What would you think if your realtor gave you a list of inspectors and said, “Let me warn you about that inspector. He is too picky.” What would you think? You probably would have that inspector at the top of your list. You might think to yourself, “Hmm…isn’t that an inspector’s job? Isn’t that what I am paying him/her for? Shouldn’t I know as much as possible about the home or investment that I am purchasing, even if the defects are minor?”
We are as thorough as intrusive as any inspection company can get but the purpose is not to scare the buyer, it is to inform the buyer. We know that more times than not, the buyer is going to purchase the home despite the inspection because they love the floor plan, the yard, the architecture, or the neighborhood and unless the house is going to collapse, they will budget future repairs based on the inspection report. Other buyers may be a little bit more concerned about costs to bring a home up to their standards or to replace a defective component, but isn’t that a buyer’s prerogative? Isn’t that why you are compelled to have an inspection? So that you can make a decision based on knowledge and experience and on your wants and needs as a buyer? That is what you are paying for.
We often wonder what would cause a realtor to complain about an inspector that is knowledgeable and helps to completely inform their buyer of the complete condition of the home. Unfortunately, most buyers won’t know that their realtor feels that way because it would be a direct reflection for their concern for a quick and easy transaction rather than the best interests of their clients.
It is very distressing for us to lose business and clients due to a realtor’s list that does not have the best possible choices on their preferred inspector list. It is also disheartening to know that many buyers will move in and find defects that should have been noted but were not due to lack of knowledge, experience and technology.
As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, ALL HOME INSPECTORS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL. A home inspection is not just a formality. A home inspector brings with him various levels of knowledge, experience and training or expertese. Another vital component that needs to be taken into consideration is the reporting system.
When interviewing inspectors a question that needs to be asked is what type of a report is provided and what the typical length is. First of all make sure that you are getting a computer generated report. There are some inspectors out there that will still hand you a hand written report on site. Next find out if ther report provided is a checklist report, a narrative report or a combination? Also be sure to ask if the report will contain digital photos, especially of hard to explain items or areas that are not easily seen by the buyer such as on the roof or in the attic.
Checklist reports tend to be short, vague and uninformative. They provide information for a particular component that tells whether is is serviceable, fair, good, poor, etcetera. There is no detail invoved and comments are often generic and not tailored to a particular home. Checklist and narrative combination reports are slightly more informative but there is still a lack of clarity and does not provide an accurate assessment of a property.
A narrative report provides the most helpful knowledge to a perspective buyer. It can explain in detail, locations, components conditions that are easlily understandable. An inspector can also provide suggestions for long term care and maintenance if an item is a relatively minor issue that just needs basic care. Narrative comments can also be more helpful to buyers when asking for repairs or to sellers that are trying to accomodate the buyer’s request. This type of report truly reflects the knowledge and expertese of the inspector. Make sure to ask to see a sample of the reporting system used before making an appointment.
A Home Inspection is NOT a Formality – All Home Inspectors Are NOT Created Equal
We’ve been noticing a trend lately with the various time lines in which the buyer has to get his/her inspections performed. I’ve seen anywhere from five to seventeen days allotted for inspections. Heck, I’ve even seen instances in which the buyer has to get an inspection before the bank will even open escrow. I get this. But, what I don’t get is the nonchalant approach that some buyers, or even realtors, have with respect to getting a home inspection scheduled. It is amazing, that some buyers we’ve spoken to are willing to forego taking time from work, play, or otherwise to have this one single critical service performed.
Similarly, buyers will often put off scheduling the inspection to the last minute, thereby, reducing their opportunity to have the service performed by a truly professional, fulltime inspection company. Most “good” inspectors who do this full time are booked days in advance, even in this market.
“Marc, are you suggesting that other companies that are available at a moment’s notice are unqualified or bad?”. No, I’m not suggesting that at all. I’m simply saying that after being in this business as many years as I have, you have a pretty good idea who your competitors are. Of course, some inspectors are better than others, like everything else in this world. It just seems to me that there are just a few of us who cannot accommodate an inspection “the very next day”.
Here’s some advice: when you are choosing between inspectors, verify or certify that the individual investigating the largest single investment of your lifetime for you. Choose wisely. Do your due diligence. Don’t just accept any company based on their schedule compatibility with yours.
Here are some Do’s and Dont’s
• Do not choose an inspector based solely on price.
• Most good inspectors are busy and typically charge a little more. Pay more for a good inspector now or pay later (meaning with deficiencies not discovered at the inspection).
• Do not choose an inspector based solely on his “association affiliations”.
• Do choose an inspector based on years of experience as a CONTRACTOR, qualifications, knowledge in construction, reporting methods, etcetera. Most of these associations do little to nothing to prove the knowledge or experience of an individual. They require a yearly fee for membership, a business that requires a profit like any other.
• Do not wait until the last minute to schedule the inspection.
• Do start interviewing inspectors before you even open escrow. You have no idea how many have such little real hands on experience in this industry. Remember, there are no licensing qualifications or in becoming an inspector…anyone can do this.
• Do not interview only the recommended inspectors on a realtor’s list – Yes, even me… you bet, interview all of these guys.
• Do ask friends, family members, and search the web. Spend as much time as you possibly can with this. Heck, you can even ask us. We’ll give you a list of the guys we feel are most qualified and refer our business to when were too busy. Just be sure you go beyond the realtor list.
• Do not limit your choice of inspectors based solely around your personal schedule, i.e. work, play, shopping etcetera…
• Plan to take a day off of work, if necessary. Trust me, this is too big of a purchase, investment or otherwise to treat merely as a formality in the escrow process. Try to be there. There is so much information you will want to hear by being present that just isn’t the same as reading the report afterwards.
• Do not choose an inspector who is going to inspect your house in “the shortest time possible” as not to inconvenience the realtors.
• Do choose an inspector who is going to take 2-3 hours on an average sized home. Do choose an inspector who is going to provide you with a thorough evaluation of your potential home, NO MATTER HOW LONG THE INSPECTION TAKES… Some realtors or sellers love to pressure the inspector to finish quickly in order accommodate their schedules. Some even refer inspectors who are fast and provide short vague report. This makes the negotiation process much easier.
• Do not choose anyone until you have sampled their reports and stay clear from checklist reports.
• Do ask for a sample of their report. Most inspectors should have one posted on their website. A narrative report is a must! I would never accept a check list style report as they are vague and inconclusive.
• Do not choose an inspector who is not insured.
• Do ask the inspector if they have Errors and Omissions and General Liability insurance. Insurance for home inspectors is very expensive and most full time inspectors should have this insurance. For your protection, you should insist that the inspector you choose has E&O and liability insurance. Some part time inspectors will typically omit this type of insurance simply due to costs.
• Do not choose an inspector who hasn’t performed at least 1,000 inspections.
• Do attempt to find an inspector who is seasoned. It takes years to perform at least 1,000 home inspections. Like with most things, you are likely to get better with repetition and home inspections are no exception. In fact, the more inspections you perform the better familiar you (the inspector) will become with any inherent issues that most housing tracks possess. We have performed over 10,000 inspections to date.
• Do not hire a part time inspector.
• Do try to hire an inspector who is full time for so many reasons mentioned in this post. Part time inspectors may charge a little less, but that’s because inspections are usually performed as “filler” to another full time trade or job. In my opinion, part time inspectors probably wouldn’t be part time if there was sufficient work available to them, which may directly speak to their ability as an inspector.
• Do not choose an inspector who offers to do work after the inspection.
• This is called a “conflict of interest” and is against the law in California.
• Do not choose an inspector who will not crawl under houses or go into attics.
• Do make sure that the inspector you interview will crawl under a house or go into an attic. These areas house some of the most important components of the home such as plumbing, framing, electrical, ducting, vents, etcetera.
• Do not choose inspectors who do not use INFRARED cameras.
• Do insist the inspector you interview uses an infrared camera with their inspection. The use of Infrared in an inspection is invaluable and can detect potential problems such as water leaks or electrical issues not seen with the “naked eye”.
Thermography is the use of an infrared camera to take pictures using infrared energy or radiation that is emitted from objects, which allows us to see the variation in temperatures. That temperature difference is what makes it possible for the technician to spot moisture intrusion in a ceiling, floor, wall or roof, poor insulation or a hot spot in an electrical panel not visible to the human eye.
Only a handful of home inspectors use an Infrared camera on their inspections. There are a various reasons that not all home inspectors use this type of state-of-the-art technology in a typical home inspection.
One of the reasons is that an infrared camera is quite expensive to purchase and to maintain. They can range anywhere from a few thousand dollars to upwards of twenty thousand dollars. The training that is necessary to properly operate and use efficient techniques to analyze the pictures taken, is also costly, not to mention, it takes an extended amount of time to achieve this certification.
Another reason that some home inspectors do not use thermography as a part of their inspections is because it creates additional work for them. It takes more time and effort to create the conditions necessary for this type of imaging during an inspection. If moisture is identified through the use of infrared, follow up testing with various moisture meters will follow in order to help substantiate the findings. This process can also be time consuming when inputting the pictures and analyzing these thermographs to identify any anomalies or defects that may appear on the images. A trained thermographer needs to view the picture and interpret their findings, based on their knowledge of the home and apply the theory learned in training.
The last reason a home inspector may not choose to use this type of technology is because it can bring certain issues to light that would not have been identified otherwise. Some inspectors do not like to make transactions more difficult for the agents that use them on a regular basis. This makes the transaction a lot easier for everyone, except for the buyer, who has to deal with these issues once they move into the home.
Why would any buyer choose to use an inspector that is not doing everything they possibly can to inform the client of the potentially costly or hazardous conditions that may exist in a house? Mazza Inspections uses proprietary methods when conducting inspections using infrared to identify possible electrical or moisture intrusion issues