Angie's LIST Guide to
Home inspections

For most of us, our home is the biggest investment we will ever make. For those preparing to buy, a quality home inspection is key. An inspection is usually required for a home purchase. A quality home inspector will look at every nook and cranny to gauge structure stability, present and potential dangers. But remember, a home inspection is not a guarantee or a warranty - it may not find everything.
 

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Hiring a home inspector can help save homeowners from potentially hidden problems within the home.
Hiring a home inspector can help save homeowners from potentially hidden problems within the home.
 
 
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How to hire a home inspector
  • Do your homework: While many homebuyers hire a home inspector by their real estate agent, you can hire your own, but be sure to check them out. Ask to see proof of state certification or proof of membership in the National Associations of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) or the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).
  • Experience: Both NAHI and ASHI require a minimum of 250 inspections, however most experienced professionals will say it’s better to find someone who’s performed at least 1,000 inspections and has at least three-to-five years of full-time experience.
  • Licensing & Insurance: Ask to see proof of licensing if your state requires home inspectors to be licensed, and inquire about proof of general liability insurance as well as and errors and omission (E&O) insurance.
  • Costs: Home inspections generally cost at least $400, and typically take three to four hours. The costs will vary depending on such factors as the age and size of a home.
  • Get involved: While it’s not required that you attend the inspection, you should attend the inspection to discuss expectations and findings.
  • Know what to look for. This includes structural problems; roof damage; fire hazards, such as improperly vented chimney flues; electrical safety issues, including old wiring; and problems with plumbing and major appliances, like the HVAC system and hot water heater. Inspectors should physically crawl the attic and crawl space, if possible, rather than just taking a quick look around from the opening or doorway.
  • Read the report: Many inspectors provide the report the same day as the inspection. The report should be thorough and easy to understand and should include narrative accounts of the inspector’s findings that are specific to your house, along with pictures and diagrams. Many inspectors will also include photographs with their reports. Keep in mind that few houses are perfect, so you should expect some issues to be found. Don't hesitate to question your inspector about the report.
  • Home inspections aren’t just necessary for old homes: Newer homes can have just as many problems as an older home. And, if you are building a home, inspections at key points during construction should be a part of the process.
  • Useful info: A home inspection report reveals problems that need to be fixed. You might use this information to renegotiate the price that you originally offered or you may be prepared to adjust your selling price.
Pre-listing inspection

A home inspection can be used as a fast-track selling tool. Getting a home inspected before it's listed puts the cost on the seller or listing agent, but can provide a written report on the pre-sale condition of the property. It can also uncover conditions or situations that might compromise a sale.

Pre-listing inspections performed for the seller have become more common, as a way to move the sale process along. Pre-listing inspections are less common when the real estate market is strong.

When the real estate market is strong for sellers, it's more common that buyers purchase the home inspection to make sure there aren’t any surprise defects and to substantiate the purchase price. In an up market, sellers often forgo a pre-listing inspectionbecause they know the buyer is less likely to walk away from the deal for fear of losing their chance to buy that property.

In weaker sales markets, when there are more properties available or fewer buyers, the buyer will sometimes use the inspection to verify condition and negotiate the price down to cover repair and improvement costs.

Pre-listing inspections have other benefits. They help the seller decide what areas to work on to improve the home's appeal. They help the agent set the seller's price expectation and can be used to substantiate a higher asking price. Agents will have fewer issues to negotiate at the 11th hour, and buyers may even waive hiring their own inspection.

By having a pre-listing inspection conducted, sellers can choose who does the inspection and they can offer more information about the home's condition, maintenance and other factors. They can also make sure they have enough time to take care of any necessary repairs or improvements.

A pre-listing inspection may ease some of the stress buyers face, but it's recommended that buyers eventually hire their own inspector, to be sure they have someone who is hired to look out for their concerns.

Home buyers should plan to shadow the home inspector as he or she goes through the home. It's important to see first hand any problems and learn what it will take to fix them.

Inspection for new homes

Home inspectors will check for potential problems in hidden areas, such as the roof or the home's plumbing system.
Home inspectors will check for potential problems all over the house. Here are the most important features in a home that need inspection:
  • Foundation and structure
  • Exterior and interior
  • Roof and attic
  • Plumbing
  • Insulation
  • Major electrical components

In the case of a newly built home, a good home inspector should identify any problems before a builder's warranty expires.

Ask to join the inspector as he or she looks over the home. This gives you a chance to see any issues firsthand and to learn about your home’s structure. A typical inspection should cost between $200 and $400, depending on the type being done, the size of the home and other variables. A thorough home inspection should take at least two hours.

Once the inspection is done, you should receive a clearly worded, detailed report delivered within a few days. A report should list the condition of the home from top-to-bottom, inside and out, with recommendations from the inspector. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about the report if you have them.

After the inspection

At the end of an home inspection, speak to the service provider about the findings. If any issues seem complicated, ask to see the specific areas of concern. The service should include a detailed written report delivered within a few days of the inspection. An inspector will likely find some issues, even if they are minor. Make sure the inspector clarifies what's important to get done versus what would be nice, but not essential, to do.

Comments

you neglected to mention the largest home inspection association in the State of California CREIA.

I agree with Larry on this one. One other point is that you contradict pricing comments. In one area you say they cost at least $400 and another you say $200-$400. I suggest you state just that cost varies and are dependent upon the experience of the inspector. Since they vary throughout the state and country you should be much more vague. For instance in my area of coverage the costs are between 5-600 for small homes while in Salinas they may be half that. Accuracy is needed when explaining to the clients about qualifications and costs involved.

There are no requirements for electrical systems to be "up to code" in any state's home inspection license law or in the standards for any of the 4 major associations, ASHI, NAHI, CREIA or NACHI.
One should understand that codes mostly change over the years to enhance safety or to improve longevity or redundancy and do not change because something once allowed has been deterined to be unsafe now & necessary to correct; otherwise code & other safety authorities would be announcing adamantly to bring components or systems up to the new code standards.
When some material or component is found to be unsafe the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls it.
That said, laws & standards all state that home inspector have the right & obligation to give their own good faith opinion as to what they might recommend be enhanced, replaced or corrected.
Make sure you hire one who understands the difference between unsafe, safe & safer to get the clearest understanding and context of the issues.

Mark, you are correct. However, the Texas Real Estate Commission does have one requirement that we home inspectors must state. That is, even though it was not required at the time of original construction, the Texas Real Estate Commission does require us to comment on safety issues if there are no AFCI's installed in the panel. Agree with it or not, an inspector can get his license revoked if this is not stated.
Your other point about the CPSC recalls... I do have concern for my clients safety, and I do check installed items serial/model numbers with the recall list, which I have printed out. I can only provide my client with the information.
Also, we are not code inspector's, even though the vast majority of us do purchase the Residential and Building code manuals from ICC. We choose our words carefully to allude to these standards, and when they were implemented. Much, much more could be said about codes. We must be aware of issues such as an open ground at a receptacle, or a bootleg grounding conductor on a GFCI when older homes that have a Hot & Neutral wiring (no ground) and a grounded receptacle.

I would be careful of any inspector. Even if they are certified. I ran into one last week in my listing. He was there with out an appt. He had torn apart the furnace (claimed it didn't work) didn't know the difference between the line side and the load side of an outlet, and invented problems about the home to justify his fees of over $800 for an inspection that usually costs less than $500 in the state of Utah.

BTW, I put the furnace cover back on and it works fine. A later inspection showed that he was full of himself and didn't know what he was talking about.

Because of his incorrect assessment of the home, the sale failed. I think the seller should take him to court for breaking and entering as well as screwing up the sale of her home. People like this should not be allowed in a home let alone some crazy recommendation by an internet site.

I guess that's why he doesn't get much business from the professional world.

I say get the recommendation of a person who sells homes for a living or a contractor that builds them. They see the problems that occur and know the good inspectors. They also know the dirt bags that are just in it for a buck.

Good points everyone. Different areas of the the country does have unique pricing standards, and some desperate inspectors will offer dirt cheap prices... and you will get what you pay for. Some of these will only spend 45 minutes on the inspection. An inspection will typically take 3 hours on a home up to 2,000 square feet (air conditioned). Older or foreclosed homes may take longer and cost a little more than the standard inspection. Remember, there is a lot more to the inspection than what a client may see at the subject property. Report writing is a critical part of our job.
Training and experience is very important as well as your inspector being a part of a local, state, or national professional organization. An honest and ethical inspector will provide the client with an unbiased, clear, and accurate report of all accessible items in and around the home. Once this is complete, your inspector should walk through the home with you and give you a preview of his/her findings so when you get the report you can associate areas that require attention in an appropriate manner when you read the report.
Appraiser's are good at their job... but, they have recently been stepping beyond their areas of expertise. For example, one reported a water heater was not working and almost "killed" the deal because he did not understand how to operate an electronic thermostat to control/adjust water temperature.
And I cannot disagree with David... I do enjoy what I do, and the people I meet.

I agree with both David & Lee, One thing that drives me crazy is when I talk to my client and they tell me how come your taking so long to do the inspection, the last inspector only took 45 minutes. As you fellows know, a proper inspection of a home and property should take at least 2 hours or more not including the report & pictures. Beside teaching home inspection courses in my state and being a inspector for many years I believe my client should receive a good report so He or She can make an informed decision on whether to purchase the property or not. I also enjoy what I do helping people.

Anyone have any suggestions or comments regarding hiring a home inspection for a condo...specifically in South Carolina for a voluntary auction sale (owner was just looking for a fast sale but bids didn't meet their minimum so now it is being sold by the auctioneer)?

A condo is more a legal term than it is a type of housing. Condos have 'joint' ownership of a common area. There are high rise apartments, duplexes, town homes, and even single family homes that are condominium ownership.

In the instance where the exterior (siding, roofing, landscaping, parking, etc.) are owned by the condo association, many people think that an inspection is necessary.

However there are many good reasons to have an inspection, and like any residence, it is highly suggested that an inspection be done to observe any safety or structural issues.

The interior plumbing, heating, air conditioning, and electrical are most often the responsibility of the owner. These items are important to a home inspection of any type construction.

But, also consider that while the exterior may be owned by the association, an inspection may show items that are in need of repair, or are near the end of their expected service. An inspection report can be used to push the condo association to address these items.

Some common issues that are found on the exterior are roof, siding, drainage, walkway issues. While these items are not the responsibility of the condo owner to repair, the owner would most certainly prefer that the roof doesn't leak, there are no holes in the siding for pests or water entry, there are no drainage issues (i.e. gutters or grading) that can effect water entry, there are no inherent tripping hazards (uneven, cracked surfaces, etc.). So, an inspection would allow the owner to bring these maintenance items up to the condo association for repair.

I have tried several professionals and nobody has seen this before. It started with small black webs on one ceiling, then some black wave type pattern on some walls and then black on two ceilings approx. 2 feet wide and goes thru two rooms. The joists show somewhat clearer. Don't know where to get a solution because everyone just says "I don't know". Tested twice for mold both negative. Starting to affect my health. Need help!!!!!!

The dark patches you describe are almost certainly made by the burning of scented candles within the living space of the house. The candle smoke/residue attaches to ceilings and walls along the lines of the joists/studs and is believed to be caused by a slight temperature variation between the bare drywall and the drywall in contact with the stud/joist.
Laurie Smith - Regional Home Inspection Co

I did not realize that my one year old washing machine draining hose was not appropriated installed until my downstairs neighbor saw water leaking through their wall. I did smell mold now and then before, but was not sure what it was. Now I'm concerned about the effect of mold in the house. How and who should I contact for a test and treatment of the mold?

I hired the Energy Sheriff company to come and seal the air leaks in my house around pipes and doors/windows. They did a phenomenal job and gave me all kinds of energy saving advice. I was amazed at how their caulking and trim matched my walls and doors and they were exceptionally clean and professional in their work. Their bill was actually less than estimated.

"If" this leak is a 1st time problem chances are you will not have a mold problem. However, if it has been going on for sometime then I would have a professional come out and look at the area. This may require opening up the wall which can get expensive.

All you have to do is google the words "Mold removal" and you will see many different companies which provide mold removal and remediation in your area. If you are getting sick, you may want to seek medical help as soon as possible and call a contractor to investigate the source of the mold. Mold is usually associated with moisture. You can also consider contacting a waterproofing consultant or attorney whom can assist you in determining the cause of the mold or "Organic Growth" as we call it in the consulting business.Nowadays it is very common for a consultant to be brought in,not only to determine the source for the problem a an experienced expert in the field, but necessary to follow proper industry protocol to ensure adequate and accurate documentation and testing is provided in case of litigation. If the cause or source for the mold can be shown/proven by the consultant to be from poor design and/or from poor workmanship, you may be entitled for compensation for things like re-mediating the mold and associated construction costs,medical bills, pain and suffering, etc.. This can be very time consuming, complex and costly, although when it comes to your health, the litigation arena regarding "organic Growth" is always a very on-going industry in itself. My advice is to immediately find out from a roofing or General contractor where the moisture is originating from and get it fixed. The procedure is usually started with a water-test performed to verify where the moisture is penetrating into the structure. Then non-destructive and possibly destructive investigation is necessary to verify the source of the "Leak". Although non-destructive devices such as a moisture reader can be used to identify the affected areas, destructive investigation is sometimes necessary to verify, in lieu of guessing, which also helps ensure the affected areas are going to be addressed and removed. Then the process for removing the mold removed can be started by contacting a mold removal/remediation contractor.

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