Home inspectors are not created equal. As with any profession — medicine, mechanics, teaching, parenting, you name it — some practitioners inevitably outshine others. With fledgling industries such as home inspection, the disparity is all the more glaring. Here are some tips for hiring home inspectors.
PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATION: (ASHI, InterNachi, NAHI, AII)
In most states, the only home inspection standards are those enacted by professional associations, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors, ASHI, and similar organizations. Membership requires adherence to strict standards of practice, ethics and participation in ongoing education. When you choose a home inspector, specify membership in one of these recognized guilds. Beware of those who claim adherence to these standards without being members. See attached table.
INSPECTION EXPERIENCE: (3-5 YEARS & 500-1000 Inspections)
Home inspectors are often perceived as general contractors who happen to inspect homes. This view underlies an essential misunderstanding of the home inspection process. Although building knowledge is essential to a home inspector, construction itself has little or no relation to the skills of forensic investigation. A home inspector is primarily a property detective — someone who observes and ascertains defects. The average apprenticeship for a home inspector is approximately 500-1000 inspections. For contractors who disagree, I propose the House Detective Challenge: Call the nearest professional home inspector with at least three years of full time field experience and conduct separate inspections of the same building with that inspector and a less experienced one. Then compare findings. That’s where the consumer protection difference becomes apparent.
ERRORS AND OMISSIONS INSURANCE:
A critical aspect of professional accountability is insurance for a faulty inspection. Undiscovered defects can range from minor maintenance problems to structural failure; from leaking faucets to major fire hazards. Inspectors who take their business seriously carry insurance for these untimely mistakes. There are two types of E&O insurance. The best of these is a “per occurrence” policy, because coverage remains in effect even if the inspector goes out of business. The other type is called a “claims made.” This can be effective on the date of inspection but invalid when its time to file a claim.
BUILDING CODE CERTIFICATION:
ICC-ICBO = PhD
The primary focus of a home inspection is not code compliance. Nevertheless, property defects often have their basis in code related standards. To ensure inspectors for competence in this area of knowledge, seek someone with a building code certification. This is required for municipal building inspectors in most areas of North America. Out of 100 Home Inspectors, 3 might qualify for this certification; it is truly the PhD of Home Inspection Certifications…
ASK FOR A SAMPLE REPORT:
The proof is in the product, so request a copy of a previous report. The best format should be not only detailed and comprehensive, but easily interpreted, making a clear distinction between defective building conditions and “boiler plate” verbiage. Some reports are so encumbered with maintenance recommendations and liability disclaimers, that pertinent information about the property is obscured. A quality report lets defect disclosure stand out distinctly, in contrast with less pertinent data.
LET THE CHOICE BE YOURS:
When choosing a home inspector, don’t rely on others. The final selection should be your own. New and inexperienced inspectors often obtain professional recommendations, regardless of competence. You want the most meticulous, detailed inspector available — the one who will save you from costly surprises after the close of escrow. The best inspectors are often labeled “deal killers” or “deal breakers.” Someone with this reputation is likely to provide com
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AVOID PRICE SHOPPING:
Inspection fees vary widely. The price of a quality inspection is typically between $300 and $350 for an average size home. Lower fees should be regarded with suspicion, as they often identify those who are new to the business or who spend insufficient time performing the inspection.
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The North Idaho Building Contractors Association’s Home & Garden Show presented by CW Wraps & Marketing is March 3-5 at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds. For more information, call (208) 765-5518 or go online www.nibca.com