Facts About Home Inspectors
Many brokers, and you're probably among
them, recommend that their sales associates encourage
buyers to get a prepurchase home inspection.
Reliance on home inspections means
reliance on the person producing the document - the
But what are home inspectors and
what do they do? And how do you respond to your salespeople
when they want some guidance on how to evaluate home
We asked the American Society
of Home Inspectors (ASHI), based in Des Plains, Ill.,
those questions and more.
standards do inspectors have?
Not only should home inspectors
have experience and be knowledgeable about building techniques
and materials, but they also should have some way to document
ASHI requires its members
to pass two written tests and to perform at least 250
professional fee-paid inspections. After a report review
and a minimum of six months as a candidate, they may be
granted membership. They must also uphold ASHI-prescribed
ethical standards, which helps prevent conflicts of interest
and promotes fairness in dealing with consumers.
"Some people who call themselves
inspectors will comment on the market value of a home,
try to enter into negotiations, or solicit repair work
after an inspection," says ASHI President John Palczuk,
who also heads Carolina Home Inspection Associates, Inc.
in Raleigh, N.C. ASHI inspectors won't do that."
Are home inspectors licensed?
Some States require licensing
of home inspectors. According to ASHI, they are Nevada,
New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas,
actually do inspectors do?
If you're afraid you'll sound
silly on this one, don't be. First, a home inspector isn't
a guarantor or the municipal or county inspector looking
for code violations, Palczuk says. The inspector examines
the components of a home that are accessible and visible.
"But minor or cosmetic flaws
should be apparent without the aid of an inspector," he
In a typical prepurchase
home inspection, according to ASHI standards, the inspector
will look at the heating system, central air-conditioning
system, interior plumbing and electrical systems, roof,
attic, visible insulation, walls, ceiling, floors, windows
and doors, and foundation, basement, and visible structure.
should I tell the buyers or sellers if they balk at an
For sellers, an inspection
gives them a better idea of any problem areas that might
exist, Palczuk says. Thus they have a chance to make repairs
that will put the house in better selling condition or
to adjust the listing price accordingly.
For buyers, many of whom
are making the biggest investment of their lives, the
inspection helps eliminate surprises that can sour a deal.
Why can't buyers and sellers do their own inspection?
Neither sellers nor buyers
can stay objective about property they have a financial
- or emotional - interest in, says Palczuk. They need
an objective opinion from a trained third party. Inspectors
understand a home's systems and how they function together
and why they might fail.
Good home inspectors can
provide all parties with an objective assessment, which
can be a plus when you need to counter "handypersons"
who'd like to do their own inspection.
an inspector flunk your house?
No. Because a home inspection
isn't an appraisal or a code inspection, an inspector
can't fail a house. An inspector will describe the home's
physical condition and indicate what may need major repair
an inspector kill your deal?
No. "Think of the inspector
as an educator," says Palczuk.
The inspector educates the
sellers about the conditions of a home, with an important
aspect being to highlight the positive qualities. For
the sellers, the inspector can help demonstrate your good
faith to protect their interests in terms of legal obligations
to disclose the home's condition. And the inspector's
comments or recommendations can help dispel buyers' worries
and offer useful maintenance tips.
do inspectors get started, how much do they charge, and
how long do they take?
Generally, home inspectors
get started after the sales contract is signed, provided
the contract includes a clause making the final sale contingent
on the results of the home inspection. Most inspectors
are available on a one- to 14-day notice, Palczuk says.
Costs and time vary, depending on the purchase price,
location, size, age, and any special features of the home.
9) Do home
inspectors view all kinds of properties, like condos,
town homes, and new homes?
Yes. The home inspector knows
how to treat these kinds of properties, which sometimes
have unique requirements. In multifamily dwellings, for
example, each individual unit - no matter how small -
is part of the bigger whole, the association. Inspectors
know that big costs to the association will result in
big assessments to the unit owners, says Palczuk. "The
mentality that the association maintains everything is
a big myth," he says. "If there are 300 condos, you are
1/300th of the association. So if you take care of a small
problem before it becomes a big problem, assessments for
repairs may be reduced."
As for new homes, inspectors
go beyond the visit by the typical building inspector,
whose visit may take only 20 - 40 minutes to ensure the
home warrants a certificate of occupancy. A home inspector's
scrutiny could take two to three hours. "It's not to be
critical of building inspectors, but they won't pick up
everything," Palczuk says. "And the defects we pick up
often parallel code violations."
do I find an inspector?
You can ask other brokers
or your sales associates for their best recommendations
or consult the Yellow Pages. But be aware that the field
of home inspections is rapidly growing. Not everyone who
does inspections is actually qualified. You can get a
list of ASHI members in your area by calling the ASHI
fax-on-demand number, 800/743-2744, or by visiting www.ashi.com.
NAR analysts note that many
brokers recommend at least three inspectors to buyers
to reduce liability for assigning only one to them.