Why You Need a Good Home Inspector

Why You Need a Good Home Inspector
If you’ve ever bought a house, you know how important it is to obtain a good inspection prior to closing. Even the smallest home is a complex structure with many parts that must work together to assure your comfort and safety, and most buyers have limited knowledge of how these systems operate.  For that reason, an inspection is an essential part of the home buying process.  In fact, just about every purchase contract is subject to an inspection, which means you have the right to pay an inspector of your choice to evaluate all aspects of the home’s visible construction elements and systems.
Professional Inspectors
What makes someone a professional inspector?  A qualified inspector has a background in the industry, explained Melody Wright with Structure Examinations, a Charlottesville area home inspection company.  Her husband, Tim, has lots of “hands on experience,” as he was a professional contractor for years before starting his home inspection business in 1998.
“A good inspector recognizes that codes and methods are always changing,” Wright said.  She gave the example of solar and geothermal technologies, both of which have become popular in recent years.  A qualified inspector must stay on top of what is current in the way of technology. He or she must also understand the building code and how it applies to homes of different ages and be able to recognize potential hazards. She referenced possible wiring hazards due to an inexperienced person’s do it yourself project that could cause over-heating if not caught.
All of this requires the inspector to view parts of the house where most people wouldn’t want to go, she added.  Some good examples are attics, roofs or crawl spaces.  A home can look great to buyers, inexperienced in construction, and still have looming issues due to faulty roofing or improper run-off that causes foundation problems due to poor drainage.
While these kinds of home inspections are almost always conducted on resale homes, Wright explained they are becoming more common for people buying new construction.  This often involves two to three inspections at different stages of the building process.  Even though the county conducts mandatory inspections to assure the home is being built to code, they may not be as thorough as your own inspector, Wright explained.  And while the builder also oversees the work, he or she can’t be on site continuously and may miss something.  Having your own inspector is a way to assure peace of mind about your new home.
Negotiating the Repairs
If the inspector finds a problem, your agent will work with the seller’s agent to help both parties come to agreement about how to resolve the issue before closing.  Usually this involves the seller agreeing to make repairs and provide you with proof a qualified contractor complete them in a timely manner.  As a professional familiar with this process, your agent can help successfully resolve most issues that arise so that you can move on to closing successfully. On those rare occasions when the negotiation fails, you have the right to pull out of the contract.
If you are a seller who wants to avoid a sticky negotiation process, you might want to consider having your home pre-inspected.  That way if the inspector finds something major, you can fix it before your home goes under contract.  The buyers will almost certainly conduct their own inspection, but you can rest easier knowing they aren’t likely to find something that will derail the process.  Also, when you uncover problems up front, you are not under pressure to do quick repairs in order to meet an arbitrary deadline.  Instead you can take your time soliciting bids from several reliable contractors saving money and getting a better repair in the process.
How to Find a Good Inspector
When looking for an inspector, start by asking your agent for a referral.  Most REALTORS® have years of experience and can give you a list of several of the best inspectors for you to choose from.    Wright suggests you call and ask questions about the inspector’s certification and training as well as how long they’ve been in the business.
Limits of the Inspection
It’s important to realize that an inspector is only liable for what they can see.  While they can test for wiring or plumbing problems, they can’t for example, see behind walls to determine if there are problems there.
In addition, while your home inspector can tell you about visible damage due to insects, they are not termite inspectors.  That is a separate inspection carried out by a pest control professional and paid for by the seller.  Similarly, if you are buying a home in a rural area, in most cases your seller is required to provide the results of an inspection of the well and septic, also at their expense.
Celeste Smucker is a writer, blogger and author.  She lives near Charlottesville.