When you need a home inspection, you want to make sure you get a good one here in the South Alabama area. First, you need to know what a good home inspection is. Then you need to know how to find a home inspector who can, and will, give you the home inspection that serves you well. And last, you want to know how much you should pay for this quality home inspection by a good home inspector.
Home Inspections - A Question and Answer Guide
Ask a dozen Home Inspectors, or make it a bakers dozen if you will, what it is that makes a Home Inspection report a GOOD Home Inspection report, and you are just liable to get 12 or, make it 13, different answers. Well, maybe there wouldn't be that much disparity in response, but you get the general idea...there almost certainly wouldn't be any unanimous consensus. Because individual Home Inspection reports, just as with individual Home Inspectors, simply aren't created equally...one report absolutely is not (allow me to be repetitive here for emphasis)...is not just like the next...neither in content or in quality.
There are many differing opinions as to what constitutes a good Home Inspection report and this is evidenced by the large number of report formats and the myriad of various software programs that are used to create reports. Having been in the Home Inspection industry for more than 15 years, I was creating written (gulp...yes, hand-written) reports using carbon copy report forms, in triplicate (three copies...press hard, please) back when there weren't any computers involved in the process. In fact, I had to be drug, not quite actually by my hair, and not quite literally...but almost...kicking and screaming, into what I'll refer to as the modern computer age. In retrospect, it was a definitive change for the better (in most ways, anyway...I have yet to have my wrist "crash"...but I digress). As the owner of a Raleigh Home Inspection firm, I have my own professional opinion as to what goes into the production of a good Home Inspection, and as to what a good Home Inspection report should be.
There is differing opinion amongst professional Home Inspectors as to whether a checklist style of report should be used...or whether a narrative style report should be used. In the former, issues or problems (I have never have liked referring to issues as problems, even though an issue may very well be, and likely is, a problem for someone...) are conveyed to the reader using boxes that are checked off. In the latter, issues are presented using narrative, wherein each problem is identified by writing out those issues. In reality, most reports are a combination of the two. The combination style of report is the one that I prefer and recommend to other Home Inspectors; descriptive commentary e.g. materials or types of components, can be conveyed using a check box with the real issues conveyed using narrative.
So, what are the...ingredients...necessary to create and provide a good Home Inspection report?
To preface any discussion regarding this subject topic, and from a clients perspective (who is likely relying on the contents of the report to make a well-informed real estate purchasing decision), it is important that the Inspector be experienced, knowledgeable about most all related issues that might be encountered, and be entirely professional toward both the Home Inspection process as a whole and toward the client/buyer specifically. This must be, in my opinion, accepted as a given and be considered a baseline requirement. The overall philosophy of the Inspector should be to provide their client with not only a good inspection experience, but an excellent inspection experience. Of course, it should be herein acknowledged that if the home has a really large number of serious issues, then the experience may not seem like such a good one to the client at the time...but that's likely (or should be) the fault of the condition of the home itself rather than the fault of the Inspector. In the event of a less than stellar report resulting from an Inspection of a particular home, the client is able to revel in the fact that their professional Home Inspector, and their most excellent and professionally produced Home Inspection report precluded their buying the proverbial Money Pit and their having any number of unexpected or unanticipated expenses associated with their home purchase.
Obviously, any report absolutely must provide the client value...with, at the very least, a good representation of the condition of the property. If a report doesn't do that, then the report is likely not worth anything...it would be worthless even if it were free.
Among other things, a Good Home Inspection Report should:
* Be well organized and well presented; the report should layout and presentation should be logical...it should be organized so as to provide a sort of road map, if you will, around and through the home
* Be well written...and be readily understandable by anyone irregardless of whether or not they have ever been to the physical property and irrespective of their technical background. The report should, to every extent possible, be devoid of technical nomenclature that requires yet more explanation to be understood; it should be concise and clear. A report that has to be interpreted is of little overall value
* Provide enough detail, description and direction to provide not only the client, but anyone involved in the transaction e.g. real estate agents, attorneys, mortgage lenders, etc., with a clear representation of the physical condition of the property
* Contain enough, but not an excessive number, of digital photographs relating directly to significant or serious issues. It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words...this is true of a home inspection report. Photographs make it immeasurably easier to identify and understand any particular issue. On the other hand, a report loaded with photographs that lend no additional value to a report and are provided as filler content, or to provide a CYB (Cover Your Buttocks..) function for the Inspector, are best left out of a report
* Be presented using plain, but grammatically correct language. There is no place in a professional Home Inspection report for misspelled words, fragmented sentences, and general misuse of the English language (or whatever language is appropriate). A report filled with these types of deficiencies is, and again in my opinion, directly indicative of the professionalism of the Inspector
* Be presented in a straight-forward manner...if there are reportable issues present, then they should be presented in such a way as to leave no doubt that they are, indeed, issues. There should be no Soft-Shoeing...no Song and Dance...no Weasel-wording...just straight talk, accurate description, and effective commentary. Further, there should be some commentary provided to explain why an issue is an issue, and how to go about correcting that issue or otherwise obtaining other professional opinion regarding its correction
* Contain a well-designed Summary Section...a section of the report where all significant, and potentially significant, issues are clearly identified. General information, suggestion regarding routine maintenance, or recommendations regarding the upgrade of the property should not be included in the Summary section of the report. That type of information should most certainly be provided in the report for the benefit of the client...just not in the Summary section of the report
A client in search of a professional Home Inspection should inquire of any potential candidate Inspector as to what type of report they produce...nor should they be at all shy or hesitant about asking that the considered Inspector to provide a sample of their inspection report. That way, a client will have a very good representative idea of what they can expect from the Home Inspector. The nursery rhyme that goes...Patty Cake...Patty Cake, Bakers Man...Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can...may have been good for Mother Goose; but when it comes to a Home Inspection and the resulting report, you may or may not want to get it just as fast as you can... but you certainly, absolutely, and most unequivocally want it to be just as GOOD as you can get it!
If a Home Inspection report incorporates all of the previously identified components, then it is highly predictable that the result will be a Good inspection report...and maybe even an Excellent inspection report. Isn't that what a consumer should be searching for...and be entitled to receive I might add, in exchange for their hard-earned dollars... a most Excellent Home Inspection report?
The Main Types of Home Inspections
What To Expect: Home buyers sometimes buy their home in on impulse. Home inspectors can help home buyers avoid buyers remorse by reporting on home defects and problems before the home buyer finds them after closing. Professional home inspectors assist home buying clients with the tools they need to make an educated choice regarding the quality and condition of their potential new home. Home buyers must take care to hire the most experienced home inspector they can afford and make sure the person they hire has their best interest solely in mind. Inspectors who rely on realtors for referrals sometimes have moral dilemmas.
Buyers Benefits: A professional home inspection is the best way for potential home buyers to effectively evaluate the risks of a property purchase. A major concern of home buyers is being suddenly confronted with major and costly problems after they take possession of a property. A professional pre-purchase home inspection can reduce anxiety by screening for problems and itemizing them in a comprehensive report. This report may include approximations of repair costs and recommendations of useful upgrades to the property systems. The general result of a professional home inspection is that property buyers make significantly more informed purchases.
Screening for Problems: All homes have strong and weak points, they are not always what they seem. Gain the perspective and sound information you need to make better decisions with a home inspection performed by an experienced professional home inspector. A good home inspector works through a very long checklist of potential concerns to identify the major and minor deficiencies in the home. A good report will clearly describe the problems and illustrate them along with the what-to and how-to of repairs.
Provide Owners Benefits: Home owners who are planning to make improvements to their homes in order to increase its market value would be well advised to have it inspected first. A home inspectors can help prioritize home improvements and offer advice on the best ways to approach repairs. More importantly, an inspectors can help the seller identify potential or undiscovered problems before those problems become material for contract contingencies. By taking a pro-active approach one can avoid the frustrations many owners encounter when they are asked to renegotiate their contracts because of unanticipated problem areas.
Credentials: Like any other professional, home inspectors (even those with licenses) have varied degrees of expertise. All home inspectors should be carefully screened. Inspectors learn from experience. It takes a few thousand inspections and a more than a few complaints for a home inspectors to LEARN what it takes to satisfy clients.Recently passed legislation allows New Jersey home inspectors to be licensed with as little as three weeks of class room training and just one week in actual homes. Licensing is a minimum qualification. Make sure you ask for resume! Belive it or not the standards in many states are LOWER!
Many people without specific home inspection credentials offer home inspection services. Likewise, credentials are not always what they seem. Engineering and architectural credentials alone do not prepare anyone to competently inspect homes and communicate the findings. A helping attitude, good communication skills, and mature judgment must supplement technical competence. Make sure you work with a company employing a contract which specifies both what is inspected and what limitations apply.
Additional services like the ones listed below are usually NOT included in the standard home inspection are available for an additional fee.
Code compliance: to determine what changes and upgrades are necessary for the home to comply with modern (or when built) building, fire, plumbing, zoning, mechanical and electrical code and to determine if the required permits and inspection were obtained when changes were made to the home.
Engineering analysis: structural, heating, cooling, soils, electrical, geological, site, investigate for latent structural defects or problems, evaluate the condition of playground equipment, determine if private waste disposal systems are functional, determine if cantilevers are safe, evaluate traffic density and noise, evaluate insulation efficiency, perform flood plain review and issue flood hazard certification, evaluate easements and encroachments, determine the quantity and cost of wood replacement made necessary by rot, age, water infiltration and insect damage.
Hazardous materials: to determine the presence or absence of: asbestos, lead paint, lead in water, formaldehyde, radon gas, lead paint, fungus, mold, mildew, water and air quality, toxic or allergenic substances, flammable materials, underground oil or fuel tanks and other environmental hazards.
Pest evaluation: to determine the presence of animal, rodent, termite, pest or insect infestation and to provide an opinion as to the cost of repairing damage caused from these infestations.
Pool and spa: to evaluate the necessary changes and upgrades to pools, pool equipment, gates and fences.
Plumbing: to determine the condition and necessary upgrades and repairs to the waste piping, main sewer pipe, supply piping, venting, shower pans and tub walls, lawn and fire sprinklers, water wells (water quality and quantity) condition of underground and under slab piping.
Electrical: to determine the condition and necessary upgrades and repairs to the electrical system, telephone system wiring, intercom system, security systems, heat detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors, provide circuit mapping, determine the electrical system capacity, adequacy of ground bonding, perform voltage testing, to evaluate electro magnetic fields, check voltage drops and circuit impedance.
Chimney sweep: check condition of flue, safety of wood burning stoves and perform level II chimney flue inspections as recommended by National Fire Protection Association.
Appraisal: determine the value of building and suitability for intended use, check zoning ordinances and provide an opinion on the advisability of purchase.
Mechanical contractor: determine the adequacy of the heating and cooling system size and provide efficiency measurement, provide an underground storage tank evaluation, perform heat exchanger leakage test, check the condition of evaporator coils, determine air flow velocity and balance system.
Appliance service person: test and calibrate oven and range temperature, test for microwave leakage, check to determine if appliances secured to floor as required.
Roofing contractor: more detailed evaluation of the roofing, flashing, chimney, provide tall ladder roof inspection and a detailed evaluation of the life expectancy of the roofing, feasibility of repair vs. replacement.
Home buyers are advised to make sure they check all of the following items carefully. If any of these problems after the purchase of the home the problems come with the home and they are now the YOURS (without costly litigation).
Were all your questions answered by the home inspector?
Were all your questions for the home owner answered in writing?
Have the previously agreed to repairs been professionally completed?
Have warranties and guarantees been provided for agreed upon repairs?
Were the home inspectors recommendations to have all recommended additional inspections and invasive inspections performed? If not open ended risks may be more than most buyers budgets can bare?
Check the operation of the windows and screens?
Has water been stopped from accumulating near the building?
Check doors, decks, siding, windows & fences for damage / deterioration?
Are there any signs of water infiltration from the roof, siding or windows?
Are there any signs of gutter or downspout problems?
Are the downspouts discharging water away from the foundation?
Has the soil around the home been pitched away from the foundation?
Have all the areas listed in the home inspection report as inaccessible or not traversed been accessed & professionally inspected to determine if defects exist?
Do the garage doors and their openers function?
Was the reversing devices for the garage door openers tested?
Did you find out why any stains or cracks on any of the walls or ceilings that have become larger or have appeared since the time of the home inspection?
Have all cracked windows or mirrors been repaired?
Have all the clouded double pane windows been replaced?
Are all the permanently installed fixtures or appliances been in place and in good condition?
Are there any signs of birds, rodents or animals?
Has any damage to damage to the walls, floor or ceilings been repaired?
Do the plumbing fixture faucets leak or drip?
Are the plumbing fixtures chipped or damaged?
Was water for a time through all plumbing fixtures and check for leakage?
Was water for a time through all plumbing fixtures and check for stoppage?
Are all the light fixtures are all in place?
Do the light fixtures, switches and receptacles all function?
Does the door bell work?
HEATING AND COOLING
Do the thermostat, heating and cooling systems function?
Is there adequate air flow through the heating and cooling registers?
Did all the radiators or convectors get warm in a reasonable amount of time?
Do all the appliances function properly?
Are the counter tops or cabinets damaged?
Do the cabinets and drawers operate?
Complete this check list during the walk through and go over it with your attorney prior to closing on the property Most inspection companies accept no liability for changes and problems that occur after the home inspection takes place. Please take the time to carefully and completely perform your pre-settlement walk though. Contact the home inspection company if there are any questions.
Tips on a Thorough Home Inspection and Home Testing
A thorough home inspection is a vital part of buying any home, condo, or other type of dwelling. This inspection can protect you from expensive financial costs later on, because of defects that were not noticed and that you were not aware of. A home inspector has training and an education in factors that show hidden defects, such as signs of hidden water damage or electrical problems. A home inspection is a visual inspection of all areas and components of the home, both inside and out, that are accessible to the inspector. This includes the roof, the attic, the interior and exterior walls, all the windows and doors, all systems including heating, plumbing, and electrical, and much more. A knowledgeable and experienced home inspector can provide valuable information about a home that can prevent you from making a costly mistake if conditions are too bad. Not all home problems and flaws are readily visible to the inexperienced eye, and this is where a quality and thorough home inspection can help.
There are some things that may not be covered under a home inspection, and each state and inspection firm may have rules that vary. Some inspections do not cover mold testing, air quality testing, radon testing, wood eating insect testing, water testing, and other types of testing. Some home inspection businesses will perform some of these testing services for free or a charge, while others do not. Most home inspections cover the basic visual components of the home and the operation, condition, and function of the systems. Almost all the licensed home inspection companies can have these testing services performed for you through a third party, but these tests may not be considered routine.
A home inspection, is not a pass or fail type of test, but rather a complete and detailed overview of the condition of every possible aspect of the home that can be visually inspected. The inspector will check the door and window conditions and operation, look at the foundation and any slabs, check all the systems in the home, and basically go over the home from the bottom up, both inside and out. Even gutters, eaves, flashing, and the yard should be looked at. The fees charged for a home inspection will vary, depending on several factors. The size of the home, the location and state where the home is, any additional testing that is desired or needed, the age of the home, and the home inspection service used. A normal range for this inspection can usually run between five hundred dollars and up depending upon size, age and location of the property. This may seem like a big expense, but when you consider that a complete and thorough home inspection may reveal thousands of dollars in repairs and maintenance needed it is quite reasonable.
A home inspection can usually take between two and four hours, depending on the size and complexity of the home, but this can vary. The inspector may bring a checklist for the inspection that will cover every possible aspect of any home, plus there is usually room for handwritten observations as well. The home inspection checklist can consist of many pages, and each page may deal with a specific aspect or room, such as the master bathroom, or exterior walls. Each system involved, will normally have their own section also. Once the inspection is complete you will receive a complete typewritten report from the inspector, outlining both the negative and positive aspects of the home. This can also help you determine what maintenance is needed and when it must be done. Not all parts of a home inspection are negative, and every home may have a few problems. Sometimes a homeowner may have an inspection done just to ensure there are no hidden maintenance problems with their home.
It is a good idea for you to be present during the home inspection for many reasons. First, by being present you will have a chance to ask any questions you may have about the home or certain aspects. Following the inspector during the inspection will also give you a much clearer idea of what is involved with the different systems, and will help you understand the final home inspection report a lot better. Sometimes a buyer may feel confident and think that if they do a good visual inspection it is not necessary to have a home inspector come in and do an inspection. This is a common mistake. Sure you can see bare wires hanging out of the wall, but do you know the signs of hidden mold or previous flooding damage? Most of us do not know the hidden signs of home damage and problems, and this can lead to a serious problem being overlooked, and becoming a big financial burden once you have bought the home. You should always insist on a quality professional home inspection before buying any home, to avoid making a big mistake that can cost you later on.
Finding a qualified home inspector to do the home inspection is not difficult. You can look in the yellow pages of your local phone book, or ask around for references from friends and family. Talk to a few different companies, and then choose the one that seems right for you. Ask about professional ethics, qualifications, any licensing, and experience. Check with your local better business bureau for complaints against the company or the home inspector before making a final decision on which company to use. The best time to call for a home inspector is as soon as the purchase agreement is signed. Normally a home inspection can be done within a week, but sometimes this may not be the case. Calling as soon as possible will ensure that your purchase is not held up waiting on the inspection to occur. A home inspection is the best way to protect yourself and know about the true condition of any home before you buy it. This will be one of the biggest investments you will ever make, and you owe it to yourself to make sure the investment is a good one.