You’ve finally found the home of your dreams, 3 bedrooms, attached garage, great neighborhood. You fix sights on the freshly painted walls, new carpeting, beautiful cabinet and a huge back yard. What are you forgetting? Everything else! Don’t forget about the plumbing, heating, A/C, electrical, insulation, ventilation, exterior and roof. These are the most overlooked items because most people know very little about these types of items, or what to look for. You decide to make an offer on the home.
Don’t forget about getting the home inspected. When you made the offer, your realtor should have gone over the inspection contingency in your contract. Simply stated, it’s a clause in the contract that your offer is contingent upon a home inspection, and you have a certain amount of time to get the home inspected. It allows you to have an unbiased professional look beneath the cosmetic items into the complex working components of a home. It also allows you to either renegotiate your offer based on the inspection, or at the very least know what lies ahead of you if you do decide to purchase the home. A seller’s disclosure statement is nice and most seller’s are honest, but don’t even realize that problems exist in their home.
Ask your realtor for a list of home inspectors in your area. Most will be happy to provide you with a list of inspectors in your area. If not, pull some brochures from the realtors lobby, try the phone directory or the internet. Most inspectors these days have a website where you can read about the services they offer. Take the time and call a few from the list to form your own opinion. Some realtors will offer to hire an inspector for you on your behalf. Be sure your realtor has your best interests in mind if you go this route. This is your money and your lifetime investment you’re talking about.
When you call a home inspection company, here are a few important questions to ask:
1. Are you licensed by the state? If the answer is no, say thank you and politely hang up the phone. All home inspectors are required to be licensed in the State of Wisconsin, and to keep their license are require to attend 20 hours of continuing education per year.
2. Are you affiliated with any organizations? Most good home inspectors are associated with a National organization like NACHI (National Association of Certified Home Inspectors) NAHI (National Association of Home Inspectors) or ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) and/or a local organization like WAHI (Wisconsin Association of Home Inspectors)
Each organization has is pro’s and con’s and like any organization, are suited to that inspectors specific needs. Most importantly however, these organizations have strict guidelines to a code of ethics and continuing education.
3. How long will your inspection take? A thorough home inspection should take between 2 1/2-4 hours or longer depending on the size, age and condition of the home. In some cases a smaller home (1000sft or less) can be inspected in 2 hours. If the inspector says he can do it in less time, think about how thorough the inspection is going to be.
4. What type of report do you use? Some inspectors use computer generated onsite reporting, some use a handwritten checklist, some do computer generated reporting and send you the report after they’ve had time to look it over twice before sending it out. Each has their pros and cons. Computer generated onsite reporting is nice and you get your report right away. The downside is the inspector doesn’t have time to look any items up that may be in question or be very descriptive in their report. A hand written checklist in my opinion is the most incomplete type of report. You do get your report right away, but it is usually something like: Kitchen countertop: poor. This doesn’t give you much of a description of the defect, like what exactly is wrong with it. The computer generated report is in my opinion the best style. You get a neat, professional looking report, the inspector has had time to be descriptive and to look up any items that he may have had questions on (no, we don’t know everything and if we say we do, take that as a sign). The downside is you don’t get your report for a day or so, but the report can get to you quickly if he/she emails it to you.
All inspectors should be able to provide you with photo’s of the problem areas in their reports. A picture is worth a thousand words. If they don’t include photos in their report (digital or otherwise) you may want to find an inspector that does.
Ask for a sample report. Most good inspectors will be happy to send you a copy.
5. What is your experience and background? Most home inspectors started out with a construction-based background. This is very useful in home inspections. Attending a University with emphasis on construction, or attending a Home Inspection School is almost a necessity in this trade. If an inspector tells you he was in retail (for an example) this may be a time to look elsewhere, or ask a follow-up question as to why he went into the profession and what he has to offer that others inspectors don’t.
6. How much do you charge? This is a very important question. The question you really should be asking yourself “how much are you willing to spend on the most important investment you’re ever going to make?” Think about this. Do you really want to price shop on something this important? Yes, you don’t want to pay too much, but you don’t want to scrimp either. You’re paying $100,000+ for your home and now is not the time to go with the lowest price. Inspectors have overhead costs like any company; Insurance, vehicle, gas, equipment training, professional organization dues, a home, etc. Regardless of what any might say, they don’t work every day of the week, every week of the year.
An average inspection is between $250 and $400 or more depending on the size, age and condition of the home. Some inspectors base their fees from the listing price. Based on what is uncovered in the inspection, you will probably be able to save that much and maybe more. For example: A new water heater will cost you in the neighborhood of $800, and if the inspector finds that the one in the home is nearing the end of its useful life, the inspection just paid for itself and then some. Its money spent wisely.
Most good home inspectors encourage you to follow them on the inspection, and I highly recommend it. It will give you a chance to see what he sees, and ask questions. Be sure to ask questions! The inspector will usually to be happy to answer them for you or if he doesn’t know the answer right then, he should offer to look it up and call you with the answer. This is also a time to find out where key components like shut-off valves or the breaker panel is located in case of an emergency, or get tips on routine maintenance items.
A home inspection is a visual, non-destructive examination of a home. It is not technically exhaustive. Inspectors cannot see defects behind a wall, ceiling or furniture.
He or she will just use their knowledge and experience in their visual examination. If a component doesn’t work by normal means of operation the inspector won’t try to get it operating by any other means. He/she will only open those panels that are normally used to service a piece of equipment. If a danger exists to the inspector, he/she will not inspect that piece of equipment. They will just defer to a professional more experienced in that type of application. They do not move furniture to inspect, so having the home ready for the inspector prior to the inspection will not only speed the process, but give you a more thorough inspection.
You will more than likely not get the chance to meet your inspector before the inspection, so asking these important questions will help make your decision easier.
Having the home inspected is the best thing you can do to have a more informed decision on the purchase or sale of your home. After all, this is probably the biggest investment you will ever make.
For more information on the regulations that govern home inspection industry, visit the Wisconsin Department of Commerce website at: https://online.drl.wi.gov/LicenseLookup/LicenseLookup.aspx.