Buying a New Home | Choosing a Home Inspector

1 home frontSelecting a Home Inspector is an important part of your Home Purchase process.  This individual will provide you with information that will be relate to your home and help you determine what issue may be present in the property.  Once the inspection has been completed you can request the Seller make repairs to identified items, and based on the Seller’s response, you will have the opportunity to accept the repairs they are willing to make, or you will have the option to back out of the deal.

First and foremost, ask your REALTOR for a list of their recommended Home Inspectors. They have worked with several Inspectors and have vetted them, based on performance and feedback from their previous clients.  That said, once you receive a list of names, you still need to interview and make your own choice.

Here are some questions you can ask:

1)  How long have you been a Home Inspector in Arizona?  How many inspections have you performed? Could you provide references?

This is an opportunity for the Inspector to tell you about their experience and skill sets. You should ask how long he/she has been in the business, and how many Home Inspections he/she has performed. There is no equivalent to experience! Do you really want someone inspecting your house who is doing this “part-time”, or has only been performing inspections for a year or two?

2)  Which Professional Home Inspection Organizations are you a Member of ?

Be sure that the Inspector you retain has professional affiliations and certifications through nationally recognized organizations such as NAHI(National Association of Home Inspectors), ICBO (International Conference of Building Officials), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), AARST(American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists), etc. This information will help to give you insight into the background, and depth of industry involvement of the Inspector you plan to hire.

3) Inspection Timelines

In my experience, an inspection is typically a morning or an afternoon (2-4 hours) depending on the size of the home.  The inspector usually requests the presence of the Home Buyer within the final 30 minutes so that he/she can walk you through their findings.  If anyone tells you that they will be done in an hour or two, RUN!  This is not a speedy job, it takes time and a careful evaluation of the home.

Be sure to bring something to take notes with. Your inspector will likely share some helpful tips while you are walking through the home that may be worth noting that will not be documented as issues in the inspection report.

Some Sellers’ will not permit pictures to be taken of the inside of the home, unless prior permission is granted. If you want to take pictures, you should have your Realtor contact the Seller for permission prior to the inspection.

If you can’t be there, please consider the following options.

  • Ask a friend or relative to participate in the Inspection  walk through.  Convey to them any questions or concerns you have, so they can relay this information to the Inspector. Have them take notes for you. Always try to talk to your Inspector by telephone after the Home Inspection!
  • Talk to your Inspector by telephone after the Home Inspection. It is important to connect with your Inspector verbally, as soon after the Inspection as possible. He will be able to review his notes with you, and summarize what the major issues are (if any), and what areas are in need of near term maintenance. This first-hand information is invaluable in giving you a clear picture of the condition of your home. You need to be made aware of any potentially significant defects, as soon as possible. 
  • Check with your  Realtor to see if they can assist by accompanying the Home Inspector, taking notes for you.

4)  What does their Inspection include ?

Here area the highlights… BUT, please be aware that these inspectors are neither a Plumber, Electricial, HVAC,  Roofer, and there will always be a disclaimer in their reports that if an issue is noted or identified that you should call a professional for more in-depth details regarding the issue.

Structure: A home’s skeleton impacts how the property stands up to weather, gravity, and the earth. Structural components, including the foundation and the framing, should be inspected.

Exterior: The inspector should look at sidewalks, driveways, steps, windows, and doors. A home’s siding, trim, and surface drainage also are part of an exterior inspection.

  • Doors and windows
  • Siding (brick, stone, stucco, vinyl, wood, etc.)
  • Driveways/sidewalks
  • Attached porches, decks, and balconies

Roofing: A well-maintained roof protects you from rain, snow, and other forces of nature. Take note of the roof’s age, conditions of flashing, roof draining systems (pooling water), buckled shingles, loose gutters and downspouts, skylight, and chimneys.

Plumbing: Thoroughly examine the water supply and drainage systems, water heating equipment, and fuel storage systems. Poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots, or corrosion can indicate problems. (Wells are not included and must be inspected by a T/P, as well as septic systems.)

Electrical: Safe electrical wiring is essential. Look for the condition of service entrance wires, service panels, breakers and fuses, and disconnects. Also take note of the number of outlets in each room.

Heating: The home’s heating system, vent system, flues, and chimneys should be inspected. Look for age of water heater, whether the size is adequate for the house, speed of recovery, and energy rating.

Air Conditioning: Your inspector should describe your home cooling system, its energy source, and inspect the central and through-wall cooling equipment. Consider the age and energy rating of the system.

Interiors: An inspection of the inside of the home can reveal plumbing leaks, insect damage, rot, construction defects, and other issues. An inspector should take a close look at:

  • Walls, ceilings and floors
  • Steps, stairways, and railings
  • Countertops and cabinets
  • Garage doors and garage door systems

Ventilation/insulation: To prevent energy loss, check for adequate insulation and ventilation in the attic and in unfinished areas such as crawlspaces. Also look for proper, secured insulation in walls. Insulation should be appropriate for the climate. Excess moisture in the home can lead to mold and water damage.

Fireplaces: They’re charming, but they could be dangerous if not properly installed. Inspectors should examine the system, including the vent and flue, and describe solid fuel burning appliances.

5) What type of report should we expect?

Be sure that your Home Inspector provides a detailed written report, not a hand written checklist with stock responses that is given to you at the end of the inspection. A checklist can be difficult to interpret and to read, and may be void of many of the details and advice you need. A step up from this is a computer-generated report, which offers a combination of the checklist and a narrative reporting formats, and which includes specific comments to each home. 

An Inspection Report should encompass three basic areas: 

  • Overview – A detailed picture of the house on the day of the inspection, itemizing all the major components and their condition.
  • Maintenance Items – A listing of items in need of normal maintenance or attention. This list will allow you to be pro-active in your approach to home maintenance, and hopefully, minimize your risk of being blind-sided by an unexpected expense you could have been saving for, if you had known about it.
  • Major Repair Items – This is any defect with the potential to present a significant expense to you, in the near term. These items should be clearly identified, with estimated repair/replacement costs (if possible).

The Inspection and Report should give you the information that you, as the buyer, need to make an informed decision about your new purchase.

A quality Home Inspection, is designed to provide you with the information you need to make a more informed decision about your potential purchase. You should be able to walk away from the Inspection knowing, in a clear way, what your immediate major issues are (if any), and what items will need repair and/or maintenance in the near term.

I’m please to assist you with any questions you may have about the process of buying or selling a home.  Please feel free to Contact Me for assistance.

Joyce Corsi Hazen, REALTOR®, CIPS,  CNE, SFR
Realty ONE Group
Cell: 602-284-9822
Fax: 623-505-4346
Office: 623-334-3744