Why Home Inspections Are So Important

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If you’re a fan of the television program, House Hunters, you’ve seen many dreams of home ownership dashed because of a failed house inspection. For the buyers, what is visible during their initial home visit looks appealing, but little do they suspect that lurking behind that wall or under that floor are serious structural or mechanical problems whose repairs are costly enough to be deal breakers.

 
With this in mind, it may surprise you that buyers sometimes opt to waive the house inspection. While this was fairly common during a hot market when multiple bids on a property caused potential buyers to make rash decisions in order to win the bid, it still happens today, especially among property virgins.
 
Buyers who waive the inspection contingency have no protection from a host of costly potential defects in a home. A leaking roof, faulty electrical wiring, malfunctioning major appliances, a defective heating or cooling system and many other problems can result in thousands of dollars of unexpected repair costs at a time when most buyers can least afford it. 
 
With the home being the single most important financial investment most individuals make, it’s essential that buyers not only contract for a home inspection, but that they hire the best person for the job.  Here are a few things to consider when searching for the right home inspector: 
 
Qualifications 
Ask open-ended questions about the inspector’s training and experience as it relates to home inspections. The inspector should have some training in construction and building maintenance standards and a track-record of experience in the home inspection business.
 
While years of experience are important, equally important is the total number of home inspections completed. In a 2005 national home inspection business operations study conducted by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), over 80 percent of respondents said they were full time home inspectors. Ironically almost 40 percent said they perform less than 100 home inspections a year. What that may indicate is that many home inspectors are working at other jobs or are semi-retired individuals. 
 
Depending on the location and age of the home, you also may need to hire an inspector who’s qualified to deal with asbestos, lead-based paint or other potentially hazardous substances. It may be a good idea  to hire a geologist or structural engineer as well.
 
Scope
Which areas of the home will be inspected? Does the inspection include the roof? The swimming pool? The built-in appliances? How long will the inspection take? A thorough inspection on an averaged sized home, (1500-2500 sq. ft.) should last 2-4 hours. 
 
Also ask if you can attend the home inspection. A good home inspector should insist that you attend the home inspection if at all possible.
 
Sample Report
A home inspection should provide you with written detailed information about the house. Ask when and how will you receive the report and ask to see a sample report. Does it include a narrative description and photos or just check-off boxes? Is the information presented and explained clearly and completely? Does the report highlight any problems that could present a safety hazard? What is the approximate length of the report? Be wary of reports that are 10 pages or less, and long report turn-around times. 
 
References                                                                                         
Ask the inspector for the names and contact information of several homeowners who have used his or her services. Call and ask the homeowners whether they were satisfied with the report and other services they received from the inspector. Be sure to talk to some people who have owned their home for at least a few months, as some problems overlooked during an inspection can take a while to surface. 
 
Memberships
Although not necessary, membership in a national or state association of home inspectors is always a plus. These groups provide their members with training and certification programs and up-to-date information about industry practices and inspection standards. Inspectors who have made the commitment of time, training, testing and money to belong to a reputable professional home inspection society are generally more committed to doing a high quality job. 
 
Errors and omissions                                                                                     
Even the best inspectors occasionally make errors or overlook problems they should have noticed. Ask whether the company has insurance for errors and omissions.  Does the company or individual inspector stand behind the report? You may be asked  to sign a waiver limiting the company’s liability, often to the cost of the inspection.
 
Price                                        
Remember the old adage that you get what you pay for. Good home inspectors demand higher prices because of experience and money invested into training to improve their skills and their business for the benefit of their clients. Think of the money you pay a good inspector as an investment. 
 
Having a good home inspection will provide you with valuable information on your prospective purchase and ultimately peace of mind going forward. Don’t buy a home without it! 
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