A pre-purchase home inspection is a non-invasive, physical examination of the mechanical, electrical, plumbing systems & the structural and essential components of a residential dwelling. The intention of the pre-purchase home inspection is to provide the buyer with useful information about the condition of the residence and to identify deficiencies in the home’s structure, its systems and components.
A qualified home inspector is a professional who has been trained to examine the visual condition of residential properties and determine if they are free from discoverable major mechanical (heating, plumbing, electrical, etc.) or structural (walls, roof, foundation, etc.) deficiencies. They will tell you if a system will soon need major repair or replacement, and whether the systems are functioning properly.
Professional Home Inspectors are generalists, much like medical general practitioners. They know how the home’s many systems and components work, both independently and together, and they understand how and why they fail. They may recommend further review by a specialist such as a licensed electrician, plumber or structural engineer. This should be done within your allotted inspection period. You should expect a permanent report of your inspection. The report should describe the condition of the home at the time of the inspection based upon the inspector’s visual observations.
The inspection is important and strongly recommended because you learn how to maintain the home you have chosen and you become an informed buyer. You should know about the home prior to buying and making that investment. By following the inspector, by observing and asking questions, you’ll learn a great deal about your new home and how to maintain it. This valuable information will serve you for many years after you move in. Remember, there are no problems that cannot be remedied.
What basis should I use to choose a home inspector?
The key qualifications of a Qualified Home Inspector are education, standards, and ethics.
Here are some important questions to ask when choosing a home inspector:
- Your home inspector should have proper training or experience. Ask if the inspector is specifically experienced in residential inspections?
- Ask if the inspector is a member of a professional home inspection organization.
- It’s important that the home inspector belongs to an association such as CREIA and abides by a set of standard practices and code of ethics that require professionalism in the industry.
- Is the inspector’s membership status current? Check with the organization for confirmation.
- How long has the inspector been in business as a Professional Home Inspector?
- Does the company do any repairs or improvements? Such offers and/or referrals constitute an apparent conflict of interest and would be grounds to reject the inspector.
- What will the inspection include? (Get specifics.)
- What will it cost? Being true that most inspection companies are one man operations, the best inspectors usually charge more than their local competitors (think about it). Paying more for a better inspector now usually ends up costing less later on!
- Does the inspector carry Errors & Omissions insurance?
- Will you receive a written report that includes photographs of problem areas? Request a copy of a sample report to make sure it is detailed and easily understood. If you cannot understand the report or if you lose interest in reading the ton of extra, useless information some reports contain you probably will not read your own report and maybe miss important information.
- Does the inspector encourage the client to attend the inspection? This is a valuable education opportunity and he/she should welcome the client along.
Who is the cheapest? All Inspectors look at the same things right?
Some homebuyers incorrectly select a home inspector based only on price. No matter what you are purchasing you can always find one cheaper somewhere. But, home inspections, and home inspectors are different than purchasing a tangible item. Most Home Inspectors know what their inspections are worth and charge accordingly. Every inspector is different and comes with strong points and weak points. You may save $50 to $100 by choosing a cheaper inspector and he could miss $10,000 in problems. Usually, the best inspectors are not the cheapest. If you want to save money, possibly thousands, then don't choose the cheapest inspector.
Buying a home is probably the most expensive purchase you will ever make. As a homebuyer, you have recently been crunching the numbers, negotiating offers, adding up closing costs, shopping for mortgages and trying to get the best deals. Not taking the time to select a qualified inspector could cost you thousands.
Home inspectors are human, and even the best of them may miss something occasionally or inadvertently cause damage while performing the inspection. Proof of insurance coverage is critical to protecting you in these events, and speaks volumes about the home inspector’s willingness to stand behind the quality of their work. There are two types of insurance coverage a home inspector should maintain, each protecting you from different types of risk:
Errors & Omissions (E&O) / Professional Liability Insurance
E&O insurance, also known as Professional Liability Insurance, provides you with relief for damages resulting from the home inspector’s failure to adequately meet the standards of their profession. The most typical scenario covered by E&O insurance is if the home inspector misses a defect, and that defect causes subsequent damage to the property.
General Liability Insurance
General Liability Insurance provides coverage for acts not associated with the home inspector’s inspection performance. This would include accidental property damage or bodily injury caused by the inspector while on-site. An example would be if the home inspector damages a gutter while placing their ladder to inspect the roof. Most consumers do not know to ask for proof of both insurance coverages and therefore leave themselves open to significant risk exposure. Of the two, many inspectors will only maintain General Liability insurance because it is far less expensive. Yet, the most expensive claims are more likely to be generated by acts associated with E&O insurance.
Referrals & Endorsements
Friends, family and colleagues can be great reference sources; ask them if they recently had a home inspection performed if they were pleased with the service provided. Your REALTOR® can also help you understand the inspection process further, and provide recommendations regarding local inspection professionals. Often times, they will have 1-3 inspectors they recommend repeatedly because they have demonstrated consistency, competence and professionalism. As with all aspects of your real estate transaction, your REALTOR® should be your first go-to resource for questions or assistance; they are there to help.
On Inspection Day
It's best if you’re present for the entire inspection. Witnessing problems first-hand will give you a better grasp of what is and is not an issue. Inspectors report all defects they find, no matter how minor. Some home buyers get excited about minor problems simply because they don't have an understanding of what's really wrong. Listen carefully to what the inspector is explaining. This is a valuable opportunity for you. It’s best not to have distractions during the inspection, such as inviting the family to see the house during the inspection, selecting paint or carpet colors, etc.