In my years as a real estate agent I have learned to value home inspections a great deal. I always advise my buyers to have them, and most listen. Some do not, and that is their prerogative, but I feel very strongly about the benefits of having a good home inspection. However, I must say there are a few caveats. Here is what I think is important when looking for an inspector:
1. Experience and background matter. Like real estate agents, there are many inspectors out there and they have varying levels of expertise and ways in which they actually inspect homes. My best advice is to trust your agent – I am very picky about inspectors and there are only less than a handful whom I recommend. These inspectors all go beyond the average home inspection, and most of them have credentials that blow the average guy away (like being a civil engineer and/or licensed contractor). Some inspectors use infared devices too, so that they can look for water intrusion or improper heat distribution issues behind the walls.
Always ask for credentials, years of experience, and testimonials. Ask how the inspector works, and what he does that makes his services stand out. If your agent is not familiar with the inspector I advise calling a few people who used his services and chatting with them. After all, you need to make sure you get what you pay for.
2. Not all reports are equal. It is important to find out how an inspector will draft his report. In my opinion you should expect a very detailed report with lots of photos and commentary. I always advise against the “check the box” reports, because honestly I feel they do not have enough information. I also like a summary section that quickly reviews the hazardous issues or those things that are in violation of building standards. It is nice to have an inspector who inspects the roof – granted they are not roofers, but they can tell you if you should call one out for further inspection.
My “proof is in the pudding” story comes from personal experience. My buyers got into escrow on a home that looked very nice, and they offered to pay top dollar to beat out another offer. Low and behold the home inspection turned up major construction defects – so many that it made a purchase very risky for my buyers. Although neither them nor I expected to hear a report like we did, it was a good thing we had an experienced inspector to show us the issues.
Home inspections allow the buyers to see what items need to be repaired or replaced, which allows them to either attempt to negotiate repair requests, ask for credits or price reductions, or walk away where they feel it is necessary.
I believe that a good home inspection offers peace of mind to buyers – don’t hesitate about spending the money and make sure to find a great inspector to help guide you through.