by Lee Nelson
The house you want to buy makes you smile. The first time you walked inside, you knew it was for you with its perfect gourmet kitchen and hardwood floors. But you want to make sure that everything that you can’t see is perfect, too.
That’s why you hire a home inspector to go over every inch of it before you ever make the home your own. There are no rules saying you need to get a home inspection. But those in the business said it is the best reassurance you have that something major won’t wrong and cost you big bucks once it is your house.
But how do find the best and an honest home inspector to do a good job for you?
“A home is probably the most expensive purchase a consumer will ever make,” says Nick Gromicko, founder and president of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, Inc. (InterNACHI), headquartered in Boulder, Colo. “This is no time to shop for a cheap inspection. The cost of a home inspection is very small relative to the value of the home being inspected. Don’t let a real estate agent, a patty-cake inspector or anyone else talk you into skimping on a home inspection.”
He set up a website through his organization at inspectorSEEK.com to help homebuyers find a competent inspector who is more than merely licensed.
“Any inspector can get a license, which is a minimum standard. Licensing is like being up to code, it is so bad that anything less is outright illegal,” he says. “InterNACHI certification is voluntary, and so it shows the inspector went above and beyond the minimum.”
When asked if someone should trust the home inspector recommended by their real estate agent, Gromicko says yes if your agent is working for you as a buyer’s agent.
“But if are worried about getting steered toward a patty-cake inspector, do this: hire an inspector from out of town, offer to pay him or her extra for mileage. That way that inspector has no connection to your agent and doesn’t seek one,” he says.
His website nachi.org also provides free and unlimited professional education to all its members so InterNACHI members maintain excellence for their clients, he says.
“It also provides a free site where any consumer can ask any question and an expert will help that consumer for free,” Gromicko says.
The most common thing an inspector finds is usually a roof that needs replaced, plus a lot of little things that need to be fixed but aren’t so costly, says Bill Redfern. He is CEO and founder of A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspectors. This Pompano Beach, Fla.-based home inspection franchise firm has more than 30 U.S. locations nationwide and is located in six countries, too.
“Be more cautious when hiring a home inspector more than you do with selecting a realtor,” he says. “It’s critical. If the home inspector gives you a bad inspection and doesn’t find those hidden defects, it could cost you an arm and a leg down the road. By making the best decision upfront on who you choose could save you a lot of money.”
He recommends you finding a well-qualified home inspector that is reputable and is affiliated with a franchise because they are held to a higher standard.
“Also ask if they do this fulltime. The guy that dabbles in it or is a painter the rest of the week may not be there in the business when you need them again,” Redfern says.
But the most important thing is to make sure they are insured.
“You do have retribution if they miss something in the inspection, and you end up paying for it later on,” he says.
He says the licensing regulations in some states really are irrelevant. He also feels that going with an inspector that a real estate agent recommends might not be a best choice.
“Most of the real estate people are very reputable. But historically, there were some problems because the inspectors would go easy so the house deal would go through if they knew the real estate agent,” he says.
Both Gromicko and Redfern said that an inspection of a 3 bedroom, 2-bath home that is about 2,000 square feet would take about 2 to 3 hours, and cost $400-$450.
The inspector will be looking at all parts of the home, inside and out , including the windows and doors, heating and cooling systems, water system, exterior of the structure, and chimney or any of the fireplace units.
The bathroom is a big problem area, according to Darrell Knutson, owner of Better View Home Inspection, a Seattle home inspection company. “People don’t realize that a little bit of water around the tub can do serious damage to the home,” he says. Issues like this make it incredibly important to hire a professional with the tools and knowledge to point out problem areas.
It’s also a great idea to follow the inspector around during the inspection.
“Following the inspector around allows you to get a visual of the positive and negative,” Redfern says. “There is no way an inspector could contain all of that information on a report to anyone. It is invaluable to be onsite during the inspection. We highly recommend it to all our clients,” he says. “A lot of people don’t, and that is strange to us.”
He says that there are always going to be some issues because no house is perfect.
“If there are significant repairs, which many times the homeowner isn’t even aware of them, then those could be written into the negotiations or you can walk away,” Redfern says.