MyMortgageInsider asked ASHI-certified home inspector Reuben Saltzman all about home inspections and why they are important.
MMI: Hi Reuben. Looking at your website, you have a ton of knowledge about every component of a home. Can you tell us a little about how you first became interested in home inspections, and why you still love it?
Reuben: Growing up, I always wanted to be teacher. When my dad started in the home inspection business almost twenty five years ago, he convinced me that I could satisfy my desire to teach and explain things to others by doing home inspections. He was right. I love this job because I love teaching others.
MMI: Today I’d like to focus on some common questions new homebuyers may have about home inspections. In a nutshell, why is getting a home inspection prior to purchasing a home so important?
Reuben: Home inspections give a lot of value for a very small amount of money. A home is the largest purchase that most people make, and the inspection helps them make an informed decision.
MMI: Your blog is great. It’s got so much information on potential home deficiencies. What would you say to someone who is intimidated to buy a home because of all the things that could go wrong?
Reuben: It’s all about risk and reward. Home buyers assume the risk of unforeseen repairs or home values falling, but they also own the home, can do as they see fit with it, and often experience financial gain when selling their home. One of the best ways that potential home buyers can minimize their exposure to risk is by hiring an excellent home inspector.
MMI: Let’s imagine I’ve made an offer on a home. My mortgage lender is requiring an appraisal, but not a home inspection. Can I kill two birds with one stone and just get the appraisal?
Reuben: In short, no. The appraisal is meant to determine the value of a home, while a home inspection will determine the condition of the home. The appraiser is helping to protect the lender, while the home inspector is only looking out for the buyer. There is very little overlap between these two services.
MMI: Let’s say I have some construction experience, and I know something about home repair. Can’t I do the home inspection myself?
Reuben: Construction is only one part of the inspection; there is also a ridiculous amount to know about plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and overall building science. Just for the sake of argument, let’s say you were knowledgeable in all of these areas; I would still recommend having an independent home inspection done. If any major problems are identified during the inspection and negotiations need to happen with the seller, the findings will be much better received when they come from an independent inspector.
MMI: Does a new construction home need a home inspection?
Reuben: Yes, new construction houses should be inspected by private inspectors every single time. Of course, I’m a little biased, but I have dozens and dozens of photos of defects found during new construction inspections on my web site, and they’re all issues that have already been inspected and approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction. I just inspected a new construction home last spring where the roofer had installed the shingles improperly, and the builder ended up having to tear the entire roof off and start over. It’s far better to have these defects identified up front.
MMI: Let’s say I’m a homebuyer and I have made an offer on a home. I really want a home inspection, but I’m worried that inspection issues will kill the deal. What percentage of the time does the homeowner back out of an offer due to inspection issues?
Reuben: There is nothing that a home inspector will find that ‘automatically’ kills the deal; when a deal falls apart because of the home inspection findings, it’s because the buyer decided to cancel the purchase. I would estimate this happens about 5% of the time.
MMI: What does an average home inspection cost? Does this cost vary in other parts of the country?
Reuben: Here in Minnesota, the average cost of a home inspection by an ASHI Certified Inspector is $350. Costs certainly vary throughout the country – I’ve heard this would be a very low priced inspection for some areas on the West Coast.
MMI: Should a homebuyer get an inspection prior to making an offer on the house? Or should they wait until the offer is accepted?
Reuben: Here in Minnesota, it’s standard practice for the home inspection to happen after the offer has been accepted by the seller. Most buyers are given a three to five day window to have the home inspection done. If major issues are identified, the purchase agreement can be revised or cancelled.
MMI: What’s the biggest surprise to the prospective homebuyer when they see your inspection report? Or does the homebuyer usually attend the home inspection with you?
Reuben: I might be going in the wrong direction with this answer, but the biggest surprise to most home buyers is the amount of detail that we include in our reports. We take a long time typing them up, and we’re very specific. The majority of our clients attend the entire inspection, so the content of the report is never a surprise.
MMI: Let’s say that I’ve purchased a home without an inspection. Should I have it inspected after I already own it?
Reuben: <big smile> How could I say no? A current owner might not be interested in having a full inspection report, however. They might just be interested in having the home inspector give them advice while they take notes. This would be more of a ‘maintenance inspection’ for a reduced fee.
MMI: Let’s imagine I’ve owned my home for years. Unfortunately, I can’t keep a Reuben Saltzman on hand at all times to check around the house. What are the best things I can do as a homeowner to regularly inspect and maintain the home myself?
Reuben: The best thing you could do would be to read. Home inspectors blog about home maintenance all the time, and I’ve found more and more tradespersons starting their own blogs.
MMI: Any parting thoughts for us on home inspections?
Reuben: Before you hire a home inspector, spend a little time researching local home inspectors. Read reviews on Google Local, Angies List, and Yelp. Also, one of the best ways to compare home inspectors is to compare reports; this takes more time, and not all home inspectors have sample reports available online, but it will really let you know what you’re going to get.