How To Choose An Effective Home Inspector
This is our favorite topic to talk about because there is so much misinformation on the internet propagated by older former construction contractors turned inspectors who should be retired by now and journalists who interview them. Sorry, did I say that out loud?
OK, so we are all certified to either the ASHI or NACHI membership standard. We all took some kind of home inspection course. We all ask you to sign a limited liability pre-inspection agreement. We all provide you with a report. But this is where the similarities start to end. So let’s take the deep dive:
Detailed Home Inspections provides an easy to read PDF file narrative style report with pictures embedded and emailed to you the same day as the inspection. We are fortunate enough to have had many competing inspector reports forwarded to us over the years so we know what is out there and have taken the very best elements from these reports to combine into our own. A lot of these reports are hard to read and follow which gives even us, experienced inspectors, a headache! Some of these reports don’t even include pictures or are actually hand written check lists. Before you hire an inspector you should be familiar with the type of report they deliver and how soon they give it to you. Send us an email and we will be happy to send you our sample report.
Do not hire an inspector without reviewing their sample inspection report. Our inspection report recommendations are straight and to the point. We rarely recommend bringing another expert or trades person back to the house for further evaluation because we are not sure if there is a problem or not with a particular item. Watch out for inspectors who do this as they are just covering themselves from a liability standpoint which ends up costing you more money because you will have to pay for another trades person to review the item. This is just an indication of inspector lack of experience – when you ask for an inspector’s inspection report, look for this. Typically, the only time we recommend further evaluation is when there is foundation wall damage and a licensed structural engineer needs to evaluate it to sign off on it or provide instruction for repair or there is a potentially large cost for correcting an issue and you should have a hard cost estimate from a licensed contractor to understand the cost implications.
The next and probably most important thing to understand and have proof of is how many inspections your potential inspector has performed. At least 1000 home inspections is a good base line for a competent inspection company. Less than a 1000 and you are taking a chance with them. But how do you verify that they have actually performed over 1000 inspections when you call them? Just because their web site says they have performed over X amount of inspections doesn’t really mean they actually have. Who is going to call them out if they haven’t? If they tell you over the phone they have, do you believe it? Many people like to stretch the truth…and are OK with it because they justify it in their head. This is a very critical point. You do not want an inspection company with less than 1000 inspections inspecting your house and you need to have them prove to you that they have. So when you are interviewing inspectors ask them how many ASHI or NACHI compliant full inspection reports they have written. If it’s more than a thousand ask them for their past 5 years of clients with phone numbers or email addresses. If they say they don’t have that available or that violates some sort of privacy law, hang up the phone. If they do have that list available, they should be able to send it to you by that evening. At Detailed Home Inspections we have done over 5000 inspections. Send us an email request and we will be happy to send our past 5 yrs of clients for you to call at random to see how effective we were.
OK, so if you are still on the phone with the inspector ask them if they climb into attics and on top of roofs. Most of them will dance around this question because most inspectors are not agile enough to do this; they will either pop their head up into the attic through the hatch and shine their flashlight around or observe the roof from the ground with binoculars, at the roof edge with a ladder, or worse yet, with a drone. At Detailed Home Inspections, we enter and climb all accessible (as defined In “What Makes Us Different”) attics, crawlspaces, and roofs; the only accessible attics not entered are truss attics with very fine loose fill fiberglass insulation and newer construction attics with trusses and heavy loose fill insulation. Typically the only roofs not walked are 2nd or 3rd floor roofs not accessible from a lower roof with a 4 foot step ladder, wet/icy/snow covered roofs, and slate/tile roofs. So, all things being equal, who would you rather hire, the inspector who crawls up into the attic and walks your roof or the inspector who isn't agile enough to do either? Attics and roofs are very important parts of the inspection, and the best way to inspect them are to have eyes, feet, and hands directly on them.
Now what about testimonials and reviews that the Inspection company either has posted on the internet, Google Reviews, on their literature, web site whatever. It’s all sunshine and rainbows isn’t it? “So and So was so very thorough and complete in their inspection….we would recommend him or her to anybody!” It’s easy to get a smiley face review right after the inspection BEFORE the Buyer has lived in the house for a few months or a year. Every Inspector gets those reviews, whether they have done thousands of inspections or 50 inspections.
But see, you are smarter than that. You now know that the REAL review of the Inspector’s ability comes from the un-solicited review that you get from a past client who has lived in the house for 1 to 5 yrs. Not from what the inspector did previous to home inspecting. Not from how long the inspector has been doing inspections. Not from the list of certifications the inspector has. Not from Google reviews. Not from your conversation with the inspector over the phone. And not from your Realtor's list of 3 inspectors they give you - which they are REQUIRED by their broker and soon by state law to do so.
Just because an inspector is on your Realtor's list of 3 inspectors to call doesn't mean that all 3 of them are effective home inspectors. Do your home work and due dilligence when selecting your inspector!
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