Five Questions to Ask Before the Inspection
Selecting your inspector is an important decision. A home is often the single largest investment in a person's lifetime. Choosing a competent professional who will prepare and deliver the information in a manner to suit your needs is an essential part of the home purchase process.
There are several ways to locate quality inspectors. The Internet is a great source for locating inspectors, as many companies and associations have their own websites, including the California Real Estate Inspection Association (www.CREIA.com), the American Society of Home Inspectors (www.ASHI.com), and Inspectech Corporation (www.INSPECTECH.com). Asking the right questions up front will help in the selection process. Following is a list of basic questions to ask that will help you find the right inspector.
1. Do you have formal training as a home inspector?
The industry is relatively new (formalization dates back to the mid 1970s), however, there are a number of quality programs available for those wishing to educate themselves. While a contracting or structural engineering background is helpful, specialized education is necessary to ensure complete competency.
Ask to see certificates of completion from a reputable home inspection training school. How do you know if a school is reputable? Ask other inspectors. Also, call the schools; quality organizations will provide consumers information on their curriculum and programs, as well as verification of graduate status.
2. Are you a member of a professional association?
Membership in appropriate associations, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or the California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA) ensures that inspectors have passed competency examinations, adhere to recognized standards of practice, operate under a strict code of ethics, and maintain continuing education in their field.
3. Are you backed by a company with a professional reputation?
Inspectors should stand behind their work. A company with a solid reputation, one that can provide a list of satisfied customers, generally represents the sort of firm you'll want. Asking to see proof of insurance is also recommended. Confirm that the inspectors carry both professional (errors and omissions) and general liability insurance.
4. Are you a full-time home inspector? Do you perform repairs?
The home inspection business is a professional discipline that requires a full-time commitment. Just as there are very few part-time astrophysicists, inspectors who do home inspections as a "sideline" may not be truly dedicated. And anyone who offers to repair discovered conditions is clearly nonobjective.
5. May my representatives and I attend the inspection?
Good inspectors encourage their clients to participate in the inspection. Many questions can arise, and face-to-face communication is the best step to understanding the issues. In addition to explaining the conditions discovered, competent inspectors can relay valuable information on the operation of systems, safety enhancements, and maintenance scheduling.
Five Questions to Ask During the Inspection
Good inspectors will provide a quality report, but the actual inspection is a great opportunity to ask questions and understand the scope of their work. Your inspector is there to help you. Learning about you and your home usage needs provides him or her a better opportunity to provide desired information. The inspection itself may be the most informative three hours in the transaction.
1. Please describe the condition of the roof. What is the typical life cycle of this material, and what type of maintenance is recommended?
A roof is one of the more expensive components associated with home ownership. Be sure you have a clear picture of its present condition, a general idea of the remaining service life, and the steps you should take to preserve your investment.
2. Are there any areas that may be considered deficient, according to the local standards?
Geographical conditions vary. The West Coast has earthquakes; the Southeast has hurricanes. Natural phenomena and human intervention occur in different forms. Many of the construction techniques to resist these phenomena were developed long after the completion of most homes in America. Be sure your inspector can address such situations correctly. In some instances, the ability to provide homeowner's insurance and/or other policies may depend on regional conditions.
3. Are there any safety issues? Nonfunctional systems?
Safety is the first concern of any occupant. Ask the inspector to walk you through the areas involved in conditions reported; advice on potential enhancements is also helpful. Any essential system or component that has failed or is not fulfilling its intended function should be recognized.
4. Should I seek the advice of a specialist, and how much will this cost?
Much like a family doctor, the home inspector performs a general examination and may then recommend further evaluation by a specialist for particular areas of concern. Be sure you have a clear understanding of any areas requiring further evaluation. Inspectors are often asked, "How much will this cost?" While many inspectors have a rough idea of materials and labor costs, they will not be the individuals performing the work, so the client is better served by gathering multiple estimates from the technicians who actually perform the work.
5. How will I see this condition noted in the report, and can I call you?
Good inspectors provide detailed, easy to read (preferably typewritten or computer generated) reports. When the inspector mentions something on site, be sure to ask him or her where that information will show up in the report. Also, your inspector should provide a summary of the more important issues. Home inspection is a service business. Be sure your inspector will be available for questions after you receive the report. You may also want to consider having your inspector return to the property on an annual basis, just like getting an annual physical. Inspectors can provide updated information and alert you to any new developments. They can also provide valuable information for energy efficiency and maintenance scheduling.
Author Profile: Scott Clements is a vice president of Inspectech Corporation, the West's largest home inspection network, where his responsibilities include supervision of all inspector support functions for a network of more than 150 inspectors nationwide. Scott entered the inspection profession in 1989 and is the former director of technical support for the nation's largest property inspection company, AmeriSpec Inc. He has personally performed over 3,000 residential property inspections, served as an expert witness in numerous construction and inspector litigation actions, and operated as a field analyst for RSI Inc., a reserve funding study company.