According to the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), real estate transactions often hinge on the competence of the home inspector involved in the sale. Yet, many home buyers assume that the home inspector they hired has the training and knowledge to conduct a high quality home inspection.
If you’re hiring someone to inspect the home you want to buy, or you’re a seller trying to find out if there are any hidden problems that need fixing before you put your home on the market, here are five things you need to know:
1. Choose an Accredited Home Inspector
Several professional home inspection organizations are helping to set new standards of quality through accreditation. Members of the National Association of Home Inspectors, Inc. (NAHI), for example, must meet strict membership criteria pertaining to each of their three levels of membership, including successfully completing an approved home inspector training program, demonstrating experience and competence as a home inspector, completion of a written exam, and adherence to the NAHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.
Home inspectors can also be recognized for their experience and continuing education. A home inspector who has conducted at least 250 inspections and has passed NAHI's CRI examination earns the NAHI Certified Real Estate Inspector (NAHI CRI ) designation.
2. Home Inspection Reports Should Include Basics
The typical NAHI inspector considers nearly a thousand items during an average inspection. While it may vary from house to house, a professional home inspection includes the home's exterior, deck (contiguous), foundation and walls, chimneys and roofs, windows and doors, attics, electrical components, plumbing, central heating and air conditioning, basement/crawlspaces, and garages.
After the report, you should receive a written home inspection report that is concise and easy to understand.
3. Home Inspections Are Intended to Point out Adverse Conditions, Not Cosmetic Flaws
No house is perfect and an inspection on any home is bound to uncover faults. A NAHI home inspector will point out adverse or questionable conditions and/or potential safety-related concerns relating to the home, but will skip insignificant or cosmetic items that won't impair the integrity of the home. They also do not do destructive testing.
4. Home Inspectors Work for the Party Who is Paying the Fee
The NAHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics clearly state that members act as an unbiased third party to the real estate transaction and "will discharge the Inspector's duties with integrity and fidelity to the client." NAHI members "will not conduct a home inspection or prepare a home inspection report for which the Inspector's fee is contingent upon the conclusion in the report." In addition, "the Inspector will maintain client confidentiality and keep all report findings private, unless required by court order." The NAHI member's client is the party who is paying the fee and signing the inspection agreement for the professional service of the home inspection.
5. Some Home Inspection Disputes Can Be Decided with Conflict Resolution
If you use an NAHI inspector, and have a complaint, you may contact the organization for conflict resolution. Keep in mind that inspectors are not party to the sales transaction, so if you buy a home where an expensive problem surfaces after the sale, you won’t be able to get the inspector to pay for it. In fact, you may not be entitled to any compensation beyond the cost of the inspection.
One thing you should not do when buying a home is skip having the home inspected because of undue pressure by the seller. Having the home inspected is reasonable and you should have every right to do so.
If you’re a seller, take advantage of a home inspection to find problems before the buyer does. The better repair your home is in, the less negotiation room the buyer has.