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.
Seller's Home Inspection
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?
Professional Home Inspections. What Everyone Needs To Know
This is a really good and important question. Many home buyers (and even agents) don't know exactly what a home inspector does. So let me clear the smoke right now.
There are basically 3 aspects to every home inspection:
1st - A home inspection is a visual, non-intrusive, & fair effort to discover the real material condition of the home during the time and day that the inspection takes place.
2nd - A home inspection isn't really about the home inspector telling you what's wrong with the home more than it is a discovery session for you to make sure you understand what you're buying so that you can decide if it falls within your expectations and is a good fit for your situation.
You see, my job is to make sure I align the reality of the home's condition with your expectations. If I can successfully do that, then I've done my job.
3rd - The home inspection report. The report is designed to summarize and convey the findings in a way that is clear, simple, complete, and easy-to-understand. If a home inspection is a snapshot in time of the condition of a home, then the report is the photo, itself (and a good report will have lots of photos). Without the report there is no real home inspection. It allows you to go back through the inspection as many times as you like in order to decide if the house is a good fit for you and your circumstances.
By nature, it's limited in scope to what can be seen, touched and tested, which particularly applies to vacant homes where a home inspector is forced to play detective and do the best they can during the short period of time they're at the home to find everything (good and bad) that you'll need to know in order to make an educated decision about the home.
If your schedule allows, you should also be encouraged to take advantage of the rare opportunity to follow a professional home inspector around your home who will invite your questions, concerns, and impart key information and advice that will certainly help you while you live in and maintain your home for years to come.
Some key points to remember about home inspections:
1. No house is perfect. Not even a brand new home. There will always be something worth noting in the report.
2. Not all home inspectors are created equal. Just like auto mechanics, some are better than others. Price should not be the most important consideration when comparing home inspection firms. Use word-of-mouth referrals, past client reviews, time in business, background, and expertise. This is especially true since you're making such a large and important investment.
3. A home inspection is an investment in the quality of your new home. View it as one. Personally, I always have a goal that the items I find in a home will at least cover the cost of the inspection when they are negotiated for repair. Of course, that doesn't always happens. Than again, sometimes my fee is tiny in comparison to what I find.
4. Old homes are like old people, the older they get the more attention they need (my sons laugh when I say that). Be sure to see older homes (50+) as they're supposed to be seen and try to avoid bringing the same set of expectations you had when you looked at that 10 year old home earlier in the day. It will not look or perform the same way. The 3 biggest concerns in every old home? The plumbing, electrical system, and foundation.
Quality Home Inspection: Does It Matter? What Should It Cost?
A thorough home inspection is one of the most important steps before purchasing a home, and many buyers try to skip this step only to end up regretting it later when problems become apparent. Your home is the place you go to get away from the world, and to relax and put your feet up, or spend time with your family and friends. You want to be reassured that the home you buy is safe and in good condition. A home inspection can give you this peace of mind, using a visual inspection of every aspect of the home both inside and out. This should be done by a professional home inspector who has the education, knowledge, and experience needed to identify problems which may not be readily apparent.
There are some questions you should ask any prospective home inspection company, and things to consider, to guarantee you get a thorough and complete inspection. How long has the inspector been doing these inspections? How many home inspections does the inspector do in a year? How much experience does the home inspector have inspecting homes identical to the one you are buying? These questions are important, because without adequate experience the inspector may miss signs of a hidden problem. Choose a home inspection company that exclusively does only home inspections, and does not just practice this as a sideline to their day job. Ask about the reports that will be given, will you get a written report, an oral report, or both? Does the home inspection company have certification? Do they have insurance?
Set up an appointment for the home inspection with both the seller and the home inspector. Make the appointment during the daytime, when there is plenty of daylight so that flaws and problems will be noticeable instead of hidden in shadows. Allow for at least two to three hours for the home inspection, and make sure you are present. Ask questions of the home inspector, and listen to the answers closely. Make sure that you contact the seller, and that they agree to the visit by the home inspector at the specified time and day. Give the home inspector the name, address, and phone number of the buyer, and the address and directions to the home being inspected, as well as any codes needed to access any lock box that may be installed.
If you need to reschedule the home inspection appointment, make sure to give the inspection company at least twenty four to forty eight hour notice before the appointment time, to avoid being charged. Make sure that all utilities are on at the home, including the electric and gas, and make sure that all appliances like the furnace and hot water heater are on and running. Arrange with the seller for the home inspector to have access to everything, including any attics, basements, garages, outbuildings, closets, and other areas. This will ensure a complete and thorough professional home inspection. Also make arrangements with the seller to make sure any furniture or stored belongings which may block access to electrical panels, access panels, and appliances are moved before the inspector arrives. Payment is expected after the home inspection is done, before the inspector leaves the home, so make sure to have a check or money order ready when the inspection is finished.
When looking at homes, do a personal inspection of each home to narrow down the list of possibilities. A professional home inspection should be done on the home you finally decide to purchase, but doing a personal inspection on each potential purchase will help you weed out the obvious bad choices and save you time and energy. Look for things like apparent cracks or shifts in the foundation, obvious electrical malfunctions, sockets that have scorch marks, signs of severe water damage or mold growth, evidence of leaks, both inside and outside the home, the overall condition and age of the roof, dampness or signs of flooding in the basement or crawlspace, and other signs of repairs that may be needed.
There are some things that a home inspection may not cover, depending on where you live and what company you use for the inspection. Most of the time these are referred to as third party testing services, and they can include water quality testing, radon testing, mold testing, air quality testing, and inspection for wood boring and eating insects like termites. All of these tests may be considered important, depending on what the home inspection shows and any problems that may have been detected by the home inspector. If there is visible mold then mold testing may be suggested, to ensure it is not a toxic strain of mold that can cause human disease and illness. If the water quality is suspect, water testing may be suggested to guarantee that there are no bacteria or other organisms that can sicken you. Radon testing should always be done to make sure this cancer causing gas is not present in the home, and the home inspection report may suggest this as well. A termite inspection could be ordered if the inspector finds evidence that these pests may be present, and posing a danger to the structure of the home by eating the wood. Air quality testing may be done if there is any reason to suspect that the air in the home may be harmful to occupants, and this can be due to mold, radon, or other harmful airborne irritants and pathogens.
Knowing what to expect during a thorough professional home inspection, and the tips to make this process more effective and efficient, can help you get a good idea on any flaws in the home before you make the purchase, without any doubt or confusion involved. This step should never be omitted, even though it may seem costly, because it can save you significantly if there are hidden defects and unseen flaws.