Thursday, April 06, 2006

Home Inspection Basics

Home Inspection Basics: What You Need To Know By Chris Hantis, CHI/PHI
A-Pro Home Inspection Services

Most people know that buying a home is one of the biggest investments they'll ever make, but what they don't realize is how important the home inspection process is in ensuring that investment is a truly solid one. At first glance, a home may appear in good condition, but the fact is, most homes – regardless of their age – contain defects that very often go undetected by both the buyer and seller, ultimately leading to delays, hassles and financial headaches both before and after the sale. A thorough home inspection helps you buy your home with confidence, insures against legal problems down the road, and provides you with a top-to-bottom check-up of your home's anatomy. What most people also take for granted is that all home inspection services are largely the same. But what they find out – often when it's too late – is that experience, service and expertise levels in the industry vary immensely. Choosing the right home inspector can make a major difference in the time, expense and aggravation associated with the home buying and selling process. Here are seven fundamental questions you should ask before selecting a home inspector:

  1. Do you perform home inspections or warranty evaluations? Many home inspectors don't really perform a complete inspection at all, but rather what's known as a "warranty evaluation." Understanding the difference between the two is critical. A warranty evaluation only covers the basic elements covered by the home warranty, such as the heating/air conditioning system and other built-in mechanical systems. It does not cover all visible pre-existing conditions that might exist throughout the home. A real home inspection, however, consists of a full 500-point evaluation of virtually every system and component of the home, including major appliances and overall structural conditions, and should include a written warranty that protects both the buyer and the seller against inspection oversights.
  2. What are your qualifications? When selecting an inspector, it is extremely important to ask whether he or she is fully licensed under the laws and regulations of New York, and what type of training certification they have. The best inspectors are not only certified by a nationally-recognized professional association such as ISHI or NACHI, but also carry insurance coverage known as Errors & Omissions (E&O).
  3. Does your inspection include an examination of the home's foundation?
    The foundation of a home is the most important element of its stability and integrity, which is why it may surprise you that some inspection services do not survey its condition at all. Make sure that your home inspector includes a digital foundation level survey to check for unusual settling problems that could later cost thousands to repair.
  4. Do you check the heating exchange? Another critical element of a home which many inspectors overlook is the heating exchange, which is the single most important functioning part of a gas heat system. An aging or ill-repaired exchange system can release deadly carbon monoxide into your home with tragic consequences. Your home inspection service should offer a complete inspection of this system, included in the price.
  5. Do you guarantee your service in writing? Most home inspectors will go through your home and, based on a simple, visual inspection, give you their opinions on what components need attention. But once you sign off on the inspection report, you are 100% on your own regarding what to do with those opinions, and the inspection service has no further responsibility (or liability). Ask your home inspector if he or she offers a written guarantee protecting you against oversights.
  6. If you find a problem with the house, will a specialist have to be called in for further evaluation? A common practice of the home inspection industry is performing a visual inspection, then, if a possible problem exists, recommending a further evaluation from a specialist (e.g., electrician, plumber, etc.). This means added time, expense and headaches for both the buyer and the seller. A highly-trained home inspector, however, has the depth of knowledge in all components of a home to provide what's known as a "no-further-evaluation guarantee." This means that if the inspector cannot positively identify a component problem right there on the spot, he or she will pay for the specialist's further evaluation.
  7. I’m selling my home. Do I need to inspect it beforehand? Absolutely. Contrary to what some believe, a “pre-listing” home inspection not only gives buyers peace of mind, it also helps the close the deal faster for the seller. A comprehensive inspection conducted before the house is listed gives the seller an opportunity to repair problems before the buyer discovers them (thus justifying the home’s asking price), and in turn enables the buyer to make his decision with greater confidence. If you are a seller, make sure your home inspection service has an established "Pre-Listing" Inspection program.

About the Author
Chris Hantis, CHI/PHI is the owner of A-Pro Home Inspection Services of Long Island, licensed and certified by the State of New York. He can be reached at (631) 868-0499, or via e-mail

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