Hire a home inspector like you would a hairdresser
Since becoming a home inspector, I have noticed that many homebuyers are confused by the home inspection process. Let’s be honest, hiring a home inspector often comes at one of the busiest and most emotional times of buying a home. Your offer has been accepted and now you have 10 days to get this inspection done and the details of exactly what is going on get pushed to the side as you deal with all the other things that come along with having an accepted offer. Most of my clients understand they are hiring a guy to look at the house and tell them what is wrong, however they don’t understand the process of the home inspection or exactly what we are there to do. One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “What do you inspect?” I believe this misunderstanding of the fundamentals of the inspection leads to people missing out on the most important part of getting a home inspection, finding the right home inspector. I am a firm believer that there isn’t a single home inspector out there that is going to be perfect for every home buyer. Home inspectors come in all shapes and sizes, they have different backgrounds, training, experiences, and different personalities. Finding the inspector that is right for you is often the difference between a good experience and a poor experience. How do you find that perfect home inspector? The following are three things I would look for if I was in your shoes.
Knowledgeable and Experienced
The first thing I would look for in a home inspector is experience and knowledge. This sounds so basic and simple but it’s important to understand that in Michigan there are virtually no requirements to becoming a home inspector. According to the Michigan website “Certified home inspectors are those who have completed a course or study program; and then have a certificate of proof that the course has been completed. This certificate is not issued by the state, nor recognized by the state.” This means not only isn’t there any defined training but that nobody is checking to make sure the inspector has completed the training. It will be important for you to vet your inspector to ensure they have completed the training or have
the experience they advertise.
It is also important your inspector is experienced in multiple areas of construction. Houses are very complicated structures, with many systems that must work together to provide a healthy, safe and sound home. An inspector who knows the relationships between these systems can better diagnose issues with the home and provide you with more accurate information about your future purchase. This training could come from many different avenues including hands on or on the job training, formalized training such as a college education or trade school, and licenses or certifications. No matter what training or experience your inspector claims they have, be sure to verify it. A diverse background will provide you inspector with a more diverse knowledge base allowing them to better inspect your future home. An inspector that has been solely a framing contractor for over 30 years may not have the needed experience to inspect your electrical system or steam boiler.
It is important inspectors have a home inspection certification. There any many associations out there that certify home inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) seem to be the two most popular in Michigan. These certifications not only teach the inspectors what to look for but how to look for deficiencies in a home, the process to use during the inspection. A home inspector must not only be thorough during the home inspection but efficient, allowing them to completely inspect the premises in the time allotted for the home inspection. These certification programs teach an inspector how to inspect the home, without that type of training and lots of experience your inspector is likely to brush over an important area of the home as they try to fit the inspection into the time allotted.
Secondly, I believe you should look for an inspector that can communicate effectively with you. Many times, your home inspector is going to find a whole host of deficiencies during the inspection. These deficiencies could range from very sever to common maintenance issues that your inspector finds on many inspections he or she performs. However, many of the items are going to fall in between these two extremes, they are not going to be either severe or common. As with every deficiency your inspector finds, it is going to be up to you to decide how they effect your investment in the property. Without good communication from your inspector it can be very hard for you to know how these middle of the road issues effect your investment. Your inspector must be able to effectively communicate to you what the issue was, why it was an issue, and how it is typically fixed. This is not to say your inspector must know exactly what is wrong with everything, they may refer you to a trade professional to further investigate some of the issues, however an experienced inspector should be able to guide you in the right direction.
Often you only get one phone conversation with your inspector before hiring them. Finding an inspector that you know will communicate well during a single phone conversation can be hard, so I suggest taking a different approach. Start looking for your inspector well before you have an accepted offer on a house, start looking now. People often spend lots of time picking the right doctor, the perfect hairdresser, or even the best waitress at their favorite restaurant but often they spend very little time looking for the right home inspector. Your home inspector could save you thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars so treat hiring them like you would your hairdresser. Look for somebody that is going to give you great results. Pick at least two inspectors that meet your criteria for a qualified inspector in case one is booked. Take the time to research them and be ready when it comes time to hire your inspector.
The last thing I believe you should look for in a home inspector is an inspector that can provide you with a detailed report. The home inspection report can be your instruction manual for your home, filled with information such as model and serial numbers of equipment, disconnect
locations for electrical and gas supplies, types of materials used in construction, the list goes on and on. The report is also going to be the document you use to make sure you are making the right decision on whether to buy the house or not. It is very common for people to become very overwhelmed when they go over the findings of the inspection with the inspector. There is a lot of information to take in so reviewing the actual report and taking time to digest the information is very important.
When I bought my first two houses my inspectors provided me with a carbon copy, hand written, checklist type inspection. I still have one of those inspections and looking back now it is hard to read, provided little detail, and sometimes I can’t ever remember what my inspector was talking about. At the time I didn’t know better but now I know that there are better reports out there. Reporting software provides many advantages to traditional handwritten reports. For example, my reporting software allows me to not only put photos in the report but videos too, so I can better clarify what an issue was or where it was located. I can add links The software runs a recall check on appliances and mechanical systems and puts recall information right at the end of the report. It also provides links to operation manuals of these systems. Finally, my reports include a summarized list of deficiencies right at the beginning of the report, so you know what issues to concentrate on.
There are other things you can look for in a home inspector also. For example, your inspector might provide ancillary services you might be interested in such as radon testing, mold or air quality testing, well/ septic inspections, or wood destroying organism inspections. The inspector may offer inspections on systems that other inspectors don’t cover like pool or spas. Some inspectors offer warranties, guarantees, and insurance to make sure you are protected. These can provide you with reassurance that you inspector will perform his job well and you are protected if he misses anything. For example, Card Inspection Services offers a 90 day Buy Back Guarantee. If we miss anything on a system we are required to inspect we will buy the house back for your full purchase price*. When looking at warranties be sure to evaluate the warranties carefully and read the fine print. In Michigan it is also important to look at an inspectors standards of practice to determine exactly what they will be inspecting. You can find more information about the Standards of Practice and the Home Inspection Process in my next article “What, exactly, is a home inspection?”
In the end the decision is up to you, who makes you feel comfortable? Who do you think is going to provide you with honest feedback, a thorough report that you can understand, services you need, and overall a great experience? Those questions can be hard to answer unless you start looking early and know what to look for. I hope this article helps with the basics, if you want to know more about what a home inspector does or the process you will go through be sure to check out my other articles on my blog and my website.
We at Card Inspection Services wish you the best as you venture down your real estate journey.