When you need a home inspection, you want to make sure you get a good one here in the Mobile area. First, you need to know what a good home inspection is. Then you need to know how to find a home inspector who can, and will, give you the home inspection that serves you well. And last, you want to know how much you should pay for this quality home inspection by a good home inspector.
Home Inspection Checklist: What to Look for in a Home Inspection Company
When you need a home inspection, you want to make sure you get a good one. First, you need to know what a good home inspection is. Then you need to know how to find a home inspector who can, and will, give you the home inspection that serves you well. And last, you want to know how much you should pay for this quality home inspection by a good home inspector.
What Is a Home Inspection?
Let's start with what a home inspection is - and isn't. A home inspection is a professional and objective evaluation of the current condition of a house. It is not the same as an appraisal which attempts to place a value on a house and which may be required by a lending institution. Nor is it the same as a building code compliance inspection which may be required by local building regulations.
Who Needs a Home Inspection?
Home inspections are typically part of the home buying process, most often performed at the request of the buyer. It can protect the buyer from unseen issues and may sometimes even be required by the buyer's bank to protect it from risky investments. In the event problems are found, a seller may be asked to effect repairs, to pay for the repairs or to renegotiate the sale price.
Sometimes the service is requested by a home seller so that problems with a house may be addressed prior to putting it on the market.
Homeowners not involved with a real estate transaction often have an inspection just as a way of learning more about their house. Home inspection, in this case, can be a valuable tool for helping to plan and budget maintenance, repairs or renovations.
What Makes a Good Home Inspector?
Not all states license home inspectors. The ones that do, generally follow guidelines enacted by the four main home inspection organizations: the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) and the National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers (NABIE). If your state does not currently license home inspectors, membership by your home inspector in one of these organizations is regarded as a trusted alternative.
The best home inspector is likely to have acquired considerable knowledge of common home repairs and of their costs. He may have great value for his clients as a source of general information - as one who can help them make sense of conditions the inspection has unearthed. However, objectivity demands that he not be an agent for repair contractors who might be trying to sell services.
The most valuable thing about a professional home inspection is that it is knowledgeable and unbiased.
What Is Included in a Good Home Inspection?
A quality home inspection performed according to industry accepted standards is non-invasive. An inspector will not drill holes or remove wall surfaces. He will view accessible areas of the house and will inspect:Roof
general shingle condition, flashings, gutters and downspouts, and the general structure of the roof that can be readily accessed for viewingExterior
defects in siding, flashings, brick, or other wall coverings; doors and windows for fit, locks, etc.; porches and steps for proper rails and general conditions including rot; general vegetation and surface drainage as it may affect the structure of the houseFoundation
signs of shifting - cracks, out of square door frames, etc.; signs of water penetration; improperly cut or notched framing membersHeating and Cooling
type, age, energy rating if applicable, and testing for normal operationPlumbing
determine type of supply, i. e., public or private; look for poor water pressure; look for poor drainage from sinks, tubs, etc.; inspect supplies - faucets and other fixtures; inspect toilets; inspect water heating equipment, including its type, capacity, ventingElectrical
inspection of the service drop, meter enclosure, disconnects and service panel - breakers or fuse box, verify GFCIs, smoke detectors and test representative number of switches, fixtures and outletsAttic, Ventilation and Insulation
inspect insulation in unfinished, i.e., accessible, areas; inspect ventilation of attics and mechanical ventilationInterior
inspect for loose plaster, drywall, moldings; inspect stairs and railings; test a representative number of doors and windowsMiscellaneous
garage, garage door operation, cracks in floor, viewable structure; inspect general conditions of drivewayHow Much Should It Cost and Is It Worth It?
Given the value added by the reliability and certainty of a professional quality home inspection, its cost is well worth it and a minor part of the overall cost of a real estate transaction. The cost of no knowing can be considerable - you just never know.
A home inspector will have looked at hundreds of items. The inspection report will identify problems with the home. It will describe the findings in clear and easy to understand language, often accompanied by photographs. The home inspector may visit the home with the client to point out the various findings in person.
The cost of a professional quality home inspection is usually in a range between $250-$500, and varies according to the size and the age of the house. Some inspectors offer special deals at a lower cost but it is important for the prospective client to determine if the special deal follows all industry accepted standards.
Many home inspectors also offer ancillary services that are not considered to be a part of the standard inspection. These can relate to the client's specific concerns about ensuring a safe and healthy environment for themselves and their families. These ancillary services may include tests for radon, asbestos, mold, lead and water or air quality. Another useful form of testing is thermal imaging which evaluates heat loss from the house and aids the client in minimizing heating bills. Consultation with the home inspector can help determine if these additional tests should be included.
A quality home inspection can mean great value to the client - depending on the need.
* If you are a seller, an inspection can help you market your house more effectively. You may be able to make some minor repairs which will pay off in getting a better price.
* If you are a buyer, an inspection may warn you of unnoticed and potentially costly repairs which will be needed for the house. They may be deal breakers. And if not, then having the inspector's evaluation can help you get the very best deal.
* If you're a homeowner -- neither buying nor selling at the present time, an inspection can simply help you to be sure that your home is a safe and healthy environment for you and your family. It can aid you in planning smart maintenance and repairs, renovations or refinancing.
In all cases, a quality home inspection provides way more value than cost because it can be that difference that helps you become a smarter homeowner, buyer or seller.
Why a New Home Buyer Should Not Rely on the Former Buyers Home Inspection Report
A thorough home inspection is one of the most important steps before purchasing a home, and many buyers try to skip this step only to end up regretting it later when problems become apparent. Your home is the place you go to get away from the world, and to relax and put your feet up, or spend time with your family and friends. You want to be reassured that the home you buy is safe and in good condition. A home inspection can give you this peace of mind, using a visual inspection of every aspect of the home both inside and out. This should be done by a professional home inspector who has the education, knowledge, and experience needed to identify problems which may not be readily apparent.
There are some questions you should ask any prospective home inspection company, and things to consider, to guarantee you get a thorough and complete inspection. How long has the inspector been doing these inspections? How many home inspections does the inspector do in a year? How much experience does the home inspector have inspecting homes identical to the one you are buying? These questions are important, because without adequate experience the inspector may miss signs of a hidden problem. Choose a home inspection company that exclusively does only home inspections, and does not just practice this as a sideline to their day job. Ask about the reports that will be given, will you get a written report, an oral report, or both? Does the home inspection company have certification? Do they have insurance?
Set up an appointment for the home inspection with both the seller and the home inspector. Make the appointment during the daytime, when there is plenty of daylight so that flaws and problems will be noticeable instead of hidden in shadows. Allow for at least two to three hours for the home inspection, and make sure you are present. Ask questions of the home inspector, and listen to the answers closely. Make sure that you contact the seller, and that they agree to the visit by the home inspector at the specified time and day. Give the home inspector the name, address, and phone number of the buyer, and the address and directions to the home being inspected, as well as any codes needed to access any lock box that may be installed.
If you need to reschedule the home inspection appointment, make sure to give the inspection company at least twenty four to forty eight hour notice before the appointment time, to avoid being charged. Make sure that all utilities are on at the home, including the electric and gas, and make sure that all appliances like the furnace and hot water heater are on and running. Arrange with the seller for the home inspector to have access to everything, including any attics, basements, garages, outbuildings, closets, and other areas. This will ensure a complete and thorough professional home inspection. Also make arrangements with the seller to make sure any furniture or stored belongings which may block access to electrical panels, access panels, and appliances are moved before the inspector arrives. Payment is expected after the home inspection is done, before the inspector leaves the home, so make sure to have a check or money order ready when the inspection is finished.
When looking at homes, do a personal inspection of each home to narrow down the list of possibilities. A professional home inspection should be done on the home you finally decide to purchase, but doing a personal inspection on each potential purchase will help you weed out the obvious bad choices and save you time and energy. Look for things like apparent cracks or shifts in the foundation, obvious electrical malfunctions, sockets that have scorch marks, signs of severe water damage or mold growth, evidence of leaks, both inside and outside the home, the overall condition and age of the roof, dampness or signs of flooding in the basement or crawlspace, and other signs of repairs that may be needed.
There are some things that a home inspection may not cover, depending on where you live and what company you use for the inspection. Most of the time these are referred to as third party testing services, and they can include water quality testing, radon testing, mold testing, air quality testing, and inspection for wood boring and eating insects like termites. All of these tests may be considered important, depending on what the home inspection shows and any problems that may have been detected by the home inspector. If there is visible mold then mold testing may be suggested, to ensure it is not a toxic strain of mold that can cause human disease and illness. If the water quality is suspect, water testing may be suggested to guarantee that there are no bacteria or other organisms that can sicken you. Radon testing should always be done to make sure this cancer causing gas is not present in the home, and the home inspection report may suggest this as well. A termite inspection could be ordered if the inspector finds evidence that these pests may be present, and posing a danger to the structure of the home by eating the wood. Air quality testing may be done if there is any reason to suspect that the air in the home may be harmful to occupants, and this can be due to mold, radon, or other harmful airborne irritants and pathogens.
Knowing what to expect during a thorough professional home inspection, and the tips to make this process more effective and efficient, can help you get a good idea on any flaws in the home before you make the purchase, without any doubt or confusion involved. This step should never be omitted, even though it may seem costly, because it can save you significantly if there are hidden defects and unseen flaws.
Home Inspection Misconceptions
This is a really good and important question. Many home buyers (and even agents) don't know exactly what a home inspector does. So let me clear the smoke right now.
There are basically 3 aspects to every home inspection:
1st - A home inspection is a visual, non-intrusive, & fair effort to discover the real material condition of the home during the time and day that the inspection takes place.
2nd - A home inspection isn't really about the home inspector telling you what's wrong with the home more than it is a discovery session for you to make sure you understand what you're buying so that you can decide if it falls within your expectations and is a good fit for your situation.
You see, my job is to make sure I align the reality of the home's condition with your expectations. If I can successfully do that, then I've done my job.
3rd - The home inspection report. The report is designed to summarize and convey the findings in a way that is clear, simple, complete, and easy-to-understand. If a home inspection is a snapshot in time of the condition of a home, then the report is the photo, itself (and a good report will have lots of photos). Without the report there is no real home inspection. It allows you to go back through the inspection as many times as you like in order to decide if the house is a good fit for you and your circumstances.
By nature, it's limited in scope to what can be seen, touched and tested, which particularly applies to vacant homes where a home inspector is forced to play detective and do the best they can during the short period of time they're at the home to find everything (good and bad) that you'll need to know in order to make an educated decision about the home.
If your schedule allows, you should also be encouraged to take advantage of the rare opportunity to follow a professional home inspector around your home who will invite your questions, concerns, and impart key information and advice that will certainly help you while you live in and maintain your home for years to come.
Some key points to remember about home inspections:
1. No house is perfect. Not even a brand new home. There will always be something worth noting in the report.
2. Not all home inspectors are created equal. Just like auto mechanics, some are better than others. Price should not be the most important consideration when comparing home inspection firms. Use word-of-mouth referrals, past client reviews, time in business, background, and expertise. This is especially true since you're making such a large and important investment.
3. A home inspection is an investment in the quality of your new home. View it as one. Personally, I always have a goal that the items I find in a home will at least cover the cost of the inspection when they are negotiated for repair. Of course, that doesn't always happens. Than again, sometimes my fee is tiny in comparison to what I find.
4. Old homes are like old people, the older they get the more attention they need (my sons laugh when I say that). Be sure to see older homes (50+) as they're supposed to be seen and try to avoid bringing the same set of expectations you had when you looked at that 10 year old home earlier in the day. It will not look or perform the same way. The 3 biggest concerns in every old home? The plumbing, electrical system, and foundation.