A True Story That Every Home Buyer Should Read
There were only a handful of Home Inspectors in our region when I started in the home inspection business. Now there are dozens which can make it difficult for any home buyer to know how to choose the right company. I recommend doing some research on a home inspector before committing because how would you possibly know which one is the most experienced and knowledgable based on a list that is supplied to you by the Realtor. Sometimes Realtors will try to steer you towards a newer inspector because a new inspector may be more likely to miss an issue that could possibly tank a sale. Trust me, I have many Realtors that openly tell me that they recommend me if they are representing the buyer but not if they are representing the seller. I take that as a compliment because they know how thorough I am.
I recently was installing a radon mitigation system at a home that was purchased by a single mother. While installing the radon system I noticed that five of her floor joists had been notched out so that the ductwork could be routed through the floor joists. These were large openings that compromised the structural integrity of each joist. I mentioned the "Hack Job" that had been done to the floor joists and she said to me, "Is that a bad thing?". Well it definitely wasn't good and I recommended that she have a contractor come in and get them repaired.
An HVAC technician was also at the house because she wasn't getting much heat on the second floor. According to the technician, the furnace had never been balanced properly and that is why there was not any heat coming from the registers. She then went on to tell me that she had hired an electrician to come in and check out a couple of switches that were not working properly and was told by the electrician that the house apparently had not been wired by an electrician. He was called to fix a couple of switches and ended up working at the house for 8 hours cleaning up someone else's mess. I asked her if she had hired a home inspector and I was shocked to hear her answer.
She hired an inspector who was apparently good friends with the Realtor. In fact, the Realtor set up the inspection for her. She sent me a copy of the report and I was shocked to see that none of these issues were noted in the report. The structure section of the report listed that the floor joists, sills, beams, support posts and foundation had all been checked off as inspected but no issues were found. Below are the photographs of the floor joists.
There were other issues that were caused from a water test that the home inspector had taken incorrectly. It made me quite upset to see that this woman had paid for a service that obviously was performed by an unqualified inspector. It turns out that the duct work is going to have to be removed and rerouted in order to properly repair the floor joists. Between this issue and the electrical issues, she was hit with over $10,000 in repairs.
It is fairly easy for an individual to become certified for home inspection and I know plenty of inspectors that are in it for the money only. There are two major home inspection associations out there and most home inspectors will belong to one of them. One association is easy to join and become certified with and the other takes work to become a "Certified" Inspector. The easy one is done by passing an online test and if you don't pass...you just retake the examination over and over again until you do pass. Now granted, they do have to pass the National Home inspection exam to become state certified and it will cost them if they don't pass the first time.
All of my required continued education is achieved by attending quarterly ASHI education seminars or by attending the associations yearly national education conference. I could choose some online courses as well. The other associations educational credits can all be achieved online by taking and retaking the tests until that individual finally gets a passing grade. Its multiple choice and they show you the questions that you got wrong before you retake the test. In my opinion the American Society of Home Inspectors holds their members to a much higher standard than other associations.
Needless to say, I was not surprised to see that the inspector who performed the above inspection was not a member of ASHI. That individual chose the easier path and it showed in his work. When hiring a home inspector it pays to ask how long that individual has been performing inspections. Ask that inspector what their background is. Ask the inspector if he or she owns or has ever owned a home? Make sure that the inspector does not have any ties to a Realtor or that they do not hold a Real Estate license. For example...if your Realtor tells you that their spouse is a home inspector, whose best interest will that inspector have in mind? Ask the inspector their background. For Example, a background in maintenance may mean that the individual had repaired toilets, changed door handles, shoveled walkways or patched an occasional hole in drywall. An inspector who has experience in the construction trades or one who has past experience in performing major home renovations is a much better bet.
There is a lot to know and understand about homes. I can't tell you how many inspections that I have performed where the client has brought along their contractor friend. When introductions are made the contractor usually is quiet at first and he will hang around in my general area, watching me as though he is skeptical of my profession. He might throw me a couple of questions as if testing me and it is always funny to me how within about 20 - 30 minutes we are chatting it up because he realizes that I know my stuff and that I am there with my clients best interest at heart.