The answer to this is: YES. Attitude, experience, education, intelligence, knowledge base, thoroughness and training vary considerably.
Does the licensing law ensure the homebuyer that all Home Inspectors are qualified and that there is little difference between them?
Absolutely not. Anyone who claimed they had performed 125 inspections prior to May 1st 2001 was issued a license. These people did not have to pass an exam, or have training or competency in home inspection. The licensing law did not care if these 600 “grandfathered” inspectors were qualified or had performed shoddy inspections that harmed many homebuyers. The real intent of the law was to make it extremely difficult to become a Home Inspector. The law was not designed to and didn’t weed out the bad, unqualified and poorly trained inspectors—they are still out there today!!!
How can I tell if an Inspector is qualified?
Ask the inspector if he has passed the National Home Inspectors Examination (NHIE). This is the exam that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires individuals to pass after May 1st 2001. This exam is very difficult to pass. Most prospective inspectors fail the first time. Many take special courses with sample questions to pass it. Since May 1st 2001 about 20 people in Massachusetts have passed the exam and are now licensed home inspectors. The bottom line is that the majority of people inspecting in Massachusetts have never been tested.
Why shouldn't I use a friend or relative who works in construction?
It takes about a dozen tradesmen to build a house. Chatting with or occasionally looking over the shoulder of the plumber, electrician, or HVAC technician is not going to prepare someone to evaluate these complex systems.
How long should an inspection take?
The longer the better. Inspectors in England spend a full day inspecting properties that have fewer amenities than ours do. An inspector who spends four hours inspecting a single family house may not find twice as many things that he would find in two hours but he will find more problems, that if missed, will cost the homebuyer more than the inspection fee.
Do the best reports have a lot of pages?
In most cases this is not true. However, a full narrative report is usually better than a simple checklist report. This is especially true if the full narrative does not include a lot of fluff (i.e. disclaimers and generic "boilerplate" prose that was not specifically created for the house you are purchasing.) A fresh narrative report created specifically for the property you are purchasing provides all the information a buyer needs. Unfortunately, most inspectors create narratives using stale, stock commentary. Most homebuyers are not aware of how difficult it is to create a good home inspection report. Most inspectors do not create a comprehensive report. A concise 5-page report serves a client better than a 30 page narrative style that is packed with fluff. Experienced buyers understand this.
How important is the inspection report?
Most inexperienced buyers overestimate the importance of the report. It is just paper and a means of remembering and reviewing what the inspector found during the inspection. It is just a map and not the territory. What is important is that the inspector thoroughly inspects the territory and that you are present so he can show you what he discovered and discuss the issues and concerns with you while actually at the property and viewing the various defects. Most inexperienced homebuyers are only concerned with two things when searching for an inspector. What is the fee? How long is the report?
The most important question to ask is: What do you know and do that makes you better than other inspectors?
The property appears perfect and seems to be well maintained. Why spend money on a home inspection?
If the seller is willing to pay about $20,000 to a salesman to "sell it", why shouldn't you spend a few hundred to have a competent and disinterested home inspector in to see if there is anything wrong with it? Simply makes good sense.
Are home inspector references important and should I ask for them?
Yes, of course, you will gain important information first hand about the inspector your considering, and what you can expect yourself.
Is a reference from the Better Business Bureau good?
Absolutely not. It is meaningless. If no one has taken the time and effort to make a formal complaint to the BBB, then that inspector will appear to have a good record. They do not accept or report on complaints made anonymously and few people are willing to go on record and take the time to do so. Also, if the inspection company is a paying member of the BBB then you have to ask yourself this: Does the BBB water down the complaints so they do not alienate the dues paying member. Membership in the BBB requires essentially one thing - paying the dues. Fox guarding the hen house?
What exactly is a good reference?
A good reference is one that comes to an inspector without asking, hinting for it, or doing a favor to obtain one. A good reference is unsolicited. Almost all of the references listed on one company's web site come from real estate salesmen. What does that tell you? It says, we like you because you don't cause many problems that can hold up, or even kill a deal which puts our commission at risk. Fox guarding the hen house?
What about inspection fees?
Beware of recommendations from real estate salespeople if they tell you that you should hire a particular inspector or one that charges a low fee. (The salesman doesn't want an inspector who is through and creates issues that will complicate or even 'kill the deal' - he's not doing you a favor by trying to save you few bucks, he's trying to ensure that you hire a poor inspector who will miss most of the problems that you will pay dearly for down the road) You get what you pay for. Experienced homebuyers know this.
Are certified Inspectors better?
Certified is a frequently misused and abused buzzword. You have to ask who is doing the certifying. There is a national inspection trade association whose members got their certification by taking an easy, open book online exam that even schoolchildren with no home inspection experience have passed. This association and its members purposely deceive homebuyers further by making claims that they are the best and most elite in the field. The truth is that the majority of its members joined this new association a few years ago because they did not qualify for the prestigious membership in The American Society of Home Inspectors; ASHI.
You have to ask this question: If the cost of membership dues in the oldest and most recognized inspection society (ASHI) is only about $10 higher, why not join when one of the first questions homebuyers would ask is "are you a member of ASHI?" The reason: Obvious and simple; they did not qualify.
What about condominium Inspections?
Condominium is a misunderstood term. It is a legal definition that refers to any and all properties that consist of two or more units with components whose ownership is shared. The word condo does not precisely describe the architectural type and size of a property. However, it is generally understood to refer to an apartment in a brick building consisting of about 30 units.
Many homebuyers will call for a price quote and when asked what type of property they are purchasing will say "condo." Sometimes they are buying one half of a 2 family house or a unit in a triple-decker. Inspecting these properties can be more difficult and time consuming than inspecting a single-family house. In this instance a homebuyer is purchasing an interest in all of the exterior walls, all of the roof and most porches and all of the foundation and structure. This requires inspecting more than would be involved in a single-family home inspection. If you are purchasing a condo read this section
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