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Home Inspection Basics

by Carl Brahe, Certified Home Inspector, Denvor, Colorado

The most important thing to remember about home inspections is that your inspector’s job is to find defects for you. All homes have defects. Time, use and nature cause deterioration. Major appliances such as furnaces and water heaters wear out. Most defects are minor deferred maintenance issues. Sometimes defects are major, but almost all defects can be fixed. Your inspector’s job is to help you understand the extent of the defects so you go into closing fully informed.

A thorough inspection takes time. I recently inspected a house where the father-in-Law and I showed up a few minutes early. He commented, “The real estate guy said this inspection would take a couple hours. I told the kids it would only be about 45 minutes. We have already had three inspections. They were a half hour, forty-five minutes and hour.” He added.

I replied, “You really got cheated. What was not inspected?”

The industry standard for the time it takes to do a proper inspection is 2 - 3 hours for an average house up to 2500 sq. ft. It takes longer for an older house or one that has been poorly maintained.  In most cases, even a small house, or a new house, routinely takes 2 hours or more to inspect properly.  The only short cuts are to assume or to ignore.

Before hiring your inspector, ask how long it will take to do the inspection. If it is less than industry standard, ask what is not inspected. If the inspection is expected to take 45 minutes, you can expect that up to half of the issues covered by a thorough inspection will not being looked at.

If the inspection is expected to take too long beware. An article in a recent issue of an inspection journal followed an inspector who claimed it took 8-9 hours for a complete inspection. The seller hired an inspector from our association to observe the buyer’s inspector. The seller was suspicious about the extreme amount of time the buyer’s inspector required.

The seller’s inspector reported that the buyer’s inspector spent hours mapping each knothole in the floor joists. After 8 hours, the seller and buyer agreed that no more time was to be allowed. In 8 hours, the inspector failed to check a single door, window or electrical outlet. He also didn’t check the furnace or plumbing.  He failed to provide his clients with any useful information.

This occurred in Illinois where home inspectors are licensed. In Colorado, there is no regulation. An inspector in this state needs no training, no experience, no understanding.  [In states like New Jersey and South Carolina, ALL home inspectors are required to be licensed by the state.]

The cost of an inspection can be confusing. Industry standard is $125+/hr on site, with the median range for the home inspection charge falling between $300 and $600.  If your inspector is charging the industry standard of $350 for an average house and spending only an hour on the inspection, in most cases you are probably being overcharged. If your inspector is charging $350 for a six-hour inspection, he/she places little value on his/her skills and training. You can probably accept this self-evaluation. If you are going to get a pared down inspection, at least get the cut-rate price it deserves, and be aware of what will and will not be inspected.

Two of our inspection associations suggest we increase our rates to distinguish ourselves from inspectors who provide poor service and partial inspections. Some inspectors are worth much more than others, but if our fees are inflated to compensate for the poor inspectors, it rewards mediocrity in the Colorado inspection industry at the expense our clients.

A top quality home inspection is necessary when buying a house. Get what you pay for. A good inspection report provides you with information that may affect your life for many years.

A written report should be supplied along with an oral report. The oral report provides the opportunity to get all your questions answered. You can see the defects first hand and be provided with information about how the defect affects your happy enjoyment of the property. Ask questions. If you have questions later, call or email and ask.

Your agent has probably worked with many inspection reports and understands that lingo. A new furnace may be labeled, “Operational”. The inspector’s job is to determine if things work as designed, not relative quality of components or design.

In some cases, the report may generate possible bargaining points for a lower price. In many cases, the defects may not result in price concessions. Each deal is unique. Regardless of the possibility of price reduction, the most important use of your report is discovering maintenance, and update issues, that you will have to face. Being informed is essential for making the best possible decisions. 

When you have your finished report, it’s time to consult with your real estate agent. He/She knows the details of your particular deal. This is the time to trust your agent to know how to best use the report for your greatest benefit.

See also: Homeowner's Home Inspection Guide

Copyright Carl Brahe, 2005
Inspection Perfection Inc.
Note: Some Editing / Updating Copyright Lawrence Yerkes. All Rights Reserved.


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