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PUZZLED ABOUT THE HOME INSPECTION PROCESS?Tips to help you "piece together" what you should know as a Home Buyer, Home Seller, Realtor, Contractor, or Home Inspector
By PAMELA J. MCALEXANDER
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Pamela J. McAlexander
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePART 1 Introduction
My name is Pam McAlexander. Having been in the mortgage business since 1986 and working alongside my husband, who's been a home inspector since 2000, I have had a lot of opportunities to offer advice in this field. We have conducted approximately 5,000 home inspections in this time period. We have also worked directly with mortgage companies who provide renovation loans. The services we provide for those types of loans involve a similar home inspection that went several steps further. We would detail out the work needing to be done to these houses, pricing the work using average contractor pricing, and preparing contractor bid packages for the buyers to use to obtain their contractor. We've overseen approximately 3,500 properties under renovation that we conducted the initial home inspections for as well.
My husband and I have owned our own inspection business since 2000. I believe when you have this type of knowledge and you can pass that information along to help people, you should make it readily available. Together, we've found there is a lot to teach people about this process and found this to be the best way to get the word out. We really wanted to bring the home inspection process right to you, as it should occur, without having to be the one actually conducting it. During the entire home buying process, there are many pieces, that when you put them all together, fit just like the pieces of a puzzle. I've created several pieces to this book so that all parties: the buyer, seller, realtor, contractor, or home inspector, can work together to accomplish the same goal.
This book will start with the home buyer and what to check for when hiring a home inspector. Even if you've owned one or more houses in your lifetime, there are still things that buyers never thought to check when they decide to put a contract in on a house. I think you're so excited about the house that you don't think about something as simple as "Which light or outlet does that switch operate?" Also, you assume that your realtor or the seller already knows everything that might be wrong with the house and that they've already brought all the obvious things to your attention. If you're a first time homebuyer and you came from living at home, or were in a landlord situation, you will gain some very valuable information from this piece. The most important piece being: Mom and Dad aren't fixing it! And, you don't have a landlord anymore!!! You're on your own, welcome to homeownership.
Next we move onto the home seller. This process can be so easy for you, as long as you take the time to cover a few simple steps before you even think about listing your house. This piece is geared towards what to look for, how to correct it, and why it's important to take care of it before the buyer's home inspector finds something. Also, it will tell you what your role in the home inspection process should be.
Then we get to the realtor. Most realtors are advised by their brokers on what role they should play in this whole process. Sometimes you listen, and sometimes you just wing it. Know how to prepare your buyer's for the home inspection. Know what to communicate to your sellers to prepare them for the home inspection. Know what should and should not be done at the home inspection (on your end). Understand that just because a contractor made some repairs does not mean they were done properly (even if you know the contractor personally).
For those contractors or "handymen", hired by the buyer, seller, or realtor to "fix things" prior to settlement, know what's expected of you. Know what you're obligated to provide as a warranty of the work you did. Best of all, know who's paying you and when to expect payment.
And for those individuals already conducting home inspections or those wanting to get into this field, there are some very valuable tips that will lessen your liability, educate you more, and most importantly, possibly even help you to get repeat business.
Lastly, don't you think some handy maintenance tips would be helpful? Knowing what requires an annual maintenance and what needs to be checked more or less frequently could also benefit a homeowner. Hopefully, you're all aware of basic tips like making it a part of the Daylight Savings Time to check and change the batteries in your smoke detectors. But do you know how frequently you should change the filters on your furnace or HVAC (heating, ventilation and cooling) system? Do you know what to do or when to call someone if your toilet keeps running or the garbage disposal locks up?
The primary purpose behind this book was to help people take responsibility when buying a property. The secondary purpose was to help them be a little more educated and to try to prevent them from "learning the hard way". Buying a house is one of the largest expenses you'll probably make in a lifetime, so it's best to be as informed as possible with what to expect. I trust that you'll be able to come away from this book a lot more prepared for "the process", or in the case of having owned homes before, a little more prepared the next time around.
Chapter TwoPART 2 What You Should Know About Your Home Inspector ...
How will I know if my home inspector is qualified?
Treat this situation like an interview. Prepare a list of questions to ask, so that you can compare their responses to others you will talk to. If you're working with a realtor or a mortgage company, sometimes they can provide you with a list of names to contact. Although you may be provided with a list, keep one thing in mind, they work for you and are paid by you, so make sure you are comfortable with the inspector you choose.
Some common questions you will want to ask are: Do you get up on the roof during your inspections? What do you charge and what am I getting for that cost? How long will the home inspection take? What kind of certification(s) do you have? Are you licensed? If repairs are needed, do you come back to re-inspect once they're done? Do you charge a re-inspection fee or is it a part of the initial home inspection cost? What don't you check as part of the inspection? Do you conduct any other specialty inspections and what are those fees?
Let's start with the question about the roof. It's important to know if they get up on the roof during the inspection. The majority of home inspectors check the roof from the ground, with binoculars. This is not a very accurate means of checking the roof. From the ground, you cannot see if the ridge vents are loose, if vent boots are worn or torn, if there are exposed nail heads that need to be caulked, or if you have "soft spots". When you're dealing with a flat roof that may be sealed or rubberized, you need to be able to check how worn the material is and whether resealing is necessary. When you have a flat roof that's just been sealed, it needs to be re-coated every 3 years. When you're dealing with a slate roof, extreme caution must be used in evaluating this type of roof as slate shingles can slide out of place when weight is placed on them. The only things that should prevent a home inspector from accessing the roof would be height, pitch, or roofing material used. If the roof cannot be accessed from a ladder, or is too steep to climb up on, or as mentioned with a slate roof, these things would prevent a home inspector from climbing up on the roof. It's also possible that the type of insurance they carry may prevent them from climbing up on the roof.
There are other means to checking a roof that cannot be accessed. First, they can check it from underneath by way of an attic. This will enable them to see if there is any rotten wood or split beams, which is usually the cause of "soft spots". Sometimes on a shingle roof, the number of layers of shingles can be determined by looking underneath. Note: only 2 layers of asphalt shingles are allowed on a roof. By checking through the attic, you can also usually see if there are any signs of leakage. Obviously if it's raining the day of the inspection, this helps too!
Next is the question about what they charge and what you're getting for the cost they're charging. Are you getting your report at the inspection or will it need to be faxed, mailed, or emailed to you at a later date? If so, when should you expect it? Is your report computer generated or hand written? Are you going to see all the repairs on the report and then will the inspector summarize the major ones for you somewhere else? Who gets a copy of the report? Is the inspector going to go over the report findings with you? Will he go back through the house and show you everything on the report, or is that done as they're going along room by room during the inspection? You need to know that prices can vary dramatically from home inspector to home inspector. The home inspector who charges the most money may not be more thorough than the cheaper home inspector, but you need to ask these kinds of questions to understand why there is such a dramatic difference in price. Remember, there is probably not a state mandating what a home inspector can charge for their services.
How long will my home inspection take?
You will definitely want to know how long the inspection is going to take. Some inspector's can take 3-6 hours to conduct a home inspection whereas others can be done in 1 ½-2 hours. You need to know why your inspector needs to take so long, or how he can get done so quickly. Again, do your homework in advance, so that you don't go in unprepared and then need to leave because you weren't expecting to be tied up for that period of time. Depending on the size of the house, is what should really determine the time needed to inspect it. If the home inspector is not taking control of the inspection from the start, this can be what causes the inspection time to take so long. For example, there is no reason why a home inspection for a townhouse or a smaller scale single family house takes longer than 2 hours. If the inspector has a process or format that they follow, it allows them to move along the house and the inspection without delay. This means that when you bring the entire family to the inspection and mom and dad are trying to get the inspector to be in the room they're in, and your brother is trying to pull them in another direction, and your sister in law wants them on another level because that's where she is, this is all going to make your home inspection take much longer than it should. Follow the home inspector to each room, let him guide which room and which level you are on and checking and in what order. Most importantly, if you have something you want them to see, save it for when they're actually in that room. I can't tell you how many times someone has said, as my husband is in the kitchen doing a home inspection, "Did you notice this window in the living room?" His response is always, "No, I haven't been in that room yet, I'm in the kitchen." The more you side track your home inspector, the more likely they are going to be to miss something. The most important piece of advice I can give you with this particular piece is, if you have children, leave them at home or with a baby sitter. Children will only distract you and prevent you from seeing and understanding everything the inspector needs to bring to your attention. This is especially true when you know the timeline you are going to be at the inspection. Children cannot be expected to behave and not get board, or be hungry and have to use the bathroom for the 2 or so hours it can take to get a home inspection done. The other important reason to leave the kids at home is that you don't own the house that's being inspected. If anything gets damaged, you're responsible for that, not the home inspector or the realtor. That's the other reason why it's so important to only have the parties directly involved with the mortgage at the home inspection. I realize that you want to show the family the house. I also realize that you may have parents, siblings or in-laws that will want to make sure you're not getting taken advantage of by your home inspector. But in the case of a home inspection, the more is not the merrier. Remember, the more people you have there, the more liability you open up for yourself. It is not the inspector's job to go back behind everyone you've brought to the inspection and make sure they turned lights back off, or water back off, or didn't touch something they had no business touching. If you want them to inspect your house, then don't bother hiring a home inspector. Schedule your family to walk through with your realtor another time, when you're not on someone else's time clock. Keep in mind, your home inspection is not the only appointment the home inspector has scheduled for that day. You want them to arrive on time and be able to focus their time with you so you have to give someone else who hired them the same courtesy.
The next most important question is whether they are licensed or what kind of certifications they possess. Can anyone be a home inspector? Yes, as long as they went through the proper channels of training and certification within their state, if required. Would you pay someone you don't know to inspect your house if they weren't qualified? Probably not, however, how will you ever know if they're qualified unless you get some background information on them, and then follow through to check up on that background. Some states have actually enacted legislation that requires very specific licensing to perform the services of a home inspector. Some do not require licensing however there are organizations that they may belong to that have given them some background to become home inspectors. Two such organizations are ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) and NACHI (National Association of Certified Home Inspectors). There is also another type of certification your home inspector can receive and this would be through FHA (Federal Housing Administration) or HUD (Housing and Urban Development). To be an FHA/HUD Inspector, the criteria for background and training is different from the other certifications. You must have a previous construction background and/or an engineering background. Now FHA/HUD is requiring this certification to also have the state specific licensing as a home inspector, if applicable. All three of these certifications, as well as specific licensing within your state, are able to be verified by contacting the issuing authority. This ensures they are still operating in good standing. Remember, just because they're licensed through the state, does not mean they have an extensive background in home inspections. This just means they attended the classes, passed the test/exam. Check with your state issuing authority to find out if they also had to have specific background qualifications before taking the classes.
What will my home inspector check?
As we all know, no house is perfect, and there will be items sited within the home inspection report. It is important to understand that although some items may be very minor, such as tightening a door knob, it is not the home inspector's job to fix the house. There has been many a time when my husband brought something to someone's attention, like the door knob, and explained exactly how to make the repair. He then was asked if he had a screw driver and would he take care of that now. There will be items listed within the home inspection report that the home inspector feels it necessary to bring to your attention. In some cases, those repairs may have to be addressed to satisfy the loan requirements. When this happens, ask if these are items that the home inspector will come back and check upon completion. Some home inspectors may have a repair re-inspection fee already built into the price that they charge. Others, for a fee, will come back to re-inspect once repairs are completed. First, you should ask your inspector beforehand how they handle this. Secondly, depending on the type of financing, and certain repairs needed, your mortgage company may require the appraiser or one of their inspectors to go out and re-inspect. When this is the case, you will be notified by them or your realtor, and there will be a fee for this service as well. So don't spend more money than you need to. Find out if your lender will require and order a re-inspection before you go doing so on your own.
Excerpted from PUZZLED ABOUT THE HOME INSPECTION PROCESS? by PAMELA J. MCALEXANDER Copyright © 2012 by Pamela J. McAlexander . Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsPart 1: Introduction....................1
Part 2: What You Should Know About Your Home Inspector....................9
1. How will I know if my home inspector is qualified?....................11
2. How long will my home inspection take?....................15
3. What will my home inspector check?....................20
Part 3: What You Should Know as a Home Buyer....................25
1. Who should be at my home inspection?....................27
2. Do I get a warranty on the home inspection?....................29
3. What if something breaks after my home inspection?....................31
Part 4: What You Should Know as a Home Seller....................37
1. Should I be present at the home inspection?....................39
2. What can I do before I put my house on the market?....................40
3. How will I know what repairs to make following a home inspection?....................43
Part 5: What You Should Know as a Realtor....................45
1. Should I be present at the home inspection?....................47
2. How can I prepare my buyers for a home inspection?....................48
3. How can I prepare my sellers for a home inspection?....................51
Part 6: What You Should Know as a Contractor....................55
1. If I make repairs on a house, what should I provide?....................57
2. What obligation am I under after the repairs are made?....................59
3. Do I have to pull permits for work being done?....................60
Part 7: What You Should Know as a Home Inspector....................63
1. How do I get certified and what does that mean?....................65
2. Do I have to get up on a roof?....................67
3. Do I have to provide a warranty?....................68
Part 8: Maintenance Tips & Informational Pieces....................71