Scott Home Inspection LLC,

http://www.scotthomeinspection.com/

Home Inspection Tips – Getting Reliable Radon Test Results

You can’t see or smell radon, but it could be in the home you’re buying, selling or building, and it poses a threat to your health. Therefore, it’s important to have a home inspector or other qualified professional test the home for radon levels to determine if repairs are needed that will reduce those levels.

How can you be sure to get reliable test results? First, the testing should be done on the lowest level of the home which is regularly occupied, such as a basement, play area, or area that may be used as a workshop. It’s also important to decide how long the test should take and when it will be done. A short term test requires a minimum of 48 hours. Interference to the testing should be kept to a minimum as well.

Special equipment is needed for radon testing. Your home inspector or other qualified professional radon tester will have equipment suitable for your particular situation. The office that deals with radon issues in the state where you live should have the latest information about the best equipment and methods for testing.

There are passive and active devices for radon testing. Passive devices do not need electricity. Such devices include charcoal canisters, alpha-track detectors, charcoal liquid scintillation devices, and electret ion chamber detectors. Each device must be exposed to the air in the home for a specified period of time, depending on the device’s requirements. They’re then sent to a lab for analysis.

Passive devices can be used for short term or long term testing. They’re generally inexpensive. They may also have features to help deter interference that could adversely affect test results.

Active testing devices require electricity to function. They include continuous radon monitors and continuous working level monitors, which measure and record the amount of radon or its decay products in the air over a period of time. Many of these devices provide a report that will reveal any unusual or abnormal swings in the radon level during the test period. A qualified tester can explain this report to you.

Some of these active devices are specifically designed to deter and detect test interference. There are some technically advanced active devices that offer anti-interference features. Although these tests may cost more, they may give you a more reliable result.

How can test interference be prevented? First, use a test device that frequently records radon or decay product levels to detect unusual swings. Use a motion detector to determine whether the test device has been moved or testing conditions have changed. Use a proximity detector to reveal whether people are in the room, since that could affect the results.

It’s also a good idea to Record the barometric pressure to identify weather conditions which may have affected the test. Also, record the temperature to help determine if doors or windows were opened. Your tester may apply tamper-proof seals to windows to ensure closed house conditions.

It would be a good idea to have the home seller or occupant to sign a non-interference agreement.

Your inspector or qualified radon tester should be knowledgeable about these and any other necessary precautions to make sure your radon test results are reliable.