Inspecting Your Home Inspector

by : Ted Gaurnero

You hire a home inspector to find the stuff you didn't on your first walk through. Stuff hidden behind walls or on the roof... or the roof itself. Things that, as a home buyer, you aren't necessarily trained to see. Plus, there's the advantage of having a neutral party say in writing, "See! The roof really is going to collapse in the next twelve days!"

Since a house purchase is not something you can return for a refund in most cases, you are depending on this person to tell you what is wrong with the house and what might go wrong in the future. Unfortunately, the current situation in both the US and Canada is that home inspectors are not required by law to have recognized certification. This means that you have to be extra careful that the person you're considering handing roughly $500 to actually has the knowledge and experience to inspect your potential home thoroughly and properly.

Home inspection associations can be a good place to start looking for a competent home inspector. One thing is that you want to know whether the piece of paper an inspector proudly points to is actually a certificate from a recognized home inspection course and/or a legitimate home inspection society. Since there are a few societies, associations, alliances and other home inspector groups, it is wise to research the reputation of the society or institution where your inspector got his or her vellum.

A dash over to the Better Business Bureau would not go amiss, either. Everybody encounters people who do not care for them in business sooner or later, but if the complaints are extremely serious in nature, or if there are a lot of them, it may be time to interview your next inspector choice.

References are another thing you should check out. It's not enough for a reference to mumble, "Um, yeah... she was great," over the phone. You want to know what the inspector did for them, whether there was anything that s/he missed and how they felt about using him/her. If you found the inspector through a reference, do some digging and ask some questions about that person's experience with the process.

The next thing to ask for is a sample report. It should not be written out on a napkin or be a list of rooms with "OK/Not OK" appended to them. Your inspector should provide a clear, detailed overview of the overall structure, ventilation, plumbing, electrical system, appliances and any attached structures, such as a garage. Your inspector should also provide you with information relating to any problems they might find, indicating the general extent of repairs needed. A sample report will indicate what they look for and how they go about noting problems, potential problems and estimated repairs needed.

A home inspector should be happy to have you tag along while they inspect the house. A good inspector will point out important parts of the house to you, such as where the breakers are and the points where you can shut down water access to the house. They can educate you as they inspect the house on what to look for and be aware of. Since you are paying a few hundred dollars for this inspection, it makes sense for you to get the most for your money and a good inspector will be happy to work with you.

Home inspectors are not psychic, nor are they always qualified to determine everything that might affect your home Many are not able to detect the presence of all toxic substances that may be present in your home, like formaldehyde or asbestos. They may recommend that you get certain other inspections done, such as pest inspections and roof inspections. While their inspection may reveal problems in these areas, many inspectors simply do not have the training to do a thorough inspection focusing on these things. Find out what the home inspection does not include and allow for that if you are in an area that makes certain additional inspections strongly recommended.

A home inspection can be expensive and time consuming, but is ultimately worth paying for. However, the careful research and interviewing of the people you propose to hire will result in you getting the most for your money.