Rome, Georgia        (706)295-5075    (706) 676-8536

Greg Peterson Inspections, Inc.        Rome, GA

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Maximizing Home Inspection Value

Eleven tips from an experienced inspector.

By Greg Peterson

 

 

Home inspections are critical to the buying process.

 

The word is out, from the immensely popular consumer advice expert Clark Howard, to the U.S. Government Department of Housing and Urban Development—one crucial element in the home buying process is a professional home inspection.

 

Here’s what Clark Howard has to say:

“ Buying a used house means taking on an added risk of breakdowns and repair costs. Just make sure the purchase is contingent on an inspection, and don't buy a house with major structural problems.” Clark also recommends a professional home inspection when buying new homes and investment property.

 

The American Society of Home Inspectors web site provides the following statistics:

 

·        “A recent study completed by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) estimates that nearly 4.9 million home inspections were completed in the U.S. in 2000. Conducted on more than 77% of all homes sales, home inspections have become an integral part of the real estate transaction process.”

 

Since this study was made, the percentage of home inspections performed on all home sales has risen dramatically.

 

With the current trend toward home inspections, and with professional organizations, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors, overseeing inspection standards and ethics, it may appear that the problem is nearly solved—simply find a qualified inspector with a good reputation, have your home inspected, and sign on the dotted line.

 

Not exactly.

 

 

Home inspections can be ineffective if not managed properly.

 

When homebuyers pay a professional inspector to evaluate their future home, they often fail to capitalize on the opportunity. A good home inspection is critical toward sound, well-considered decision making; effective use of the inspection report will provide extensive knowledge about the structure and its systems, enabling wise choices in home buying. However, much too often the inspection is not wisely utilized, leading to poor, ill-considered purchase agreements. The result of a wrong decision during this critical phase can lead to a loss of many thousands of dollars, and possibly years of aggravation.

 

Why then, are so many homebuyers so eager to take their home inspection report lightly, or ignore it all together? Often, serious defects are excluded and less consequential items are mentioned during the negotiation process. Some new homebuyers will unreasonably ask for every single item in the report to be fixed, leading to a failed transaction and a lose-lose situation. Others will accept the house and all its problems with little or no request for repairs or price reduction, even though there may be several serious items or safety issues in the report that could very likely be fixed by the seller, if only the report were properly employed. Probably the most common mistake dealing with the home inspection report involves the buyer’s lack of knowledge and inability to properly evaluate the report. During the past six years, and after hundreds of home inspections, I have found that only occasionally do my clients handle the inspection process in a way that allows full value from the inspector’s capabilities, or the home inspection report.

 

In some cases my clients are too busy to show up for the inspection, or are out of state. When I offer to discuss the report and explain the findings over the phone, there is often limited interest, and sometimes my clients don’t even want an explanation of the findings; they simply accept the report, say thank you, and proceed to buy the house. On other occasions, buyers may be present during the inspection and rather than listen to an explanation of the problems identified in the report, and of the possible repercussions, they talk about other, non-related things, tying up valuable inspection time and missing out on important findings. During those times, I get the feeling that the decision to purchase the property has already been made, and the inspection is merely a formality.

                       

I believe there are several reasons that account for this enigma. We all have different personalities that come into play. Certainly, everyone has varied experiences in buying homes and other large ticket items, and some people may be ignorant as to what questions to ask, and how to ask them. Some of my clients seem to let their egos interfere with their ability to accept advice; we all know this type of person, and no one knows as much as he or she, especially a lowly home inspector. And still others fail to gain from the inspection because they just don’t believe anything bad can exist with the lovely property they’ve picked out and will soon be moving into.

 

In many of the homes I inspect, my clients fail to utilize the information in their report effectively, and in some cases they blindly leap into a high priced agreement that is doomed from the start, ignoring all red flags raised by the inspection.

 

It’s not enough to spend the money and have the inspection performed; this will not provide a guarantee or warranty, and in itself will not provide adequate information to make a knowledgeable decision. You, the homebuyer, are responsible for protecting your investment, and for utilizing the inspector you paid for in a way that will result in the most effective use of his or her knowledge and talent. It is impossible for the inspection to provide full value if it is not scrutinized, and if the inspector’s knowledge is not explored. Before the inspection is even scheduled, there should be a good understanding of exactly what to expect, what the experience should entail, and what devices are available to maximize the results. An ill-prepared homebuyer is similar to the golfer who tees off without visiting the practice range and who does not have a driver or putter in the bag. If you enter the game without the proper preparation, and without the necessary equipment, don’t expect a low score.

 

The following suggestions provide some ways the inspection can be maximized while minimizing the chances of making a poor decision. These are the clubs that should be in your bag before you start to play.

 

1. Ensure that your inspector is knowledgeable:  The inspection you receive will be of little value if your inspector is a non-professional. Remember, most states currently have little or no requirements for setting up a home inspection business. The inspector you choose may have absolutely zero experience in the building/construction industry and often is not certified by a recognized code enforcement agency. If he or she is certified, be careful, as it is quite easy to receive inspector certifications that are not typically recognized with credibility. One very popular certification only requires an on-line test that can easily be passed by an individual other than the person submitting the application. A small fee is applied and, wha-la,  instant certification. A good inspector will be a member of ASHI (The American Society of Home Inspectors) or an organization with similar qualification requirements, proctored testing, and technical and ethical standards, and should possess ICC code certification. Your inspector should have no problem describing his or her certifications, special training, and experience.

 

2. Before selecting an inspector, identify the type of report: Request specifics. Ask your inspector about the type of report that you will receive: how lengthy is the report, will there be photographs to help present a clear picture of the defects found, and will there be a verbal discussion of the findings after the inspection? How long will the inspection take, are you encouraged to attend the inspection, and who specifically will conduct the inspection? Are there additional features of the inspection such as, information sheets on typical problems, follow up for future questions, supporting documentation of problems found including references to code sections, manufacturer installation sheets, or excerpts from other reputable experts or reference books?

 

3. Confirm the inspector’s credentials: This is normally very easy to do on the Internet. If he or she is certified or a member of a professional organization, you should be able to easily check or confirm membership, current status, and certifications held by visiting the organization’s web site. Additionally, on these web sites, membership or certification requirements are detailed; make sure that membership in, or certification by, each organization requires more than filling out an application and sending in a fee. In other words, make sure your inspector has earned his or her credentials and not bought them. Your inspector should be able to provide you with feedback from prior clients; these may be provided by a testimonial link on a web site, hard copy letters that can be mailed or faxed, or you may be able to obtain phone numbers from past clients who will provide recommendations. Other ways to help legitimatize your inspector is to find his or her name in the yellow pages and on Internet directories for home inspection businesses. Ask the inspector what makes him or her more qualified than other inspectors in the area.

 

4.  Make sure that you can communicate well with the inspector you choose:  When interviewing inspectors on the telephone, spend at least twenty minutes. Let the inspector do as much talking as possible so you can get a feel for his or her demeanor, communication ability, and sincerity. Obviously, phone conversations can be misleading, but the more time spent during this initial discussion, the better you will be able to speculate about how well the two of you will interact. It is important that you feel comfortable asking questions of your inspector, and that he is confident, correct, and precise in his answers. If the inspector has difficulty explaining his qualifications and inspection philosophy over the phone, you may likely not get clear and precise descriptions in your report. A good inspector will always treat you with respect, and should never make you feel uncomfortable or as though you are taking too much of his or her time. This is the time when you need to be convinced that the inspector will be acting solely in your best interest, and has no indebtedness to the property owner or to the real estate agents in the area.

 

5. Explain your wants and needs to the inspector: Some inspectors may not be accustomed to having clients who want detailed explanations of the inspection findings, and may be in the habit of quickly brushing over the report. If you make it clear that you are interested in everything, and if you allow him or her to explain those things to you, then most inspectors will go a great distance to make sure their message meets your ears with clear and comprehensive understanding. It is important to show interest in what your inspector tells you, and to ask pertinent questions. If the inspector has a feeling that you really want to learn about the problems he has identified, there will be more complete and detailed explanations. If you follow your expert through the inspection, and talk about other issues or how much you already know about the house, then you may not receive an enthusiastic and itemized verbal report. How much you learn from your hired professional hinges more on your actions, than on the inspector’s.

 

6.  Accept any help the inspector is willing to provide: A good inspector will offer to follow up and answer any future questions that develop. This is something that should have been confirmed back in tip #5. If ongoing communication is understood to be included in the inspection, then take advantage of this valuable opportunity. Generally, the initial report is extensive, and consuming it all with good understanding during the inspection is unlikely. Following the inspection, review the report thoroughly. Read it again the next morning and this time take notes on comments in the report that you do not fully understand. Then, call your inspector back and ask him to clarify, or elaborate on the items that are not entirely clear to you. It is appropriate to ask the inspector to put some of the issues in context, or explain the seriousness of the defect. This is a good time to have the inspector provide his opinion regarding the more serious items, and what the future consequences may be; you may be able to obtain an estimate, in general terms, of what it would take to remedy some of the major findings. If you are still unsure about the validity of any of the reported defects, and whether they were properly identified and explained, then ask your inspector for additional information, possibly written documents from other sources, regarding that issue. If you fail to become convinced about anything described in your inspection report, you should conduct personal research until you are satisfied that you understand the problem and the consequences thoroughly.

 

7.  Do not expect total assurance, or insurance:  Bear in mind that your inspection does not generally come with any kind of warranty. The majority of home inspectors are very conscientious, and will work hard to try and find every item of interest possible—within reason; the inspector is well aware that by providing a thorough report you will be happier and there becomes more probability of future referrals, and less chance of negative feedback, or worse, a formal complaint because something was overlooked. Should something be missed during the inspection, there is likely no provision for having it fixed; your inspector is not an insurance provider, and there is usually an understanding, generally in the form of a written agreement, that there could be hidden or latent defects that are not identified, and which you may uncover at a later date. The inspector will work hard within a reasonable time frame to identify every notable problem and will be as complete as can be expected for the conditions and for the time allotted—at some point, extending the inspection can be cost prohibitive, and the odds of finding consequential defects becomes negligible. This approach makes it affordable and efficient, however, some defects may still remain unreported. You should, however, leave the inspection with a much greater understanding of the condition of the house and with a feeling that your money was well spent. The extent of your new understanding is largely dependent upon how you manage the inspection process.

 

8.  Educate yourself: Although your home inspector is your personal expert for several hours, most of his or her time is dedicated to inspecting, report writing, and a to the verbal review afterwards. Your inspector will explain items noted in the report and he or she will elaborate when necessary, and occasionally, if there is benefit, there will be discussion of how things work, what can lead to problems, and techniques that will help mitigate future problems. The inspector’s knowledge of construction methods, unique and conventional installation, component and process design, common and atypical home related maintenance concerns, regulatory code and manufacturer guidelines, and miscellaneous issues such as environmental hazards and product recall notices have been acquired over many years of training and experience; all this knowledge can not be passed along to your during the course of the inspection. The inspector is not aware of your background, or about your level of understanding; it is up to you to ask for specifics when necessary. It is also not part of the inspector’s job to provide training and instruction on the various systems in the home, or on residential construction and accepted standards. Anything you can do on your own to educate yourself can be useful toward understanding the report.

 

The advent of the information age offers an interminable source of easily accessed information about anything and everything. The Internet is the door to this world and it should be opened often. If you are not Internet savvy, it’s time to learn. Find a friend or relative for help if necessary, and put it to use. For example, your inspector may say to you, “The electrical system has been upgraded to include a new circuit breaker panel and some new wiring, but most of the original two wire circuits are still in place. GFI receptacles are recommended in typical locations.” You understand that this is your inspector’s recommendation and he or she has explained the reasoning, but how do other experts feel, and why? It’s easy to gain a deeper understanding of issues such as this, and to get opinions from other experts, simply by performing a “search” in your Internet browser.

 

9.  Utilize your real estate agent: Your real estate agent works for you. The agent is well compensated as part of the sale agreement, and is responsible for representing you and protecting your interests. You should keep in mind that the agent has a monetary interest in the sale, and would like to see as little conflict as possible. Some agents are more ethical, and have more integrity than other’s; be careful and thoughtfully weigh any advice you receive from your agent. Many agents are honest professionals who are sincerely interested in your well-being. Ask your agent for input and advice. A good agent who is not working for both parties, and who is a seasoned professional, will be able to put some of the reported defects in perspective—how unusual or unique are they, and how likely can they get fixed as part of the negotiation. Your agent should be able to help develop a list of reasonable conditions as part of the purchase agreement. If the agent has a concern or opposing view of anything in your report, make sure that you discuss it with your inspector until things are clear.

 

10.  Consult system experts: Very often there are concerns raised from the inspection that are best evaluated by system experts or qualified trade specialists. An example may be a ten-year-old heating and air conditioning system that works, but doesn’t cool the air as effectively as expected or desired. In such a case, an inspector will often advise an annual type heating and air conditioning check by a specialist. It is generally best to have this done before proceeding with the purchase. Typically, these specialists are easily found in the yellow pages and will provide free estimates for the work. Obtain two or three quotes with a detailed explanation of what is included for the fee. Another typical example is an old house that has the original wiring system with numerous electrical related problems; the inspector may advise seeking an expert evaluation and subsequent repair. Again, electrical specialists will usually provide a free quote for doing the evaluation and needed upgrade. Make sure you receive an itemized list of all work and materials that will be provided from at least three sources. Many agents will suggest that you get these quotes and get the work done after the purchase and after you move in. Other agents may suggest that you ask for a nominal reduction in the sales price to help pay for the work that can be done at a later date. The best course of action, when there are fairly serious issues involved, is to put the closing on hold until you obtain all of your estimates. Once you know exactly how much it will cost, then a decision can be made to either ask for the sales price to be lowered, have the defects corrected at the seller’s expense prior to closing, or to terminate the purchase. Any of these three courses of action can be prudent, depending on your feelings at the time.

 

11. Don’t get caught up in the moment: One of the most common causes of failing to fully consider the home inspector’s findings is loss of focus. When buying a new or used home, it is important not to get caught up in the moment. Often, after weeks or possibly months, of searching for a new home, and after living in temporary quarters, there becomes an almost desperate need to make a decision. If a home is found that appears to meet all the requirements, then it’s easy to rush blindly into the contract. The tendency is to want the property to work out so badly that logic and good judgment gets set aside. Buyers suffer from tunnel vision, and rather than think about the possibility of there being structural or other major issues, it’s easier to assume that everything is okay. It’s too difficult to think that something may be wrong with the house and the search will have to begin anew. It has often been my experience that clients are so excited about the home they’ve found, they don’t want to hear about the defects, or don’t want to believe they exist. On some occasions, report findings that should be considered serious concerns are met with little interest by the excited buyers, even to the extent that they happily pay the full asking price—as if the owner may decide against selling the house if deficiencies are mentioned. A very important thing to remember, especially once a likely prospect has been located, is to slow down, establish priorities, and avoid jumping to final conclusions until the house and all the systems have been professionally checked out and carefully considered.

 

Use your home inspection wisely.

A professional pre-purchase home inspection, if properly managed by you, will result in a vastly improved understanding of the structure and its systems. Remember, you will be handing out the paycheck at the end of the day. So, take charge…and learn!

 

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Home inspections in the Rome, Georgia area. Your home inspector is certified structure, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and property maintenance and housing by ICC. Member of American Society of Home inspectors, National Association of Certified Home Inspectors, and Independent Home Inspectors of North America.    All Home Inspection photographs and home inspection articles and related information on this website are the property of Greg Peterson Inspections, Inc.;  written permission is required prior to duplication or reproduction. Greg Peterson Home Inspections is the premier home inspector, building inspection, and real estate property inspection service in Rome, Ga. Professional, certified home inspectors trusted to conduct ethical home inspections. Your search for home inspection companies, home inspection company, home inspectors or home inspection services in Rome, Ga. will direct your browser to Greg Peterson Inspections, the premier home inspection service in Georgia. Note: This footnote is displayed solely to enhance the Greg Peterson home inspection website listing in the Google Search. If you have read this home inspection information you may wonder why the words home inspector, home inspection, home inspection company, or building inspector and building inspection company are mentioned so many times. That is because the Google search will display my home inspection page at a higher position if those words are mentioned a lot on my home page. Thanks,  Greg Peterson.

Ph. 706-295-5075, Rome, Ga.