What is Covered?
"The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten." (Author unknown)
What is a home inspection?
A home inspection is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a home, from roof to foundation. A home inspection is the equivalent of a physical examination from your doctor. When problems or symptoms of problems are found, the inspector may recommend further evaluation or remedies.
What does a home inspection include?
A standard home inspection summarizes findings from a visual inspection of the condition of the subject home's heating system, central air conditioning system (temperature permitting), interior plumbing and electrical systems roof, attic, and visible insulation walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors foundation, basement, and the visible structures of the home.
Why do I need a home inspection?
A home inspection summarizes the condition of a property, points out the need for major repairs and identifies areas that may need attention in the near future. Buyers and sellers depend on an accurate home inspection to maximize their knowledge of the property in order to make intelligent decisions before executing an agreement for sale or purchase.
A home inspection points out the positive aspects of a home, the negative aspects, and the maintenance that will be necessary to keep it in good shape. After an inspection, both parties have a much clearer understanding of the value and needs of the property.
For homeowners, an inspection may be used to identify problems in the making and to learn about preventive measures, which might avoid costly future repairs. If you are planning to sell your home, an inspection prior to placing your home on the market provides a better understanding of conditions which may be discovered by the buyer's inspector, and provides you an opportunity to make repairs that will make your home more desirable to potential buyers.
What will it cost?
Inspection fees for a typical single family home vary by geography, size and features of the property, and age of the home. Additionally, services such as septic inspections and radon testing may be warranted depending upon the individual property. My fee is normally $600 for the standard home inspection. Larger homes or older homes will usually cost more.
Do not let the cost deter you from having a home inspection or selecting an inspector you are comfortable with - knowledge gained from an inspection is well worth the time and expense. The lowest-priced inspector is not necessarily a bargain. The inspector's qualifications, including experience, training, and professional affiliations, should be the most important consideration in your selection.
Can't I do it myself?
Even the most experienced homeowner lacks the knowledge and expertise of a professional home inspector. A professional home inspector has the experience, depth of knowledge and training to make an unbiased and informed report of the condition of a property. An inspector is familiar with the many elements of home construction, their proper installation and maintenance. An inspector understands how the home's systems and components are intended to function together, as well as how and why they fail and knows what to look for and is uniquely suited to interpret what their findings reveal about the condition of the property.
Most buyers find it difficult to remain objective and unemotional about the house they really want, and this may affect their judgment. For the most accurate information about the condition of a home, always obtain an impartial third-party opinion by an expert in the field of home inspection.
Can a house fail a home inspection?
No. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of your home. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value, or a municipal inspection, which verifies compliance to local codes and standards. A home inspector will not pass or fail a house. A home inspection describes the physical condition of a property and indicates what may need repair or replacement.
It is a brand new house. Why do I need an inspection?
Any experienced home inspector will probably laugh out loud if you ask them this question with a straight face. I have seen ridiculous problems with new construction that you would not believe unless you were seeing it for yourself. Exhaust fans going nowhere, drain lines with the test plugs still installed, new roofs leaking, boiler safety valves installed incorrectly, etc. In many ways, a new house is a better candidate for an inspection because the builder is normally obligated to correct the errors. In addition to the pre-closing inspection, it is also worthwhile to arrange for an additional follow up inspection prior to the expiration of the one year builders warranty. Many problems will not surface immediately in a new home, and will take some breaking in before they are evident.
How do I find a home inspector?
Word of mouth from the experiences and referrals from friends and neighbors is one of the best ways to find a home inspector. Someone who has used a home inspection service and is satisfied with the level of customer service and professionalism of that service will likely recommend a qualified professional. I recommend contacting your realtor, lending officer, title company or real estate attorney to see who the competent home inspectors are in your area. In many ways, you will get what you pay for, although you won't know this until it is too late.
There are also several national trade groups. The largest and most respected trade group is the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). To become a full member of ASHI, inspectors are required to perform 250 paid inspections, pass the National Home Inspection Exam, and pass the ASHI Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice Exam. ASHI members also must continue their education by completing educational updates each year. By choosing an ASHI inspector, you can be reassured that you are choosing a professional inspector who values your business.
When do I call in the home inspector?
Before you sign the contract or purchase agreement, make your purchase obligation contingent upon the findings of a professional home inspection. This clause should specify the terms to which both the buyer and seller are obligated. Many sales agreements will allow 10 days for the home inspection. During peak selling time from April to October, this is probably not enough time. I recommend that you ask for 14 days to conduct the inspection, and another week for objections in case additional contractors need to be consulted. Contact a home inspector immediately after the contract or purchase agreement has been signed.
Do I have to be there?
While it is not necessary for you to be present, it is always recommended that you make time to join the inspector for their visit. This allows you to observe the inspector, ask questions as you learn about the condition of the home, how its systems work, and how to maintain them. After you have seen the property with the inspector, you will find the written report easier to understand.
Should the seller be there?
Neither you nor I really have the authority to keep someone out of their own house for four hours. To be perfectly honest, you will have a better inspection if the seller is not present. Many people have a lot of emotional capital tied up in their house, and do not enjoy having someone crawling all over their baby to expose its flaws. A lot of sellers will take it personally when the flaws of a house are mentioned, or will feel the need to explain why something is a certain way, which will usually just sidetrack the inspection.
How long will it take?
Normally at least three hours. If there is a crawl space and an attic, it will probably take four hours. If the house is large, or has a lot of problems, it can take longer. Do not hire an inspector who says he can inspect your house in two hours. They are what we like to refer to as "drive by" inspections, and are not worth the money.
What if the report reveals problems?
It probably will. No house is perfect. When the inspector identifies problems, it does not indicate you should not buy the house. His findings serve to educate you in advance of the purchase about the condition of the property. A seller may adjust the purchase price or contract terms if major problems are discovered during an inspection. If your budget is tight, or if you do not want to be involved in future repair work, this information will be extremely valuable. Most residential problems are relatively easy to correct, and may not factor significantly into the sale at all.
Why don't you include sprinkler systems?
The main reason that I don't inspect sprinkler systems is because the majority of the time they are not functional. It's either too cold, or the sprinkler system hasn't been maintained properly and has been abandoned. The second reason is that the time involved can be a little lengthy, and can be out of proportion to the value created by the sprinkler system. To give a price that included sprinkler inspections, I would have to charge enough to cover the average time spent on systems that are not working properly. As a customer, you are better off hiring a company the specialized in sprinkler installation and maintenance such as LA Landscaping or Oasis. That way you can not only verify the operation and installation, but can also get a pretty accurate estimate of what any repair costs may be.
Why don't you test for radon?
The main reason I don't provide radon inspections is that I don't have it requested very often. In the 13 years I have been inspecting, I have only seen two radon mitigation systems in Los Alamos and one in Santa Fe. Radon is pretty easy to test for by yourself. The other factor about radon is that it is pretty easy to get a false positive report, where the numbers indicate no problem present. Something as simple as opening a window into the room during the test period can skew the numbers significantly. For this reason, you really need good control over the house during the test, and that's something that I have little control over. It is better for you to test it on your own when you have ownership of the house so that you can maintain the proper control. This does leave you with a situation where you may have to put in a mitigation system after taking possession, but they are pretty simple and usually don't cost that much to install. As I stated earlier, there hasn't proven to be a significant need for mitigation systems in Los Alamos that I have observed.