How to choose a good home home inspector
Before you buy a home, it is always a good idea to get a home inspection. It is common for a purchase contract to give a period, usually ten days, to get all your inspections done. If major problems are discovered by your inspector you can cancel the contract, get your deposit back and walk away from the deal. Based on the findings you can negotiate with the seller to cut the price or have repairs made.
Even if the results of the inspection mean you agree to accept the house as-is at the contract price, a good home inspection can give you valuable insights into your future home and help you plan for future maintenance and repairs.
One thing the inspector should not tell you is whether you should buy the house or not. A good inspection should give you enough information that you can make an educated decision on your own.
To get the most from your home inspection, plan to be present the entire time, which usually lasts two to four hours, depending on the size of the home, its condition and how many questions you ask. A good inspector will give you all the time you need.
A home inspector is unlikely to give you specific estimate for repairs, but he or she can usually give you advice on whether a needed repair will be a large or a small job.
In most areas, a home inspection costs $300 to $600, which varies by individual pricing as well as the size and age of the house. That does not include specialized inspections. Depending on the house and where you live, you may also need inspections for radon, mold, septic systems, and sewer scopes. A good home inspector can do some of those inspections for an additional fee and should be willing to make recommendations to get the best service and the most expertise for his client.
Before you hire an inspector, ask how long after the inspection it will take to get the report. Some inspectors give you the report on the spot, though that could require hanging around while the inspector writes it up, and others email it within a day or two. Timing is important because most contracts include an inspection deadline. You should expect the report within about 24 hours.
Your Realtor is likely to give you the names of one or more home inspectors, and that’s a good place to start. Be careful if your Realtor insists on just one inspector. Call and interview those inspectors, look at their websites and check out their reviews. You can Google “home inspections” and get a list of inspectors. The same rules apply, be careful. Good questions to ask are: How long have you been an inspector? What did you do before you started? Do you have a background in construction?
The American Society of Home Inspectors, which has training requirements for its members and a professional code of ethics, lets you search for an inspector by geography on its website. Members of the nonprofit organization must pass an exam and do continuing education to retain their membership. The National Association of Home Inspectors has similar requirements and an online search function.
InterNACHI, whose members also must pass an exam and adhere to professional standards, provides free online continuing education courses for inspectors, several helpful booklets for homeowners and operates an online forum where consumers can ask questions. The organization also provides online referrals to member inspectors.
Here are eight ways to find the best inspector, plus get the most out of your home inspection:
Ask for a sample report. Any good home inspector should have their home inspection report displayed on their website. See if the reports are clearly written and how they are formatted. I recently had a client that said the inspector for her previous home purchase provided a report that was more than 60 pages long. We are all too busy for that, you don’t need a book. You should be able to scan the first few pages and see exactly what you should be concerned about. The rest of the report should go into detail with pictures. A good report should be about 25 or so pages long.
Choose an inspector who wants you around during the entire inspection. The client should always feel free to be at the inspection. I have clients that stick right next to me through the entire process. Others just sit and wait. Bottom line it should not be a hurried affair. Ask questions and relay your concerns.
Read reviews and check the Better Business Bureau. A good inspector should have built up some reviews. If not check with past clients. The Better Business Bureau has a terrific website and an “Accredited BBB” inspector has had a background check. Finally, who doesn’t love Google. If an inspector hasn’t been doing a good job usually Google knows.
Ask if the inspector is a member of ASHI, NAHI, InterNACHI or any other professional certification association. Choosing an inspector who belongs to a professional organization isn’t a guarantee of quality, but it does indicate a degree of professionalism and training.
Ask about experience and background. How long has the inspector been in business? How many inspections has he or she done? Has he or she taken specialized courses? Make sure you hire someone who does inspections full time rather than as a side job. In my opinion an inspector that comes with a construction background and knows what is going on behind the walls so to speak and will generally do you a better job. For an example cracks in drywall are common. An inspector that knows about the structure will recognize a crack that is not normal and that could mean a problem with the foundation or another part of the structure. He will recommend further evaluation for your protection. On the other hand, you don’t want an inspector that recommends further evaluation based on every crack he sees.
Ask what won’t be included and how to find out the condition of those items. In colder climates, for example, the roof, deck, patio, driveway and other exterior features can’t be inspected when they are covered with snow. A good inspector should work with you. No one likes to make extra trips sometimes we do what we need to do. That should be the attitude of your inspector.
Get copies of license and insurance documents. Many, though not all, states require home inspectors to be licensed. Some municipalities may also require licensing. A qualified home inspector will provide copies of his or her license and proof of insurance. Better yet they should be posted on his or her website.
Ask if the inspector can do ancillary inspections. A good inspector should cover most of the necessary inspections. He should also show some humility, if someone else can do a better job he should recommend that. For example, the only way to inspect a septic tank is to pump it out and look. An inspector who wants to flush dye down your toilet and let your water run for 3 or 4 hours wants your money. For more information about my services see www.laselleck.com
Foundation Warning Signs
It's no secret that foundations repairs can be expensive. In fact, if you Google "most expensive home repairs" foundation issues are usually in the top ten. Part of the problem comes from home owners ignoring this important part of their home. Foundation issues don't run into the thousands of dollars overnight. If you regularly inspect your home for the following warning signs, and contact a foundation professional when you suspect issues, it can save you a lot of money.
Following are some signs of possible foundation problems and things you can do
Fine, small cracks in the exterior walls or on the steps are usually nothing to worry about. It is generally considered that any crack over 1/8 of an inch should be given a serious look. Cracks that are large and have a zig-zag pattern or are running horizontally may be a sign that there is some movement in the foundation and should be further evaluated by a qualified foundation repair contractor. All exterior cracks should be sealed as part of regular house maintenance. Water intrusion into cracks can cause further damage especially in the winter when freeze / thaw processes can be particularly damaging.
Interior Sheetrock Cracks
Drywall cracks are common, that is just a fact. Common places for interior drywall cracks are above doors on the walls and at the end of hallways on the ceiling. If you live in a home with large vaulted ceilings cracks are common at the transition areas where flat ceilings transition to the vaulted ceiling or at load bearing areas of the walls. These cracks are generally straight and even and can at times have some peeling drywall tape around them because they run along drywall joints. Cracks that should be of concern are generally diagonal and are larger at one end than the other across the sheetrock and sometimes through or across drywall joints. Many times, they will be at the upper corner of a door and the door will not be closing properly. Suspicious drywall cracks should be monitored and if they grow, so to speak, consult a qualified contractor.
Doors Out of Square and Uneven Floors
Very few homes are perfectly plumb, and it is common for new homes to settle for a few years after construction requiring doors to need adjusted and repaired. Seasonal adjustments are also frequently needed. Sometimes doors will be difficult to open and close in the winter and go back to working fine in the summer. Doors that change or become out of adjustment for no apparent reason and may even continue to get worse should be carefully evaluated, especially if they are accompanied by cracking drywall or squeaking floors around the door.
Door or Window Frame Separation from exterior siding
Unusual movement of the exterior window or door frames should be monitored. If caulking appears to be tearing or peeling away from door or window frames, or if the trim joints appear to be widening further evaluation is warranted.
Damp or wet basement
If your basement has damp or wet areas at the base of the foundation walls in the basement or if you feel you need to run a dehumidifier this can be a sign of needed maintenance. While it is true that some basements and crawlspaces are just damp, generally this can be associated with improper drainage around the home. Soil and gutters should divert water away from the foundation. If there are areas around the home that are sloped toward the home or if gutters discharge next to the foundation this can cause water to run into basements or crawlspaces or under slabs and create foundation problems.
Floors that start to squeak or become out of level should be further evaluated, especially if accompanied by any of the other warning signs such as drywall cracking or doors that need adjustments. Many times, ceramic tile floors can provide early warning signs of foundation movement especially if cracks do not follow the grout lines but run across the tile. It would be recommended that further evaluation be made by a qualified contractor.
Moving outside, check to see if your foundation is straight by sighting down the length of your foundation wall from each corner. The walls should be basically straight, both up and down and from side to side. Check for leaning walls with a level. If you notice the bottom of the framed walls are not evenly hanging over the foundation this may be sign the foundation wall moving.
A bulge or curve in either a block a stone foundation wall could signal that the foundation has shifted, or that the soil around your foundation may be expanding and contracting, putting pressure on walls. As mentioned, check soil drainage.
When can foundation cracks be a sign your foundation is settling?
As mentioned, cracks under 1/8 inch in poured concrete foundations are normal. They happen while the concrete cures within the first year after construction or over time as the home moves and settles and generally do not change over time and are considered mostly harmless. However, when cracks appear years after your home is built, or grow longer or wider over time, it can mean something is moving or the foundation is settling more than is normal.
Foundation wall cracks that are wider at the top than at the bottom can indicate that part of the foundation is falling away from the rest. If you notice this problem, it’s best not to fill the cracks with anything until you determine if the foundation needs to be stabilized. Filling the cracks may prevent a contractor from being able to lift the foundation back into place.
Another thing to keep in mind is some foundations that are moving or sinking have one large crack, while others have many small cracks. If you see many small cracks, just imagine how large the gap would be if all those small gaps were put together. Further evaluation is recommended.
There is an old saying about concrete, “it gets hard and it cracks”. So, if your foundation has some cracks don’t panic. If the cracks are around 1/8 to 1/4-inch seal the exterior with an approved patch and monitor them. If your foundation walls show signs of bowing or have some major cracking call a qualified foundation repair contractor. Get several opinions don’t settle on one opinion. Paying a qualified home inspector for an opinion can be beneficial.
My goal is to have a series of articles that deal with items that may be found on the home inspection report. There will also be articles on choosing a home inspector and a realtor. This information will be based on my experience in the construction industry as well as information I research. I welcome your comments. If you have a question or would like to see an article on a particular subject please ask.