Choosing a Home Inspector

Choosing a home inspector is one of the many important decisions that go into purchasing a house. There are two types of home inspectors: individual contractors and whole house inspectors. Using individual contractors (such as electricians to check wiring, plumbers to check plumbing, roofers to check roofs, etc.) gives the buyer the advantage of knowing that specialists have thoroughly examined the house. A potential disadvantage, however, concerns their objectivity. As individual contractors not only spot problems but also bid on correcting them, potential conflicts of interest may arise. An additional disadvantage of working with individual contractors involves scheduling. Using four or five people means arranging that many appointments -- at least!Using a whole house contractor involves only one person examining the house. They are often less expensive than individual contractors, easier to schedule and as they do not contract for repairs, have no potential conflicts of interest. On the other hand, the disadvantage is that whole house inspectors are generalists rather than specialists. While presently less expensive and more convenient, overlooking or misdiagnosing a serious defect could be much more costly to the buyer in the long run.

Whether one uses a whole house inspector or individual contractors, it is the buyer’s responsibility to pay for all inspections. The buyer should also make sure all inspectors are certified when certification is available.

The inspection process is clearly set forth in the standard purchase agreement. Home inspectors are given the authority by the seller to inspect their home for "defects," that is, items which prevent "habitability." Simple repairs or maintenance issues, such as burned-out light bulbs, minor settling cracks in the walls, and the like, do not prevent habitability and, so, are not relevant. If qualified, an inspector can also check for asbestos, radon and lead-based paint. Each can cause significant harm if not properly addressed.

Having a home inspector is essential to prevent misunderstanding and occasional fraud. Therefore, choosing a good inspector is important. Combined with the voluntary use of the Property Disclosure Statement, a home inspection offers the buyer assurance that the house he/she is purchasing is in the condition he/she thought it was. (Additional peace of mind is also available through purchasing home warranties, a form of insurance which guarantees the mechanics of a house, typically for one year from date of purchase, for a negotiated cost of $300-$500.) Your REALTOR® can help you find the inspectors -- whole house or individual contractors -- you require as well as negotiate a home warranty. REALTORS® are here to serve you.