Having a home inspection is not required for the purchase of a home. However, it would be ill advised to not have a home inspection performed as there are many benefits to this service, especially when purchasing a home. For most people, buying a home is the largest financial purchase they’ll make during their lifetime. A home inspection at its minimum is a visual look at the systems and components of a home. Since a buyer cannot test drive a home prior to purchasing, having a home inspection performed is the next best thing.
In short, a home inspection is beneficial in many ways. Most importantly you can help uncover costly structural issues, roof issues, safety hazards, mechanical issues, and maintenance issues to name a few. During the process of a home transaction if one of these issues are found you can often negotiate with the seller and potentially have them fix some or all of the issues before purchasing the home, sometimes saving thousands of dollars in repairs. If too many issues are found, a home inspection will aid in backing out of the contract and getting your earnest money back. Even brand new homes may have numerous problems that a home inspection can uncover. Many home inspection companies including Carolina House To Home Inspections offer other services such as radon testing and mold testing to help determine the quality of air that you are breathing in your home. While these are beyond the standards of practice for a home inspector and typically cost extra, they can also be utilized to negotiate with the seller for radon or mold mitigation before purchase of the home.
Now let’s cover a few things to consider when hiring a home inspector. Luckily hiring a home inspector is not a very complicated process. Typically your agent will have a list of inspectors that you may choose from, or you can find your own inspector if you choose. Many people (usually other inspectors) would like you to believe that inspectors from an agent’s list are hand picked by the agent because they wont report major issues as they don’t want to ruin the sale for the agent. However, I have worked with many agents over the years and never came across an agent who did not want the best for their client. Much of an agent’s business comes from referrals so knowingly harming their client or reputation will likely get a bad referral and therefore less work for the agent in the future. It is in the best interest of the agent to give you the best service they possibly can. Nonetheless, when choosing an inspector (whether from an agents list or from your own search) there are a few things that are important to look for:
1. How much time does their average inspection take?
The more time and effort put into an inspection, the better service you’re going to have. It’s simple as that. They can have all the certifications in the world, but if they don’t take the time and effort to properly inspect, all of their knowledge and skill set is useless. This is by far the #1 thing to look for. An average inspection should take between 3-5 hours depending on age, size, and foundation as crawlspaces take longer. Ask your inspector how long their inspection usually takes before hiring.
2. Are they certified and or licensed?
Make sure they are certified through a inspection association such as International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (INTERnachi). These Associations create standards of practice that home inspectors are required to follow, provides classes for an inspector to ensure that they are well prepared to properly preform inspections. Make sure to ask if they are part of a home inspector association as many states do not require any education to become a home inspector. In these states anyone who files for a business and hands out business cards can call themselves an inspector. Some states require an inspector to be licensed also. If you are in one of these states ask them to present their license.
3. Do they access difficult areas to inspect?
Few people enjoy having to crawl around in crawlspaces, walk around in attics, or walk on a roof but many major issues can be found by checking these areas. It’s very important that your inspector access these areas as long as it’s safe. Not all roofs are safe to walk on: an inspector cannot go onto the roof and nail a roof anchor through the shingles to setup a harness to safely walk a steep roof, as that causes damage to the shingles and the seller of the house would not be happy about that. Using the bumper of a vehicle to tie a harness off to and throwing it over the ridge of the roof is also not good practice! If your inspector cannot walk on the roof, ask them how they will inspect it. Many inspectors have cameras attached to telescopic poles that can get great up close views of a roof. I personally prefer this method over any others. Some inspectors also use drones but I haven’t personally seen this and can’t speak for how effective it is. Still others stand on a ladder and look at a roof from there. Some may also use binoculars or a high quality camera with zoom but these may not allow the inspector to see every portion of a roof from the ground. If you ask an inspector how they are intending to check the roof and they respond by saying that they are going to observe it only from the ground, you may want to consider another inspector. It’s a great practice to ask the same question for crawlspaces: if the inspector just opens the access door to the crawlspace and shines a light from the entrance, you should hire a different inspector. They should enter the crawlspace and get an up close view of everything they can access in the crawlspace. The same principal applies for attics also.
4. Check their reviews. Not everything you find on the internet is true.
If an inspector has some good reviews, that can help build trust toward using that inspector. Beware though as some people do post bad reviews, whether it be a previous disgruntled employee, a difficult customer, or even a competitor wanting to hurt someone else’s ratings. The biggest take away regarding reviews is that if an inspector has more five star reviews than one star reviews, they are most likely operating a reputable company.
Unfortunately it is impossible for a home inspector, or anyone for that matter, to uncover all of the issues with a home. Inspectors cannot see through walls, ceilings, or floors: they can only report on what they can see. Inspectors also have a limited amount of time to inspect the property (typically 3 to 5 hours). It is likely that after purchasing a home and spending many months or years there, you may find other issues that were previously not detectable during the home inspection but having an inspection performed is the only way to ensure most problems are discovered upfront.